This month, as two political conventions send the US electorate into a piranha-like feeding frenzy and the crazed and senseless killings in the US and around the world continue with gruesome frequency – I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about ‘had it’. Commenting on the misplaced logic or stupendous lack of vision is something that should be so obvious it begs to be let alone. So I will make my own logic and press on.
Here in California two short bursts of heatwave climbed to 111 degrees Fahrenheit. This was not the high desert temperature of 118 nor the highest temperature expected in a summer that still has its hottest days ahead. I didn’t think that climate change would be so prominently visible, but on the single days that the temperatures soared, several plants in our garden just shriveled and died. Three days ago the plume from the Santa Clarita brush fire blotted out the sun for the better part of the day, making the moon glow an incandescent orange. The scene was completely surreal, as if we were briefly witnessing the effects of an ‘impact winter’. Los Angelenos went about their business as usual, but it seems that increasingly hot temperatures, large brush fires and crop decimation – as predicted by the climatologists – is not something in the far future. It is upon us. One of the candidates in this election – again misjudging the uniquely powerful and far-reaching bullhorn of the US Presidency said recently to a televised arena “It’s freezing in here… we need more global warming!” What is the choice?
It seems to me that the threats posed by terrorist organizations and those bent on destruction, require a special solidarity amongst all those who know better. A solidarity that is not only imagined but has the real underpinnings of concrete alliances. When an army confronts its enemies with overwhelming force, it provides no place of attack, no weak underbelly, no exploitable chink in the armour. Surely, part of a successful strategy is to keep faith with the ties that bind us together. There is, no doubt, plenty wrong with both political sides in the normal scheme of things – but we have reached an abnormal level of frenzy for a stable democracy to reasonably withstand. Undermining proven security alliances, threatening to dismantle global trade on the pretext that it will bring back an outdated job market, fear-mongering to sharpen distrust and accentuate divisions, irresponsible racially charged rhetoric, deliberate rabble rousing by way of short, inaccurate sound bytes ideal for a ‘low comprehension’ audience and the projection of ‘walking heavily and carrying an ICBM’ because strategic diplomacy seems too intellectual and effete a proposition for a blunt instrument bent on self-projection – is a dangerous place to be in advance of election day. This would be intolerable in a small country with no ability to affect its neighbors. When the entire global balance is at stake, it becomes a moral question. So no matter how deliberate the partisan implications might be – what is the choice?
For all the faults one might heap on any candidate who has held public office for 30 years, and there is a lot that one can – there is something special about having publically served that long in the first place. It’s easy to fabricate a track record when you only have to make it stick for a few months. It’s far more courageous to actually have a track record, a real one – warts and all – that shows your stamina, determination and experience. The unique place of a political party to elect in succession the first African American President and then the first woman is a historical moment that defies commentary. The party of Lincoln, the party of the emancipation, the party of the fourteenth amendment, the party of civil rights and complete desegregation a full hundred years before Martin Luther King, the party of fair play, the party of Christian compassion, the party of Constitutional protections for all citizens is now – sadly and evidently – the party of none of these things. What is the choice?
We are certain to have many debates before election day, none more stark than the debates between the candidates themselves. Will a substantive question demand a substantive answer, or will some other reckoning of fatuousness become a naturalized norm? Will we expect our candidates to show compassion in strength, a knowledge of American governance, steady experience and a strategic grasp of foreign affairs, or will we demand change for the sake of change, and side with bluster masquerading as strength, erratic inexperience and a lack of depth in any area, much less the three dimensional chess that might surround our best diplomacy? Will it be enough to be upset and fed up, or will those seeing ‘red’ -certainly too angry to see clearly – realize that blindness in the voting booth will not effectively plot the course that will give them the redress they need? Will it be enough for normal men and women to see what is in front of them and recognize it for what it is, or will they be befuddled by a ratings driven press corps into thinking that ‘night be day’?
Katherine: “Forward, I pray, since we have come so far, and be it moon, or sun, or what you please – And if you please to call it a rush-candle – Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.”
Far more hangs in the balance than a journey to Padua. Shakespeare’s immortal The Taming of the Shrew is far more apt for this election cycle than we should want to admit.