Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Election

At least one person tells me she expected that I'd have a post about McCain and Palin. I hesitate to blog about John McCain choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate because I'm aware of how easy it is to -

1. Sink into anti-right wing vitriol.
2. Stumble into sexist expectations of what women can or should do.
3. Descend into sniping at her personal choices.

I don't have a strong opinion about Palin because I'm too consumed by my fear of the right wing winning this election. I'm unable to evaluate her as a vice president because I'm absolutely consumed by feverish desire for a Democratic president. I can't discuss her experience and qualifications because my powers of discernment are paralyzed by my terror that the Democrats might lose this one, too.

I believe most of the country is similarly blinded by the driving fear that "the other side" will win and that has tainted our election discussions, public and private. I believe many people are discovering for the first time new things about people they've known their whole lives. I'm discovering things I didn't know about my own family that never would have surfaced without this particular election between Barack Obama and John McCain. It's ugly. This whole election is very ugly.

People are saying Palin is the perfect maverick sidekick to support McCain's anti-establishment style. They're saying she's an irresponsible mother for putting her teenage daughter (and her incipient husband) in the national eye. Some say she has way more executive experience than Barack Obama. Some say there's no way they'd accept her as the person who's a heartbeat away from the presidency. Almost everyone who says good things about her is a McCain supporter. Almost everyone who says bad things about her is an Obama supporter.

This is not a real dialogue. It's just a hysterical exchange. I think this election has, in large part, been a hysterical exchange. Maybe they always have been.

But there's no way to break out of it. The only way we could have a real discussion of Sarah Palin's (or anyone else's) qualifications for office would require that we first get rid of our fear of each other and that's just not going to happen. We are all afraid of each other. It's just human nature. We're all afraid of people who look different or raise their children differently or take our parking space or ask us for money or want to open another Wal-Mart or think everyone has a right to carry a gun. We are all afraid of people who do not agree with us. We are afraid of people who are different from us, and especially afraid that those who don’t agree with us are going to take over and force us to live by their values and beliefs. This fear drives most of our interactions.

I really don’t see how we’ll change this state of our country. I’m right there in it, too. No matter your party affiliation (or lack thereof) if you are supporting John McCain, then I believe you're a destructive idiot. I really do. And that’s just wrong, but I don’t know how to stop believing it.

After decades of left-leaning people only living near other left-leaning people, right-leaning people only living near other right-leaning people, and everyone sorting themselves out by school district, precinct, suburban neighborhood and bohemian enclave, we can’t stand people who don’t think the same way we do. Our country is pretty evenly divided between right and left, but we are not all mixed in together. We carefully live far from those who don’t share our beliefs and political views. This leaves us entrenched against each other. Each side, right and left, loathes the other and that has led to an election devoid of real debate that is saturated with fear and hate.

So I have no opinion of Sarah Palin. I only know that I’m terrified of her.

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