Monday, August 11, 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces

Those of you who come to this site looking for funny little stories about my adventures in middle America or movie reviews or pop culture quips might want to skip this one.

It's time to get serious.

As some of you might know, besides my love of pop culture, I also have a pretty serious love of politics. So serious, in fact, that it was my major in college. (That's a fact that always shocks people who didn't know me before I started teaching.) Many of my earliest childhood memories are related to politics -- watching Richard Nixon make his exit from the White House, Gerald Ford's subsequent swearing in, the election of Jimmy Carter, organizing a lunch table election in 4th grade, etc. I've always been fascinated by the political process, and if it weren't for some incredibly incriminating photos that I'm sure are still circulating out there, I'd probably consider a career in politics at some point.

There's a problem with that, though. I've come to the startling conclusion that, even considering my youthful indiscretions, I'm too smart to be in politics.

That's not ego or delusional thinking speaking. It's, sadly enough, fact. The truth of the matter is that Americans seem to have an aversion to intelligent candidates. Take a look at the past two elections and you'll see the proof. Al Gore and John Kerry were both clearly intelligent men prone to giving thoughtful, lengthy responses to questions. The problem is that this intellect came off as stiff or condescending. "We" wanted someone like us and not someone who was better than us. And so we've had to endure eight years of George W. Bush and his gaffes and syntax errors and his hambone routine. More than once I've seen footage of Bush on television and have felt humiliated that this is the face we've given America on the international stage.

Here's the thing: I DO want a president that not only thinks he's better than I am but who IS better than I am. To quote Will Farrell's impersonation of W. (you knew I'd slip a pop culture reference in here somewhere): "Presidenting is hard!" I could never handle the rigors of being president -- making those literally life and death decisions on a daily basis, trying to sort through the complexities of economic policy or Israeli-Arab relations. I don't want my president to be someone I could "have a beer with" because I want a president who's too busy to tie one on with someone like me. I want someone who will be thoughtful and detail-oriented and who will have the courage and conviction to make those life and death decisions. And I want someone who will be able to explain to me why those decisions were made with a reason better than we're "fighting evil".

Do I think George W. Bush is a bad person? No, I honestly don't. I think he's allowed some really bad things to happen on his watch, and I think that a good chunk of the reason for that is because he lacks the analytical skills to take control. He's allowed himself to become a puppet of his advisors who seem to have their own personal agendas at play. The problem with the Bush Administration is that they seem to see everything in black and white. The world is not black and white -- it's multi-colored and full of depth and complexity and that's something that seems to be lacking in Bush's policies, whether the policies we're talking are foreign, domestic, or social. I want my leaders to recognize that complexity and respond accordingly rather than dividing the world into "with us" or "against us" camps. That takes intelligence that has been lacking in our government for quite some time (as Steven Weber points out in this post from the Huffington Post).

It's time for us to stop wallowing in this mediocrity and start seeking out leaders who will help us rise above this. If we want to stay a superpower (is that term even valid anymore?), we need to realize that it takes more than super muscle power to lead -- it takes super brain power, too.


NICKI said...

Were you eavesdropping on a conversation Adam & I had on Saturday? Eerie.

Danielle Mari said...

By the way, that might be the perfect iconic picture of our Pres.