Sunday, October 5, 2008

Putting the "fun" back in fundamentalism.

I don't quite know how we got here, but if I hear the word "fundamental" one more time, I'm going to buy thesauri and mail them to each candidate.

Perhaps it's just due to Obama's "Change" platform combined with McCain's "maverick" reputation. But there has been an intense focus on a "fundamental change" in Washington. 

I'm not complaining about that. Actually, I rather enjoy the fact that the election campaigns have been about something deeper and more abstract than just tax cuts/Iraq/health care/abortion. This "fundamental change" encompasses more than what Congress writes on paper-- it is a manifestation of the current identity crisis affecting Americans as a whole. And I appreciate that the campaigns recognize this, even if they aren't effective at talking/debating on that level.

It's the cavalier attitude towards the word "fundamental" that irks me. After 9/11, the word "fundamental" was consistently branded with Islamic radicals, and essentially became a euphemism for "terrorist." Because the word is still familiar, and perhaps in part due to McCain's use of it immediately preceding the financial crisis, it is in heavy rotation with regards to our own beliefs. I don't necessarily think it is out of context, and I can embrace the successful re-branding of the word in the public consciousness, but I am quite thoroughly sick of hearing it.

This focus on our national identity and how it affects our decisions and laws makes for a pretty heavy election. I feel quite energized by the fact that this has finally come to the forefront, and I think this makes all of us look at ourselves and question our focus.

Which is why it is all the more insulting when the campaigns go out of their way to bring this heady intellectualism down to the people. The constant references to the Wall Street/Main Street dichotomy and the actual use of "Joe Sixpack" just pulls the rug out from under those of us who had faith that we were being treated like thinking adults. If this election is really about choosing our future as Americans (Do we use our fists or our words?), why are we being spoken to in the most narrow of terms (How much will taxes be? Will health care get more expensive?)? Concrete facts and figures are good to establish credibility and help bolster a platform, but should be used as evidence, not as argument. For all that we the people are currently trying to do to get beyond class warfare and partisanship, the candidates certainly aren't taking the first step forward.

Don't they realize that we are capable of thinking outside the box? That people who want to take home more of their paycheck understand the concept of being a "fiscal conservative?" That people who think we need to expand social security and medicare know these programs cost money, which comes out of their pockets? This is not to say that anyone is in favor of government waste-- which is an area requiring attention regardless of who ends up as President-- but that we realize the full scope of the words "fundamental issues." 

Our national identity crisis is a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate who we are and what we want this country to be-- and we've demonstrated how crucial this election will be. We don't just want a President who is your average person. We're crying for a leader, someone who is able to embrace a new mission statement, and all we're getting in return is condescension.

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