Supporting Our Troops: Keeping Us Together & Tearing Us Apart, Part 2

Part 2 0f 2. The rhetorical shift happened around the time leading up to the 2004 election, in part, because of those red and blue state maps. In 2000, we either felt extreme triumph or extreme despair at the election’s final, nail-biting outcome (I cried and still get nauseous when I hear the term swift boated). In 2004, the red state/blue state dichotomy was carved into our psyche as we watched stunned in triumph, or despair, at the red pool drowning the networks’ electoral maps. The American people are nothing if not disconnected masochists. Since the president was performing so awfully we insisted on re-electing him – decisively. Between the wedge issues of reproductive rights, cementing discrimination against queers into the Constitution, privatizing Social Security and The Surge there wasn’t a lot of room for gray. No, in public discourse, each of us became red or blue. These colors became loaded with assumptions, presuppositions, political positions and polls.

Remember the Jesusland map? The Purple Map? If 65% of the nation are visual learners then who do we think we’re fooling if we say the maps, constantly reinforced by the punditocracy, had little or no impact? By looking at those maps and their variations, we experienced and began to see ourselves as a divided nation. Because the maps’ intention was to explain our differences, not our similarities, we began to see only what separated us. And, sans any unifying leadership those maps, like the ribbons, are rhetorical devices. There’s a reason Americans have lapped up the soaring and unifying rhetoric of Barack Obama. We’re thirsty for leaders who will bring us together because the party’s over and we’ve got some work to do.

But, and I think this is Bracevich’s implied point (see “Part 1”, Oct. 4, 2008 post), tangibly supporting the troops with action was never an option. We’re chllin’ on our patios while soldiers are getting their asses blown up. I’m on our downtown Toronto patio right now. Bracevich rightly criticizes a citizenry that is absolutely, morbidly, disconnected from the wars being fought on its behalf. There was no place for people like my Uncle Jim, a veteran, who bitterly resented what was being done to soldiers in his name. Neither side of the aisle, the punditocracy, the military-industrial complex and all of the players – except the American people (eyes shut, blinders on as usual) – wanted actual citizens to aid actual soldiers. Who would suggest such a thing? Bush? Cheney? Rove? Absolutely not. Their power, in realpolitik, lies in maintaining our cognitive disconnect: put the sticker on, pound your chest and let those weak-kneed liberals respond.

A leader would’ve said: We mucked up, we can do better. These folks need help. We can help them. Join us in making our VA hospitals the best in the world. What we got was a permanent campaign and maltreated, cast-off service people. We can do better. However what no media outlet, or propaganda vice lord (Get me, Bill O’Reilly!), voiced was that the maps didn’t tell the whole story. To a person, they mistook rhetorical tool for electoral fact.

~ by Thom on October 5, 2008.

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