Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dumbing Down Elitism

Study Hall Teacher
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Elitism... how did it become a four-letter word here in America?

When I was in New Zealand for a year, I remember how the term "dumbed down" became so closely associated with America and Americans. I was somewhat taken back when it came up those first few times. After a while I started to figure out how it was... or at least that's what I thought. My explanation was that the association of "dumbed down" and "America(ns)" had to do with our (i.e., Americans) no-nonsense simplicity, our efficiency and our tendency to eliminate all of the fringe and ornamentation in any given project, our direct line of thought and its application to achieving our goals.

Even when George Bush was elected President in 2000 and I was in Christchurch, many Kiwis I encountered seemed to know what he was all about before I did. They referred to him (back then) the way I do today... not-too-bright, incompetent, butcher-of-the-English-language, arrogant, etc. Again, I was rather taken back thinking to myself, "Well, let's give him a chance before we totally condemn him."

Eight years later it seems that America itself has embraced this image of associating ourselves with the term "dumbed-down." Although we don't think of ourselves with such blunt terminology, however eloquent one states it, the translation is the same: we've been cultivating a growing distaste for anything that resembles elite or elitism. I'm unsure when the movement started, but George Bush's Presidency has certainly fertilized it.

I was just reminded that the founders of this country were elitist—highly educated, cultured, and brilliant. Isn't the formation of the "electoral college" a reflection of such elitism?

Sam Harris' recent Newsweek article attacking the candidacy of Sarah Palin has truly solidified my theory/opinion regarding our aversion to elitism.

I'll finish with quotes from his insightful article here, but I invite you to read the entire piece, print it out, and share with others.

—•— —•— —•— —•— —•—

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

...The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

...I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Maybe It's Not That Bad

Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Was it my imagination, but I just finally made it around to watching Bill O'Reilly's interview with Barack Obama and I didn't detect any blood. Geeeeeeze, they were rather chummy weren't they and seemed to see many things on a fairly eye-to-eye basis. At least they appeared to understand one another and where each was coming from. Are things really that bad between the Republicans and Democrats in this country that they can't sit down and talk like these two iconic forces?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin & McCain's Bridge To Nowhere

No Jumping Here
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Despite the research of several different reporters and news agencies coming up with conclusive evidence that Sarah Palin actually did support "The Bridge To Nowhere," to the extent of campaigning and lobbying for it, Sarah Palin's recollection is quite different: “I told Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ on that bridge to nowhere.” And almost everyday since her memorable (historic?) Republican National Convention speech, she continues to repeat this claim as she stumps around the country with her running mate, John McCain.

With overwhelming evidence of her outright lie, John McCain and his supporters continue to prop her up while backing her deception on this topic. Which really makes McCain and company a bunch of liars too. Wow, there's a news flash, politicians who lie.

But, is it a lie?

Probably, but some might not consider it a total lie. Yet, it's hardly truthful. If the world is as black and white as Republicans like to paint it, I'll side with calling her claim a lie. She only said "no thanks" after the project was dead in the water. As one reporter stated it, she carried out the last rites on the ill-fated project.

And lying about a fairly petty happening of the past in light of those affairs awaiting her and McCain (should they get the nod in November) makes one wonder what else they might be willing to lie about down the road. However, if they eat crow and come clean now about The Bridge to Nowhere, their bid for the election is doomed for certain. Too bad because my respect for them would surely soar. But coming clean in front of the American public doesn't accomplish a thing. Undoubtedly McCain and Palin surely know they have made their bed, and now have to lie in it hoping the American public's apathy and callousness come to their rescue.

Perhaps the saddest thing about all of this is that there appears to be a large percentage of the American public who refuse to believe or simply don't care about such indisputable findings (... well, I'm sure Fox News could come up with something in their arsenal of "crack reporters" that counters all other media reports regarding Palin).

That being the case, maybe Rev. Jeremiah Wright wasn't so far off the mark after all.

Read John Ridley's brilliant piece on "Palinguage."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Post Convention Indigestion

Wink Politics
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The Democratic and Republican conventions are here and gone—thankfully and, at last. In hindsight, I think my vote could simply have gone to the candidate whose party said, "You know, there's no need for a convention since we already have our unanimous representative, so we're just going to take all that money that we would have spent and give it to a bunch of Katrina victims who still haven't recovered yet."

I watched some and listened to both conventions when I could—neither impressed me much. All I could think was that some rich alumni gave a bunch of money to their alma mater to be used for one big pep rally.

Someone needs to give John McCain muscle relaxers... talk about "wooden." That guy makes Al Gore look like he doesn't even have a skeleton. I know, I know, injuries from his days as a POW...

One things for certain, the next first lady is going to be a "looker" according to some pundits. I heard Cindy McCain's outfit would have maxxed out my credit card—to the tune of over $300,000. Now I want to know what Michelle's "address outfit" set her back.

I keep on reminding myself, that no matter who wins it's got to be better than eight years of George Bush, regardless of what the Obama supporters keep saying. Yet, with Sarah Palin in the room, I'm reminded of Dan Quayle. We'll see how well she holds up come the debates and she finds herself surrounded by a crowd of not-so-faithfuls. I didn't like the idea of Quayle assuming the office should something have happened to the elder Bush back then and I'm not too crazy to think about her taking over either under the same (even more likely) circumstances.

I suppose what has left the greatest impression on me (not necessarily in a good way) from the two pep assemblies was the mantra/cheer coming from the Republican crowd after McCain mentioned the need to drill for more oil—"DRILL BABY DRILL, DRILL BABY DRILL, DRILL BABY DRILL..." Never has there been greater reinforcement for generalizing or stereotyping the Republicans and their short-sighted notoriety. I suppose "Drill Baby Drill" t-shirts are next. Listening over the radio, I could almost see their arms growing longer as their knuckles approached the ground while their brows cast a great shadow across their eyes.

I must be some kind of elitist.

"Elitist"… it really has become a four-letter word thanks mostly to AM-conservative-talk-show radio.

I wonder how many people have considered the true definition of "elitist." Here's one that I found on my liberal-biased, Macintosh laptop computer: a group of people considered to be (and not according to themselves) the best in a particular society or category, esp. because of their power, talent, or wealth.

Well, that ain't me folks—especially the part about power and wealth, while talent is surely debatable.