Monday, June 18, 2012

American Disconnect

From CounterPunch:

“I like Sarah Palin,” a woman in Texas visiting New York told me. “She represents me.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“She’s, you know, kind of homey, you know, kind of like a soccer Mom, and with those kids. My daughter could get pregnant, you know and I like that she didn’t abandon her kid or anything. So, I voted for her – oh, and John McCain, of course. He seemed like nice man.”

The woman and her husband earned less than $40 thousand per year, with two kids, and a sizeable mortgage to burden them. He came to New York on company business and “we had those frequent flyer things so I could come too. But those Broadway shows cost so much, you know.”

A Colorado man loves guns, to hunt with and to protect himself, of course. “And damn anyone who tries to take mine away – and you know what I mean.” In case I hadn’t gotten his point, he added: “Obama has betrayed the country with his socialist health scheme.”

A New Yorker thought Obama had “sold out Israel,” meaning “he doesn’t really like Jews.”


“Why should he tell Bibi Netanyahu [Israeli Prime Minister] what to do? Whose business is it if Jews settle more land there? They civilized that barbaric region. Obama has nerve to try and boss Israel around.”

Do people get these notions in synagogues and churches? From Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, or does their “news” come from Fox?

I asked two homeless men in New York and one later in San Francisco if they planned to vote. All three stared at me as if I was a space alien.

More here.

I wrote this last week, riffing on a passage from Aldous Huxley's essay "Brave New World Revisited":

This is something I continue to have difficulty in fully grasping, but that Huxley knew all too well five decades ago: modern American politics, at the electoral level, have far less to do with actual issues than they have to do with emotion, symbols, and narrative.
The above excerpt serves as an excellent example of what I'm talking about. Of course, it's easy to pick on conservatives simply because their political myth-making machine is way bigger and more sophisticated than anything the left is currently able to offer. Indeed, the right-wing propaganda apparatus is so effective that countless rank-and-file conservatives now believe things that are easily verified as being untrue, which kind of makes them stick out like sore thumbs when you start asking them what they think about the world.

But make no mistake about it, tons of liberals fall into the same category. How many of them actually bought the idea that Obama is anti-war? How many of them believed that Our Savior would go to Washington, work a few magic spells, and amazingly convince conservatives to get with the program? "Hope and change" was an emotional and symbolic storyline from the get-go, a storyline that had very little connection to reality.

Like I said, it's really easy to make fun of the woman who believes Sarah Palin represents her because the former Alaska governor is a "soccer mom." But liberals, who ought to know better, fell into the same kind of thinking with Obama, a black man (which assures that he's a liberal, just like them), who attended Harvard (one of those "liberal" institutions), and a Democrat (the "liberal" party): he's got to be just like me. All they had to do was go to his campaign's website to see that he was, and definitely still is, a neoliberal, that is, very conservative on economics, and that, for him, "anti-war" meant winding down our troop presence in Iraq so he could expand the war in Afghanistan.

American voters just don't think anymore. Sure, they think they're thinking, but the reality is that it's all about feelings and how they identify themselves, projecting whatever they want onto the guy who's just like them. This may sound like I'm wagging a finger of shame in their direction, but I'm not. Indeed, this all just makes me sad because, in the age of mass communications, which directly caters to this vague and emotional understanding of reality, in an era when the schools teach civics and history in the most boring and off-putting ways possible, in a time when the press, long ago bought up by corporate interests which aim to entertain and distract rather than inform and edify, has failed miserably in its role as "fourth estate," this is the inevitable outcome. That is, I'm lucky. I love this stuff. I love to read and write and pontificate and converse about politics. It's my biggest hobby. Everybody else has to make a supreme effort to avoid the propaganda and focus on the issues. And that's really difficult, especially if you're working a fifty or sixty hour week and have a family to care for. Life is difficult enough when it comes to informing oneself about the issues of the day. Throw in some intellectual obstacles and it becomes almost impossible.

And that's just the people who kind of try, who manage to make it to the polls to vote every two or four years. More than half of the country doesn't even fall into that category. Again by design. We're enslaved and we don't even know it. Just like the people in Brave New World.