October 25th, 2008



It’s only a week and a half till the election, and Silly Season is upon us. That’s the polite term, at any rate. It’s the point where really inflammatory and/or outrageous claims begin to surface about the major candidates. There are, I think, two major motivating factors working in tandem: 1) The hour is late and the race appears to be close so people on both sides are getting desperate to find an edge; and 2) There isn’t enough time before the election (so the reasoning goes) to debunk extreme claims; if they’re debunked after the election, who cares? – the race will be over.

I normally take little note of such claims at this late hour of a campaign and I wouldn’t normally quote any of them, but one item arrived in my email tonight that bears mentioning. It was forwarded to me by someone I barely know. It is an essay, purportedly written by one Bill Brown of “the Billy Graham Team” – whatever that is. As a forwarded e-mail, it could of course have been written by anyone at all, but the point isn’t so much where it might have originated but in the distinctly un-American message it tries to slip to its nodding audience.

I’m familiar with the standard criticisms of both McCain and Obama. This essay goes beyond them into concepts that any American should find shameful, regardless of their own position on the political spectrum. It left me with the feeling that I’d been told nothing about the character of Obama but a great deal about the character of the author. It is designed to appeal to people who are on the fence about Obama. Now that’s all well and good – I say go ahead and state your facts and make your case. But try to write something with some intellectual integrity and remain true to the Constitution while you’re going about it. Too much to ask?

While the essay offers no word of endorsement for any candidate, it offers plenty of alarmist verbiage about Obama. Parts of it are rather florid, such as when the author talks about how Obama “…undermines the very foundations of this great Country. We have limited time to save America…” He then begins to warm up, noting how “…the charisma of Adolph Hitler, too, inspired millions and the results were catastrophic.” He later notes that “…Obama is certainly no Hitler…” as if this grants him the right to make the comparison anyway. Do people actually fall for this sort of dumbed-down rhetorical approach?

I began to realize that the water, among other things, was getting deep when the author offered the damning statement that Obama “…admitted his use of marijuana and cocaine in high school and in college.” I actually laughed aloud at that passage. Considering the improprieties, drug-related and otherwise, admitted and otherwise, of elected officials of both major parties, I’m not sure that admitting such a past counts against anyone. Would that others were as honest about their pasts! But let’s keep going – the author then offers the ominous news that Obama “…is willing to meet with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jung I [sic] and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” – as if that’s a bad thing! Is the author an isolationist? Does he remember a fellow by the name of Nixon going to China to meet Mao Zedong? It seems likely that the author remembers that event quite well, but hopes to get his readers to make up scare stories of their own.

But really, all of those items were variations on things I’ve read before. The one that got me was when he offered us the horrifying news that Obama “…is a big believer in the separation of church and state.” Oh my goodness! Not merely a believer in the separation of church and state, but a BIG believer? Why that’s downright… patriotic. If that allegation is true, then Obama is acting in accordance with our Constitution, and with the fervent wishes of the people who created it. I cannot regard this author as any sort of Good American in light of such a philosophy. I can only express my disappointment that anyone would pass along their disagreement with that tenet to invoke their wish to “save America.” It sounds to me as though this author, if sincere, has a great kinship to the philosophies of the Taliban, albeit with his own religious views standing in for theirs. May America be kept safe from the ambitions of such as he!

But enough of our misguided essayist – let’s get back to the candidates. I have heard politicians and pundits express their agreement/disagreement with McCain or Obama on any number of political, economic, and philosophical points. I have learned a lot about the views of both men through some of these commentaries, both for good and for ill. I can respect such arguments if they 1) deal with verifiable facts, 2) are presented with respect for my intelligence (e.g., avoid unsupported alarmist fantasies), and 3) respect the American system of government. When one fails on all three points, one’s arguments become devoid of merit and one’s words become devoid of wisdom.

Postscript — The ultimate irony of our essayist’s approach is that instead of generating light, he obscures light. An undecided voter considering the words of our essayist and seeing through them could very well be persuaded to vote for Obama, not wishing to support anything that would bring him closer to the essayist’s warped views. Still, someone who is already solidly in support of McCain might be willing to look the other way and see if such a tactic might pull some votes over to their side, reasoning that there are folks on the other side of the political fence telling exaggerated horror stories about McCain or Palin in an attempt to do the same thing. For a lot of people, it’s only about winning at this point. With every passing day, the odds of hearing unbiased talk in a public forum will plummet at an ever increasing rate. To all who remain undecided, I wish you well in your search for facts and insight; both are in short supply no matter where you turn.
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We bid a quiet farewell to Gerbilann, who passed away on Thursday. She survived her sister Gerbilee by four and a half months. She will be missed by all of us, including Cy, who was never able to realize his grand fantasy of eating one of them.
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