The one truism that I have learned in my 24 years is that I will look back at my opinions in 5 years and think that I am a complete idiot. It's happened every 5 years, give or take, and it's one of the few things on which I will look back and think, "Hey, you were right about that." In the past, I've been known to throw out ideas -- some hairbrained, some off-color, short-sighted, nit-witted, etc. Some theories I posit with brazen passion and some just to fill the air during an awkward convo. Just so you get the idea, here are a few of my current gems: the existence of UFO's makes more sense to me than that of the people who witness them; I appreciate animals as much as any vegetarian, because I also love the way they taste; if Henry David Thoreau were alive today, Walden would be a blog; we'd be better off with fewer books out there and more readers; and, come to think of it, I may even appreciate animals more than vegetarians.
These thoughts, admittedly, are not deeply instilled and are most likely transient visitors -- trying to keep warm for a night or two in the soup kitchen of my head -- they do not make up, define or speak for all the rest. I have almost as many or as many good, honed, well-reasoned thoughts, as I do wild-eyed inanities. These 5 year retrospections of mine are moments of whimsy, not embarrassment. What I am trying to say is that I cannot dismiss all of my present-day ideas and beliefs because of a few wild turkeys clucking around my head. I don't think it unreasonable to assume that most of us are the same way, and yet in our current political climate, we engage, bolster, and promote this type of dismissal each day.
Senator Biden called Senator Obama "articulate" and that has been the defining moment in Biden's two-month-long presidential campaign; John Kerry voted for a spending bill before he voted against it and it cost him an election; so-and-so is pro-choice, soft on crime, French. In each of these examples an iota of a slice of minutia has defined the whole individual and a better part of their campaign.
Okay, if you haven't given up on the point that I'm trying to make because of my remarks about vegetarians, then let's do a little thought exercise. Try to picture former Governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic Nominee for President, Michael Dukakis. Got a picture of him yet? Do you even know who I'm talking about? If you don't know who I'm talking about, then you don't have to play and you know what, you can just do your blog reading somewhere else (see what I did there? An example of general dismissal in real time). If you were able to picture him in your head, I'll put some money down on the fact that you pictured him with his smiling head sticking out of a tank, donning an ill-fitted helmet. That's because that stupid picture defined him campaign and Dukakis himself. Who knows? He may have been able to put together a great Health Care package or bring peace to the Middle East, but he stuck his head out of a tank, someone snapped a picture, and we'll never know.
This type of societal brush off is carried out with such ease that we almost come to expect and anticipate the split second that will define a career. You can see this anticipation in the current coverage of the 2008 Presidential Election, how pundits and columnists try to find weaknesses in Obama's oratorical acumen, or when Katie Couric interviews Edwards and his wife, or the recent attention given to McCain's trip to Iraq (he went without a helmut but ended up looking as dumb as Dukakis).
What may be even more disturbing than the ease with which we the people dismiss someone but the even greater ease with which we are duped into it. This is why President Bush thinks he can get away with whatever he wants when he recently:
"attacked Congress for taking 57 days to “pass emergency funds for our troops” even though the previous, Republican-led Congress took 119 days on the same bill in 2006. He ridiculed the House bill for “pork and other spending that has nothing to do with the war,” though last year’s war-spending bill was also larded with unrelated pork, from Congressional efforts to add agricultural subsidies to the president’s own request for money for bird-flu preparation."
We complain about our current leaders and the choices we have for the new ones; we complain about the Republicans when they're in charge and the Democrats when they hold power -- "It's the politicians' fault", "It's the media's fault", "It's the system's fault"-- we piss and gripe and moan and it's our own damn fault. If we approached each election with openness and engaged skepticism -- not the easily manipulated sort, but the kind that drives one to double-check accusations -- then candidates would not be so timid to speak from their heart to extrapolate on their proposals and voice their true voices. Each election, we hear how the candidates are all the same. No kidding, because they are all too frightened of the idiot brush that we paint them with if they were to step out of line.
So, next time you hear about a candidate's off-the-record remarks that magically got on record, or see a photo of a candidate with or without a helmut, don't dismiss them. Find out more about them. Just think of the lesson from 1960, back when a lot of people were ready to dismiss the blue-eyed man from Massachusetts for fear that a Catholic President would take his orders from the Pope. That same year we elected Kennedy and it turned out that he could mess up a bunch on his own thank you. He didn't the Pope at all. But why take my word for it? I told you at the beginning I may not even believe this stuff in 5 years.