Saturday, September 27, 2008

Can we disagree without being jerks? (and that includes me)

My internet service was down for the duration of the debate last night, so I didn't live-blog, which I was considering. Probably a good thing.

About one month ago, I made a decision to not elevate myself by speaking ill of others. I removed my posts about Sarah Palin when I made this decision, and finally (finally!) those cached posts are not being read.

I found the debate quite painful to watch. I also kept wondering how other people were reacting to it, as Dick and I both had a similar reaction to McCain's behavior. We thought he was creepy. I'd go further than that - I found his smirking and grimacing, not to mention his refusal to even look in Obama's direction - downright offensive. His behavior was not gentlemenly, and it made me realize just how refreshing I find Obama's demeanor. Obama addressed McCain as "John" and disagreed with McCain without condescension.

I do not think either of them "won" the debate. I doubt anyone's mind has been changed by last night. What we saw were two candidates with completely different world views - one sees the world through the lens of war and the other does not. One seems passionate because of honor and fear, while the other is cool. This last part reminds me of Kerry and Dukakis (though Obama is certainly not either of them). For some people, his cool demeanor may appear as though he doesn't care enough, but for me, it shows that he's not an over-reactor.

This week, we saw McCain's tendency towards drama unfold on two fronts. He considers the economic situation so dire that he must close down his campaign. He announces he may not attend the debate. Of course, neither thing occurred. Obama, on the other hand, may seem to be under-reacting, but my preference is always for over-analysis, so there's my particular prejudice.

My sense is that, once again, there are two types of Americans, and very few in the mid ground of opinion about these two governing styles. One side sees quick reactions and hyperbolic responses as "strong". The other sees measured thinking as "weak". In regards to the economy, last night Obain said to McCain, "The problem is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel." This may have seemed like a throwaway line, but I think it's telling. In order to use a scalpel, one needs to be calm and collected, and see both the large picture and the smallest details. Just imagining McCain as a brain surgeon gives me the willies. He seems ready to explode at any minute, barely unable to control himself, wildly impatient.

This is the style of a man steeped in battle. To me, this hypervigilant, the-world-as-a-potential-powderkeg filled with "enemies" worldview is one I'd rather not live in. McCain would call me naive, as he called Obama naive last night. Additionally, McCain kept talking about "winning" the war in Iraq. What are we actually winning? Noone asked that question. I wish Obama had asked him that pointedly. Perhaps this has become an untouchable question, for it reminds people old enough to remember of Vietnam, where we finally realized that there was indeed nothing to win. Unfortunately, this idea wound up doing the people fighting the war a big disservice, and I believe that's the reason noone's bringing this up.

I won't analyze this any further. I must say that I found Obama's willingness to say "I agree. . ." to be a breath of fresh air. The Republican pundits are spinning this to show how the inexperienced Obama is piggy-backing on the experience of McCain, but don't we all use the experience of others? That is how we all learn, and besides, it shows respect. It saddened me to see McCain treat Obama with such condescension. Is that how McCain is going to "reach across the aisle?"

I wondered why it bothered me so much that McCain's behavior was so nasty. Again, I think of the respect I once had for this man. The more I see and hear of him lately, the less I like him. Now, I do not base my voting decisions on whether I like or dislike a candidate - I've held my nose many a time while voting. However, the particular type of dismissive behavior that McCain showed last night scares me (coupled with the hasty and dramatic decisions he's made since picking Palin as his veep). We are in precarious times and our standing in the world is not good. I want a gentleman (or woman) in the White House, for once. We need to build alliances and not make more enemies.

Painting note: This image has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I'm in a hurry, is all, and I do like this artist's work quite a bit. His portraits are wonderful. Does the fact that I like this stuff make me an elite?
Antonello de Messina Hieronymus im Gehäus 1474

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