Sunday, February 24, 2008

America - Love it or leave it

The front window of my employer's shop sports a large banner with some sort of avian device and the slogan "America - love it or leave it." As my partner and I are both conspicuously under-employed and, since upstate, NY has an unemployment rate somewhat above the ever-climbing national average, I must needs grit my teeth, grin and bear it each day as I pass this low-brow piece of political philosophy on my way into or out of the office.

Something about the design of the banner reminds me uncomfortably of early Nazi displays. As I am ignorant of art and its styles, I can't put my finger on what it is, but , in the same way that one can immediately recognize early Soviet poster art (which I adore actually) the love-it-or-leave-it banner seems connected to early (and sinister) Nazi stuff.

My first day of work was quite uncomfortable, because I wondered whether I'd be able to keep my mouth shut if my new boss exhorted me with what I imagined might be a litany of the superiorities of the Bush administration, the Iraq war, corporate control of the media, and how we live in the best of all possible worlds. This never materialized, thank heaven and my co-workers seem not to take the boss' (and his wife's) politcal views seriously. Not that the views aren't serious, but rather that no one in his right mind would waste a thought on such nonsense.

Still, eight months later, I continue to notice the banner every work day and to wonder if social progress is just an illusion, ie that things never really get any better -- at least not for long. As with a house that's just been lovingly restored, one is forced to confront the reality that it could become totally dilapidated again, given time and circumstances.

The reversal of social progress that began in earnest under the Reagan adminsitration shows no sign of having run its course today. And, as with a house whose dilapidations have gone too far to be repairable, perhaps American society has reached the point of no return.

And, at least with houses, people generally agree that a renovated house is better than a ruined one. I'm not at all sure that the American national attitude parallels this belief.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Candidates - how about laying off each other and talking about the issues instead

Here's a quick piece of advice for all the candidates in the 2008 US presidential race: Stop talking about each other and start talking about the issues. I realize this advice is not novel, but it doesn't seem to be getting followed by most of the candidates either, especially McCain and Clinton.

I think it is fair to say that, even the dumbest members of the American electorate (all 239 million, 789 thousand, 499 of them) would rather hear talk of substance from the candidates than the continuous niggling, nitpicking, and criticism of each other that seems to be dominating their speeches.

If the mechanics of such a procedural change are eluding the candidates, let me cover how to go about it in a few easy points:

1. If the media ask for your reaction to what so-and-so has just said about you, simply answer something like "I'm sorry he/she feels that way. Now let's talk about the economy..." Don't allow yourself to be baited.

2. Do not yourself criticise other candidates. Period. When your mouth is open in public, what needs to be coming out of it is substance about the issues and what you as president would do.

3. If the media keep pressing for you to join in a pointless personality contest, state that you refuse to do so and, if they will not let you discuss the issues, then terminate the conversation.

4. Refuse to go on TV or radio interview shows where you cannot speak about issues. If you must go on, for example, Bill O'Reilly's show, threaten to get up and walk out the minute he either talks over you or tries to get you into a fight over what someone has said about you.

If you follow this scheme, we the people might actually learn something about your suitability for the presidency.