Our House is Burning

“He’s too perfect…I can’t vote for someone like that.” (On Sen. Barack Obama)

“ill tell you why cultivated speech is at odds with practical action… because those who master speech are over compensating for their lack in knowledge and confidence in the action they are promoting (see: barack obama, joseph biden, fidel castro, hugo chavez, etc.) [sic]” (On my wondering why people think cultivated speech is at odds with practical action)

Above I have cited two examples (uttered unhesitatingly by my colleagues) symptomatic of the anti-intellectualism and idealization of mediocrity of which twenty-first century American culture is suffering a crippling outbreak. At the turn of the nineteenth century, in Europe “American culture” was considered an oxymoron. At the turn of the twenty-first, it should generally be considered an embarrassment. I wonder if in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, or France there are millions of people who will not vote for politicians simply because they are “too perfect,” or because they have “cultivated speech, ” which, by the second quotation, is seen exclusively as a marker of incompetence and extremist ideology. (The rabid partisanship and historical illiteracy of the speaker should be more than obvious to anyone who reads the second quote.) How can anyone have grown up in the United States thinking that cultivated speech and practicality are mutually exclusive character traits? I thought this country, by itself, undoubtedly produced enough leaders to demolish that idea! Take, for example, the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

When I heard the first quotation while sitting at a table in a get-together I went to this weekend, I immediately thought, and wanted to say, “Why is politics is the only area of American life where one is criticized and denigrated for being excellent or intellectual?” I never got the chance to say this because some of the people sitting at my table yelled at me to not say anything. Even though I thought what I wanted to say was very close to nonpartisan. (Leaving aside whether Sen. Obama really is excellent – only history will tell – I would have said the exact same thing if the man had said the same of an august conservative politician.) I was censored. The other man was not. The get-together continued without any further discussion about politics.

The next day I reflected on what had happened, and realized what a microcosm that incident was of the American electorate. There are the ones spouting their terrible reasons for electing or not electing people (e.g., “His middle name is Hussein,” or “He’s a dinosaur”). There are the rest of the people who do not even bat an eye at the stupidity (like the rest of the people sitting at my table), and probably do not even think it matters to them that they are surrounded by millions people who would purposely vote for a (perceived) more mediocre politician who would make their country worse off. (This should get the “patriotism” police fired up.) Then, there are those non-confrontational, docile people who censor the person like me, who was about to call out the stupidity and ask everyone else why they were not also angry at what they just heard – that someone was intentionally going to make their lives and the lives of their children worse off on purpose because the opposing politician is presumably “too perfect.” It became fully clear to me why I have such a dysfunctional government. Citizens do not want the best leaders; they rather have leaders who are closer to the lowest common denominator.

When will the sleep-walking public wake up at the wheel of the most powerful country (tenuous label, I know) on Earth? Will it unconsciously go off the deep end? When will it stop excusing and respecting dangerous stupidity? When will we get the generation we have been waiting for to pull this country out of its stunning anti-intellectualism and ignorance? If we keep teaching our children badly, not soon enough.

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~ by jsacc001 on October 13, 2008.

6 Responses to “Our House is Burning”

  1. Talk is cheap.

    Actions speak louder than words.

    Axioms. Truths. Wisdom.

    Obama is a well spoken man who has done little or nothing and has always taken the safe route during his limited political career. His response is to talk about things, to try to motivate people.

    America needs someone willing and able to actual act.

  2. either way obama is a socialist!! hes got a nasty robin hood complex that will tear this country apart at the seams; lose more small businesses because of heavier taxes!!

  3. Good post. To the comments above from Jonolan – presidents don’t act, they motivate. Really, think about it – no matter who is elected to the office of president, their main job is going to be to motivate Congress to pass legislation in line with their ideals, and motivate the American populous to (at current) not panic, and have faith that together, we can pull the economy out of the gutter. The President is an office of limited power, and one for which action is not the highest goal. In fact, inaction from a president can often times be the most prudent course of action. One example is JFK’s response to the Cuban missile crisis – his refusal to act without further intelligence, despite the urging of his advisors, my well have averted all out war with Russia. Another example – I think most of us can agree that, considering what has been found since the invasion, it woulda been real nice of GW Bush had practiced some of that same brand of inaction and not motivated Congress and the American people to believe war in Iraq was justified and necessary. Personally, I’ll take thoughtful inaction over gut-response reaction any day.

  4. ya JFK inaction was OK for Americans, but the Cubans he told he would invade, Bay of Pigs invasion, were screwed over by his inaction. He guaranteed airplanes to aid them, because without them the invading Cubans would be slaughtered. They were killed and the survivors imprisoned for many years. Thanks to JFK’s inaction other people were killed…

  5. @ jojo…

    I’d have to argue that not just Americans were helped by his thoughtful inaction during the missile crisis. Nuclear war between the US and Russia would surely have had much more far-reaching fallout (no pun intended) than to only effect the US. There were certainly mistakes made in the Bay of Pigs. However, it was the fact that the Bay of Pigs turned out to be such a debacle that, many have said, helped inform JFKs position on the missile crisis. It was this thoughtful inaction that I was pointing out, and defending.

  6. many people in the world are affected positively and negatively by president’s inaction or action. I agree that the world was “spared” a nucular war due to Kennedy’s inaction, but he should have had a better way of being “inactive.” FYI The “debacle” of the Bay of Pigs was due to JFK’s inaction. You don’t promise people something, so vital as air support, and not go through with it and let them die where they stood. This government has too many times been involved in certain situations a lot of people wish it hadn’t. Yes inaction is sometimes the best policy, but next time you argue it, I implore you not to bring up JFK and the Cuban missile crisis (especially in front of a Cuban).

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