Friday, October 7, 2016

Deck Chairs

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Missing the woods for the trees.  Concentrating not on the donut but on the hole – pick your cliché.

Top of the news the past couple of days is who “won” the vice-presidential debate.  It’s as if the entire country were on drugs.  “Won” the debate?  What does that even mean?   Tim Kaine had too much caffeine and Mike Pence displayed a ferocious propensity for denial and we are giving points for looking calm and taking points away for alleged rudeness?  Where the hell are our priorities?

What “winning the debate” should mean, I think, is which candidate persuaded more people to vote for their party’s nomination.  At least then we’d be discussing something of consequence. Someday we’ll all have our brains wired directly into some NSA computer and will be able to answer that question.  Homeland Security computer.  Yahoo computer.  Whatever.

Until then, I suppose there’s no way we’re going to be spared all the media speculation that stands in for news reporting.   What is going on is a battle between somebody whose chief appeal is that she will at least keep the boat from capsizing, even if we will then just go on drifting as before, and somebody who promises us in 2016 that Vladimir Putin will not go into Ukraine, apparently unaware that he already snatched the Crimea from Ukraine on March 18, 2014. Who thinks the U.S. Constitution will permit him to use a religious test to keep Muslims out of the United States.  Who tells you he knows more about ISIS than the generals do. 

Tim Kaine was being rude and interrupting that “nice man” Mike Pence, and even liberals like the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle (Thursday, October 6, 2016) can describe Pence’s behavior as “ducking with discipline (and) dignity.”

That’s the headline on page A13.  On the opposite page is Debra Saunders, a Trump opponent but strong Republican voice.  Her article is entitled, “Pence prevails over too clever Tim Kaine.”

These are opinion pages, so I probably ought to allow their choice of narratives to just sit there and move on to other things.  And remember that despite the focus on discipline and dignity the title suggests, the editor does say that the big question in this election is “whether the Republican at the top of the ticket has the policy command, temperament and discipline to run the country.”  But I can’t help thinking we’re once again arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Or maybe snoozing in them. While we’re all chuffing on about Tim Kaine’s manners, nobody is telling the whole story of just who this man Mike Pence is, to say nothing of the sinister force he is defending.

There was no mention at the debate, for example, of the fact that Mike Pence has supported a constitutional amendment which would ban gay marriage, for example, and that he once signed a bill which would have jailed gay people in Indiana for even filling out a marriage license.

Mike Pence argues that evolution is “only a theory” and advocates teaching the theory of intelligent design alongside the theory of evolution in schools.

Mike Pence denied during the debate that both he and Trump ever declared Putin to be a “very strong leader,”  or that Trump said in 2016 that Putin would not invade Ukraine two years after he had annexed Crimea in March of 2014, or that there would be a “deportation force” to remove illegal aliens from their homes, or that women should be punished for having an abortion, or that Japan and Saudi Arabia should have nuclear weapons, or that immigrants should be kept out if they are Muslim.  What is astonishing about all this is that they must have realized the Democrats would immediately launch a video juxtaposing Pence’s denials against Trump saying exactly these things.  Pence is an experienced politician, and one has to assume these are not knowledge gaps but deliberate attempts to address the Trump base, which has demonstrated repeatedly that it lives, with Trump, in a world of self-serving manufactured reality.

This is the issue.  Not the lies, which politicians are inclined to engage in by nature, but the fact that Americans in large numbers can be counted on to accept lies and misrepresentations made before their very eyes when it suits them to do so.

One of the inherent weaknesses in democracy is that it can never be any better than the people trying to make it work.  If they don’t participate, it doesn’t work.  If they don't hold leaders responsible, it doesn't work.  If they don't distinguish fact from fiction, it doesn't work.  

Somehow we seem to bumble our way through, despite incompetence and dishonesty at the top.  In fact, we’re so conditioned to second best government that there are voices everywhere telling us we could survive a Trump presidency.  And probably we could, although why anyone would be all right with merely surviving is beyond me.

Hillary is in the lead again.  If she can keep the lead we can at least hope for more of the same rather than putting up with a narcissistic 1-percenter clown for the next four years.   Treading water beats drowning.  

And get real.  When somebody calls out a liar, don't be a jackass and scold him for his aggressive debating strategy.

There are far more pressing needs than reminding the boys to mind their manners.  Like resisting the inclination to think icebergs are not our problem and rearrange the deck chairs for another snooze.

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