Monday, September 22, 2008

Seeing the Last Candidate Standing

I drove upstate to visit my son who is finally at college… to verify that he wasn’t actually calling from downtown Manhattan while he described American Politics seminars and the shockingly cold mornings in the upstate boondocks where he is enrolled.

$200 worth of overpriced gas later, I found he was there. And mentioned in passing that 9 of 20 students in American Politics 42 days from the Election had no idea who Joe Biden was. To be fair, only 6 knew who Todd Palin was. All of them knew John McCain, all of them had seen Jackass the Movie, knew how to pronounce Mariah Carey and Naz. Some of this is just general teenage symptomatic culture syndrome.

But outside the college town, I felt like I was in Middle America. McDonalds, Burger Kings, Shopping Malls, white people. Bad movies in the theatres, no ethnic food besides the Taco Plate at Friendly’s. Maybe I stayed too near the highway, but not much tempted me. McCain signs on too many houses. Mullets. The air was fresh and clean, but the smell was distinctly a little Republican. Americans by default. Ethnicity seemed to make these people nervous. Even imported beer.

And something about these people depressed me. True, they seemed to have roots. They seemed fairly unmoved by scandals on Wall Street and except for prices at the pumps, they didn’t seem too riled up by a movement for change. But they seemed ‘stuck’. Resigned. Not unhappy, not happy. Generally not too bothered about much except the Buffalo Bills. A little overweight, slow-moving, no one jogging or even walking except to and from their vehicle.

At a Freshman parents’ meeting the various school administrators advised us to cut parental umbilical cords…to leave the messy rooms alone, let our kids make mistakes. I know my son. I know he, like most Americans, consumes mass media like too much candy. I also know I have raised him to be able to see who the best players are, and that these people don’t always win on reality shows. There are alliances, conspiracies. And even Brett Favre didn’t win the Superbowl. I am not an enabler or a manipulator of media. I am all for clarity.

So I cleaned his room. He and his nice roommate from a tiny rural town in Pennsylvania. I separated piles of clean and dirty clothes, the garbage and papers, the discarded Gatorade bottles, old food, wrappers…wadded up paper, used Kleenex, dirt. I threw out 3 loads of trash and recycled containers. I swept and discarded. So he could see. We found a wallet. We found a paper he’d written and lost. We found keys. Sometimes it’s necessary to let a little water out so you can find the drowning baby.

A message to all the media: equal time for candidates? For the first time I side with Oprah. She gets that some Americans need a clean room in order to see. Is it fair that the CEO of AIG gets 7 million dollars for tanking a company and bilking millions of people? Is it his fault? I don’t see these CEOs cleaning up. I don’t feel sorry for a single one of them. Nor for many of the employees who collected annually more money than the average whole rural American family will earn in a lifetime. Too many of these Wall Street boys pretended to be teenagers, hid under the piles of garbage and pocketed the cash. The people in small towns are both seeing and not seeing this. They are maybe watching but not seeing much about the Republicans except Sarah Palin’s super-organized hockey-Mom façade and John McCain’s Protect-Your-Family blather like an ad for a massive burglar alarm. They like hockey. They like guns. Their sons get drafted when they finish football season.

Most of all, we need a way to find the Best Candidate Standing. To make sure that this is not a reality show standoff and to make sure the 90% of Americans who need help cleaning the room in their brain are able to see through the constant media garbage dump and can find their wallets and the keys to their house and their sense of what’s right. Of what’s true. This has become tougher than cracking the da Vinci code. Or simply cleaning a room, or the massive mess of Wall Street which has caused nearly as many casualties as our 9/11. And the sick after-effects. Some of these after-effects are imbedded in the Republican platform.

We might not be able to clean our own rooms, or our own homes, or our own psychological mess, but we need to clean the media air enough to see what is real. Not easy. We have the feminist issue to muck up the mix further. This is a trick. The promise you get on your computer screen so you click and let the virus in. Come on America. You’re smarter than you know. You understand the complicated rules of football. The Last Candidate standing. Help clear the crap so we can let the tall man win this time.

No comments: