November 4, 2008

So Where's the Truth in the Election?

by Irena Schneider

Looking backward now even before the polls close: the election is over. Somebody won and somebody lost. And the world goes on, promises to save the universe gone, tears from fervent supporters gone, silly half-truths in the demagogic limelight… well, perhaps those will never be gone. November 4, 2008 is the apex of a legacy left by a populace that has exhausted its frustration with the past eight years, filled with convictions incredibly sturdy, melodramatic, imbued with a prophetic tone beaming in quivering surety all lodged somewhere at the back of our throats. In twenty years, we will perhaps remember the magnetism under the dome of the Democratic National Convention, when Barack Obama stared ahead and waved, engulfed by a stage of crying supporters while the theme from Remember the Titans blasted across our TV screens and made us want to begin sobbing with hope. We will remember fellow diva Sarah Palin and her insistence to discuss energy policy when asked about taxation policy. Surely, we will remember our friend Joe the Plumber, a hero for a good couple of hours until someone leaked that the poor man doesn't even have a plumber's license. And while our favorite journalists in the CNN newsroom bemoaned the end of such a great metaphor to feed to unconcerned so-called "average" citizens (big compliment to the middle class, of course), at least we had the privilege to kick back and laugh at the process with Saturday Night Live.

It's been a good time. We will remember the agonizing attempts to figure out who's more "presidential," the panic from sexist and racist jibs and jabs, the lies, the ads, the comfortable commotion of establishment politics painstakingly picked apart, tossed around, and put back together by American punditry. Perhaps we will also remember the darker shades of this critical moment. There's the fear and uncertainty about what America has become. We may recall the bailout, for instance, but will we recall the rescue?

Unlikely. Just as unlikely that we'd remember July 12th and Ron Paul's march for freedom, where more than five thousand individuals clambered onto the front lawn of the Capitol and wondered how to become a "mainstream" voice. Neither will we remember the debates between Chuck Baldwin and Ralph Nader or the footage of Bob Barr responding to Obama and McCain during debate time. We will not remember the cancer in our monetary system. On the bright side, at least we might bask in our once-gloried intentions to apply a band aid (and bring back the wisdom of certain reporters at CNBC trying to figure out how to bypass the Constitution when the bailout was initially rejected). There was the housing boom, we might ponder. But what caused the housing boom? To suggest that federal reserve or government policies have been the motivation for our crumbling infrastructure would not only be considered preposterous, but it would be much too difficult to relay. Such is the reality of corporate media: the importance of today's political world is the soundbite and the bottom line. The point is not to encourage critical thinking and provide the populace with information necessary to effectively question the government (as the founding fathers intended our democracy to function). The point is to herd the populace into the realm of irrational responses and gut-provoked indignation and finger pointing spurting from headlines and pithy political drama. There is almost nothing behind the lines. And why would there be? People are much too busy with daily life to ask the deeper questions about root causes or discover the few brave souls struggling on the fringes of the bureaucratic-media-interest-Congress issue network. Within such recycled surface sentiment, journalists are simultaneously much too busy thinking of how they'll next grab the attention of that very busy public.

So where's the truth?

Perhaps we might find it after our love affair with our candidates has subsided. After all, there is a limit to how much we can bandage a patient before we realize he's actually dying of something much deeper inside. But in the meantime, we're not intended to seek the truth. So in the final moments of this historical election, let us lay back and recall the jib jabs and the lies. Let us sob and point fingers. Let us be average joes. Relax, it's only about November 4th, 2008. Nothing new to say. We need not wonder.

(The political cartoon is by Thomas Nast of Harper's Weekly from the 19th Century. This cartoon is now in the public domain. To see John McCain's appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey, please check below.)

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