Saturday, September 27, 2008


Charles Hurt says of the first presidential debate that one of the "night's most telling moments came when McCain revealed a wristband that had belonged to a soldier killed in Iraq given to him by the soldier's mother. Do everything in your power, the mother told McCain, to make sure 'my son's death was not in vain.'

"'I've got a bracelet, too,' Obama said -- given to him by the mother of a dead soldier who asked Obama to 'make sure that another mother's not going through what I'm going through.'"

Emblematic, not just of the contemporary split between the American right and left, but of the human condition as a whole. We are divided, even within ourselves, between duty and apparent self-interest, between comfort and sacrifice. And it isn't even clear which side takes which stand. Not wanting your loss to be meaningless is a kind of selfishness. Warning others of impending pain is a duty. But if the virtue and folly of every option were obvious, there would be no need of wisdom.

My son wears a bracelet. I haven't spoken with him about it. It's not about scalding pain. It's about tension and its release. It's about tones and shades.

Sometimes we bind ourselves to past agonies because it's necessary that we do so, to remain what we would be. Sometimes we have to cut ourselves loose, or remain manacled to great granite slabs that pull us to the bottom of the sea. Knowing when to do which is a thing too subtle to express in words.

Ah well. The debates. Yes, it's true that McCain is old. This is a bad thing? Doesn't it mean that he has a lot of experience? He's seen it all? -- and had to make decisions and judgments about it, and then been able to evaluate their efficacy and profit from the contrasts? One would have supposed so. But the left would make an issue of it. He's old, and that's bad, cuz old is bad, I guess. Don't trust anyone over 46.

And they like to pretend that they think Sarah is too young, too inexperienced. Hm. Cuz she'd be one heartbeat away from the presidency. Whereas, if Obama were to win, he'd be no heartbeats away from the presidency, and, uh, he has so much more experience than Sarah. Like in running his campaign for 2/3 of his time in the Senate. Some might suppose that being an executive in control of all those hundreds of millions of campaign dollars would make Obama a fatcat plutocrat -- his own enemy. Some might suppose that making decisions about how to spend money on ads is all an executive has to do. Some might think that running a campaign is comparable to running a state. Who are we to argue?

It's all about style. The substance is clear. Let's say that Sarah and Obama are equivalent, in their experience. It seems reasonable. Let's say that they're both a little lacking in the been-around department. Sarah's on-the-job training would not be as chief executive. Nuff said.

I've never seen such a stupid set of arguments. If it weren't that these are dire times, I'd almost want Obaden to win. It would put Jon Stewart out of business. And the opportunity to hear Biden be the ringmaster of the circus going on in his mouth would be priceless. To see Obama ambling through the capitals of the world amid the uncomprehending cheers of non-English speakers would be an anatomy lesson in mass delusion heretofore unseen in any liberal democracy. If we could do it from the safety of, say, The New Jerusalem, I'd say go for it.

But that would be unkind to the world. Sort of a combination between sacrifice in vain, and making others go through what we wouldn't want to go through ourselves.


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