Thursday, October 23, 2008

The "Real" America?

Rosa Parks writes in The Los Angeles Times about one of the meta-debates in this Presidential Election. The Bush administration has tried to turn the political, cultural and economic clock back to the the Gilded Age of the 1920's with a militarist foreign policy, tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of business. It has met inconvenient data with denial. As one of its "senior advisors" (perhaps Karl Rove) told Ron Suskind in 2002, "when we act, we create our own reality." Reality has been a stubborn opponent of this approach in Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently in the economy.

Parks and others note that McCain has indeed been McSame in the '08 campaign.

We're now seeing the same pathology at work in the McCain-Palin campaign. McCain and Palin look at America and see what they wish was there, rather than what's actually there: an America in which they'll be greeted as liberators and rightful heirs to the mantle of leadership. America, after all, has been led by white Anglo-Saxons for the last two-plus centuries and, for the last 40 years, mostly by Republicans. For that to change is almost unthinkable. And so Team McCain just edits out the inconvenient America that doesn't seem likely to vote GOP. That America's not real. It just can't be.

I'm not entirely without sympathy. Behind the anger and the us-versus-them rhetoric we've seen at recent McCain-Palin rallies, there's a palpable sense of dislocation and anxiety: the anxiety of those who feel that things are slipping away from them, that the world is changing too quickly and too uncomfortably. Change has come fast -- and change hurts.

In these terms, this election can be seen as a referendum on an atavistic clinging to the past vs. a pragmatic, reality-based attempt to address problems presented by a rapidly changing world. History demonstrates that one of the key elements of survival is the ability to adapt. The Bush administration's abysmal record (80% of poll respondents believe the US is "on the wrong track") underlines this truth.

Parks points out that the embrace of change is a quintessentially American notion.

Our culture was built by immigrants and shaped by wars, social upheavals, economic crises and further rounds of immigration, each time from places that seemed deeply "foreign" to those who had already settled in. Each round of change was painful to those used to the temporary status quo -- but each round of change also gave us a richer, stronger nation. That's the real America: a land of change and perpetual renewal. Let's stand up for it.

--Ballard Burgher

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