#50 The Quality of Dialog (2001)

All Rights Reserved © 2001 Thomas W. Day

It's been an amazing century, already, hasn't it?  We start the century off with a President who was elected by a partisan Supreme Court, protected by a Florida state government that made 1950's Chicago politics look reasonable and fair.  The winner was the less popular candidate, among the minority of citizens who actually cared enough to vote .  In fact, most observers and non-whacko right wingers will even admit that it's incredibly unlikely that Bush even got the majority vote of Florida citizens.  But he's the first President of the 21st Century.  I hope the new millennium doesn't go downhill from here.

It's possible, maybe even likely, that the country will survive all this anti-democratic activity with some remnants of democracy left intact.  It's possible that we'll survive another Republican administration with a functional economy, although it would be the first time in a dozen or so generations .  What's not possible is that the next four years will be illuminated by dialog that should be recorded for posterity.

It's pretty obvious that George "Dubbya" Bush is a moron.  He quacks like a moron, he acts like a moron, and he represents all of the things that the parents of morons have traditionally tried to hide from a critical society.  He doesn't even have the good sense to hide his hillbilly Tex-Mex accent in public, although he gave it a fair shot in his acceptance speech.  Worst of all, Bush appears to be proud of the fact that he can't spell, enunciate, or link verbs to nouns.  If his election proves anything it's that America has worked hard to overcome a slight intolerance for fools until, now, fools can walk the halls of power in Washington D.C., unashamed and unafraid.  As long as they're accompanied by a few hundred Secret Service agents.  I guess that's some sort of progress.

What was, unfortunately, demonstrated to the world and the twelve remaining literate citizens of this really large country (great being as great does and the U.S. having fallen a long ways from doing great things) is that the quality of dialog has been universally reduced to the sort of language that talk show hosts have made popular.  Based on the questions asked, and answers given, during the Supreme Court's review of the Florida recount question, Jerry Springer might have been comfortable in a justice's robe.  To someone who grew up reading the incredible collection of great American documents issued by our highest court, the current Supreme Court is an embarrassment; but a predictable embarrassment. 

Not wanting to leave those boys-and-girls-in-black isolated with their words of inconsistency and incompetence, the rest of our government's squirrels and random nut gatherers joined in.  One after another, Senators and Representatives gave up their sound bites to the media. 

Deprived of even a competent phrase to quote, the news goons fell all over itself proclaiming Gore's concession speech to be "statesmanlike," whatever that word has come to mean.  Maybe it's a relative thing.  Compared to Bush's victory gibberish Gore did sound reasonably literate and mildly insightful, but so do those fuzzy dolls that squawk "you suck" on impact.  Gore did a fine job, presenting the lightweight drivel he'd  been handed, but he wasn't any more inspiring at the end than he was in the beginning.  Which must be why we elected a guy who would be the last kid to be picked on a grade school playground, for any kind of game.

The media, not having the common sense or grammatical standards to pick and choose the good from the bad, simply poured the words from their Washington sources into our ears.  The talking heads didn't present any great dialog among themselves, either.  I've seen better commentary during sporting events than we were offered in explanation for the most complex and, possibly, important political event in modern American history.  Personally, I feel like an outhouse at a Georgia barbeque. If any more aural crap is spewed in my direction, my mental plumbing is going to back up.

We voters separated the chaff from the wheat, during the primaries and sent anyone who might be able to carry on a sentient conversation back to academia.  Early on, at least two candidates tried to elevate the discussion in the two political parties that appear to matter.  If you wanted inspiration, Bill Bradley could have provided that at a level not seen at the national level since Kennedy.  If you wanted straight talk about complicated political issues, McCain appeared to be ready to accept that job. (Although he appears to have recanted his reformer attitudes, since Republicans are notoriously unkind to any sort of "reform" that doesn't result in tax reductions for the rich.)  And, depending on your political persuasion, there were several candidates who communicated competently right up until they ran out of money and patience with an ignorance-loving voting public.

It's been said that a democracy can not survive when a critical mass of citizenry is exceeded. They theory claims that, as the population increases, the cultural intelligence decreases until the concepts of a participatory government are overwhelmed by the weight of the common denominator.  This election may have demonstrated that principle.  If you gather enough people together and allow  them to pick the most acceptable person to represent that oversized group, there are two ways for the group to go: they can pick the smartest person in the group or the dumbest.  Apparently, we've made our decision. 

I suppose the connection between individual financial stability, the national economy, and the office of the President is too vague for most voters.  That relationship is complicated by evidence that a fool will bomb out at chess or Trivial Pursuit, but that same idiot can survive national politics for a half-century.  We've made a national pastime out of distrusting intellectuals and all things academic.  In this election, that habit has been taken to an extreme.  Still, I doubt that there is a person in the country who would choose either Bush or Gore as a personal stand-in on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"  I wonder why it's so difficult to understand that the voting game might turn out to be "Who Wants to Experience another Great Depression?"

January 2001

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