Friday, October 12, 2012

Americans worship at the altar of action not nuanced thought

Some scored the Biden-Ryan debate a draw.
Some, a win for Biden, with Ryan holding his own.
None, except partisan Republicans, gave the win to Ryan.
However, gone were the head-down, scribbling without acknowledging the opponent tactics of the president, with Biden on the stage.
There is a kind of irony, for some, in the tenacity, energy, depth and compassion still evident in the near septagenarian from Delaware.
In a political snap-shot, amidst roiling developments, for example in the investigation of the Benghazi murders of the ambassador and three valiant Americans, it is relatively glib to point to missed security precautions, and to judge the administration for failing to protect the ambassador, on the anniversary of 9-11. Nevertheless, if one's campaign strategy and tactics revolve around the motif of "macho" strength and military might, and more open hostility in a very complex and dangerous world, and there is clearly a base of support for that general approach to the world, "to regain American supremacy" then it behooves the candidate to honour the campaign directives.
However, there is a piece so far missing from the "instant analysis" that is galloping across the internet and the public news outlets, and that is the question of which man, Biden or Ryan, is ready, fit, prepared and competent to become president.
And on that count, Biden wins, hands down, especially given his experience, his balance, his capacity for restrained strength, for mature perspective and for nuanced "action".
The U.S. worships action figures, action movies, action heroes, action sports, action business competitions, action wars on whatever political and social issues come to the fore. Reflection, restraint, patience, collaboration, co-operation, simply do not "cut it" in any of the many theatres of public life. Their police are well armed and ready for open and dangerous conflict; their streets are filled with guns and drugs in too many quarters, their television screens are filled with action violence, open sexuality, dangerous heroes and quick solutions, in the mode of the dramatic orgasm, the ultimate climax squeezed into a 22-minute time frame, too frequently on dramatic steroids, to feed an insatiable appetite for thrills.
Unfortunately, such a culture is counter-intuitive to the world of complicated and dangerous and sometimes not instantly resolved or resolvable trouble.
However, it is inside such a culture that too many Americans have come to believe in "action" as the signature of their identity.
And such action includes defamation of the character of their leaders by their people, by their opponents and by another insatiable appetite of the media, addicted to beating their opposition for ratings, for advertising dollars and for holding their increasingly tenuous jobs.
One woman in Danville, on MSNBC, well-dressed, in her late fifties or early sixties, proudly aannounced, when Chris Matthews shoved a microphone toward her mouth, "We all know Obama is a communist!" And when pressed for an explanation, retorted, "We know what that means, we don't have to explain it!"
It is the complicated, nuanced, subtle and non-instant reflections that eventually lead to substantial, mature and effective leadership, even in a society reared on sugar, steroids and action heroes.
There is a poor "fit" between the American culture and the need for "taking a breath" for counting to 100, not merely to 10, before acting and there is simply no patience for that time-lag.
Today, we will be bombarded with polls that "tell the story" of last night's theatre.
And tomorrow, those polls will give way to others, showing a slightly different curve to the numbers....and like the stock market, the political "marlet report" will comply with the appetite for instant decisions, often wrong and more dangerous than waiting for more detailed and more accurate and most lasting information.
And that is the gift of this president, compared especially to his predecessor, Dybya, who simply and proudly, "did not do nuance."
Can Obama/Biden hold on long enough to secure the victory that the world and the country needs, in the face of a ramped-up demand for "action" in a world without road-maps for the evolving competitions for  power among the powerless, not merely "interest groups" but real powerlessness.

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