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The Neighbors Can’t Breathe November 23, 2009

Posted by monty in politics.
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Okay, I know.  When someone shoots video of a politician’s fans at a rally or a speech or a book signing, it’s invariably slanted.  They chop it up and edit it so that only the most moronic or inflammatory or entertaining people make the final cut.  And I know that this is probably true of any politician.  I’m sure you could get a sample of stupidity at any political event … and yes, I’m including Barack Obama’s events in there, too.  Conservatives don’t have a monopoly on stupidity – they just seem to own more shares.

But, man.  A video taken during one of Palin’s book signings illustrates exactly why Sarah Palin’s fans are – yes, I’ll say it – dangerous.  Last week, Jon Stewart brilliantly and accurately called her a “conservative boilerplate mad lib,” her every speech peppered with  … oh, hell, just watch it for yourself:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Before I get to the video I actually wanted to show, it’s always interesting to see the GOP attempt to dissect exactly why the liberals don’t like Palin, and it’s always funny to see how wrong they get it.  They think it has something to do with her attractiveness or her religion or her outspokenness, when, as I’ve said here before, it has nothing to do with any of that, and everything to do with her being a vacuous, empty-headed twit.  Oh, I won’t deny that she’s a master of controlling her image, and in that respect she’s a savvy and brilliant entertainer.  But we should never mistake that for actual gravitas or intelligence.

Sarah Palin parrots exactly what her followers want to hear, and they parrot it right back to anyone who asks them about her.  As in this video.  It pains me that it was taken in my home state, but my consolation is that her fans would sound like this anywhere in the country.  Stupid knows no geographical boundaries.

One thing I believed following the 2004 election – and which I believe even more now – is that the red/blue divide in this country comes down to an ability to think critically.  Personally, it’s tiring to hear the all or nothing/love it or leave it/black and white rhetoric that consistently comes out of the GOP.  There’s never (or rarely, at least) an acknowledgment of the gray areas in an issue, or that ideology is often nuanced, or that it’s possible to support a politician without agreeing with his every issue.  You hear it in the responses in that video.  No knowledge of Palin’s specific policies or beliefs, no idea about what Obama or the incumbent Congress has actually done to steal their country from them – it’s just God and guns and drill, baby, drill.

And, I’m sorry to say it again, but that’s dangerous.  To so blindly support someone about whose beliefs you know nothing outside the empty platitudes she spews in her media appearances is irresponsible.  The Republicans harp consistently about not knowing Obama’s background.  Even if that were true – which it’s not, let’s go ahead and establish that right away – at least we know specifically what he believes in, and what kinds of policies he’d like to enact.  With Palin, we know everything about her past, but that still tells us nothing about the specifics of her ideology.

People are so enamored with Palin’s story (and I’ll admit, it’s a good one) that they completely ignore the crucial problem: she completely lacks substance.  And maybe that’s been the biggest failing of our schools: we haven’t properly taught people how to think critically.  We haven’t taught them how to look for substance, to dissect an argument, to look out for propaganda.  And I’m not going to deny that there isn’t an element of this same problem to Obama’s success.  He was a great speaker with a catchy message and a barrier-busting heritage – there were absolutely people who voted as blindly for him as there are those who would vote blindly for Palin.  Neither is right.  But Obama, at the very least, talked specifically about his beliefs and his policies, unlike the vice-presidential debate, where Palin simply ignored the moderator’s questions to mouth her talking points like the Stepford GOP automaton she is.  And it does seem, at least to this humble citizen, that, after eight years of Bush’s smirky arrogance, and with this current fascination with Palin, an inability to think critically often seems to be the province of the right wing.

But back on point: we need to better equip our students to think intelligently and critically.  Doing so goes some way toward ensuring that they won’t behave like the people in the video, who are apparently acting without any conscious thought whatsoever – like some bizarre Pavlovian GOP experiment, they begin salivating when Palin derisively utters the phrase “mainstream media.”  The final irony, of course, is that Obama’s current education policy – with its emphasis on standards and testing – will only breed more people who are unable to look beyond the rhetoric to the empty promises beneath.

*****

Current listening:

Burning Airlines – Mission: Control! (1999)

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Comments»

1. Katie Reed - November 23, 2009

How does one support someone politically without knowing the specifics of their political ideology? I just don’t understand it. In the same vein, how does one oppose a person without understanding their politics (for the sake of argument, believing that racism has nothing to do with the opposition)? It makes my brain hurt.


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