Thursday, August 26, 2004

Some reflections on an analogy

Here's an analysis of the current election situation, broken down to its very basics. Or as Al Clovis would say, after we've boiled the bullshit out of the details.

This election presents two very starkly contrasting visions of America's position in the world, and the characters are situated correspondingly.

On a micro level though, I think this election is much more simple than that, and to understand what I mean, take a look at high school or junior high student council elections. Who generally wins those elections? Generally it's the "cool kids" who are set on a pedastal of popularity for some reason. That doesn't mean, however, that the best choices are always made by the student body electorate. While Biff may well be a hoot to have around in the halls between classes, handing out nicknames or snapping the girls' bra straps, or a real cut-up on the field during a game or practice (or as a cheerleader, as the case may be), that doesn't really correspond to whether Biff is a good choice to be making real decisions with real repercussions; sometimes it IS better to let the geeks have the wheel.
Essentially, the characters are as follows:

Bush: he's the quintissential class clown but with a propensity for getting laughs through others' misfortunes. He's the guy who makes everyone laugh, although it's more of an uneasy "boy, I hope I'm not the next object of his scorn and derision, so I'll laugh along with him and try not to piss him off" kind of laugh. For some reason, people still find themselves drawn to people like this, even though an objective observer can't help but wonder, "What the fuck do people see in this guy that makes him popular?" He's great if you want to give someone a nuggy or a swirley (both "humerous" ways of inflicting abject humiliation at the giver's hand), but not really the one for substantive debates, much less mature decisions. This is guy for whom a "great weekend" consists of getting shit-faced, perhaps snorting some blow or dropping some Ex, trying to force the "hot chick" to "give him some," and after she threatens to scream, he tells her she's fat and ugly and he was just messing with her - he wouldn't even touch her. This guy continues the night by jumping into a car and playing mailbox baseball because it's cool to destroy stuff, and then finishes the evening with some Bushdiving (a sport, ironically named, devoted to destroying your neighbors' shrubbery by diving into the bushes spread eagle so as to crush as much of the bush as possible). Then he goes to school and spends his Monday morning with a smirk on his face regaling the obediently listening knuckledraggers with tales of how "totally awesome" the weekend was, and how he was "like, SO wasted" the entire weekend, and how the "ugly chick TOTALLY wanted it, but he told her to get lost." And some kids find this appealing and in fact worthy of emulation, so it becomes all the rage around town, causing countless dollars of damage to others' property and immeasurable damage to the unlucky ladies.

Cheney: He's the hired muscle, very similar to the class clown (who's really a bully, but most people don't realize it because they're kept busy laughing at other people), but different in that he's just an outright bully. You very seldom see this guy smile, yet you don't want to incurr his wrath by simply asking "hey, did someone shit in your Cheerios this morning?" You're either one of the "in" crowd or you're not, and if you're not, you'd better not fuck with this guy, because he'll make sure you pay if you do. And your siblings will pay too, as will your car, your house, and the family dog. You might even answer the door to find a flaming bag of poo on the porch (put there by goofy George), next to what used to be the family cat, now neatly dissected, thanks to the handiwork of the Frist boy down the street who's a good friend of Dick (or what used to be a frog before the bully stuffed firecrackers into its butt and lit them, just to see "what would happen".) This is a guy who's such a bully that he can be named "Dick" and not get laughed at in school (although the kids laugh behind his back.) The bully doesn't even try to hide behind the facade of a smile, he's just the guy who walks down the hall between classes pushing little freshmen into lockers (or invading tinpot dictatorships), just because he can.

However, both of these two characters share some common traits: If you stand up to them, they'll initially be startled, and perhaps taken aback, but eventually they either increase the level of animosity in their behavior, or they whine about how "nobody's being fare" to them, that they're being picked on. Somehow, kids like this end up getting voted onto student council from time to time.

On the other hand, you have...

Kerry: He's the dorky kid who sits in the front of the class, and asks question after question, sometimes correcting the teacher in front of everyone, and generally eliciting the reaction of "ohh, jesus, HE's talking again!" Many of the kids in the class resent the geeky kid, either because they're subconsciously aware that the kid is going places, or because he can be long-winded and the students have a short attention span (and thus miss out on the important points in the middle of the geeky kid's soliloquies). However, the mature kids in the class recognize that the nerdy kid actually makes some astute observations, and that he has a mature, dare I say, nuanced view of the world, which makes for wise leaders. For this guy, a good time on the weekend is spent perhaps playing an instrument in a band (either structured or informal), or maybe reading ahead in his textbooks for next week. He might even decide to keep working on that new computer program he's writing, and if he can work up the guts to do so, he might ask out the cute little red-headed girl who sits next to him in French class, the the foreign exchange student who not only speaks French but also speaks several other languages as well. On Monday morning, he's back in his seat 10 minutes before the bell rings, honestly curious about what the teacher will cover that day.

Edwards: Edwards is the kid who seems to have it all, but still seems to have a chip on his shoulder that makes him try harder than maybe he even needs to. People instinctively want to like him, because he just seems so gosh darn neat. He's the good-looking kid who had perfect kindergarten. And it's only gotten better from there, on the physical attributes side of things. If Rick Perry is Governor Goodhair (all credit to Molly Ivins here), then Edwards would be Senator Stupendoushair. He's the kid who can have his pick of the young ladies to ask for homecoming or prom, but he doesn't pick the vapid, Paris Hilton-lookalike because she's hot, but instead he picks the smart chick who just kicked his ass on the last Calculus and History tests (no small feat, because he's also at the very top of his class). Smart, athletic, good-looking yet kind-hearted and generous, this is the kind of guy that some resent because he's got it all, and they think he's had it handed to him (although those who know this guy know that he's got to bust his ass every day to do what he does...except for the hair...that's just naturally perfect). People who know him also know that his background is what relentless drives this guy to always overachieve, and he never fails to do so.

Now, I ask you: which of these two different "teams" would be elected in a junior high or high school election? There's a very real chance that the first pair, the bullies (subtle and not so much so) would win the election, even if they had to...cough, the process along a bit. They're the ones who win with the platform that says "everyone should get three day weekends every week, and we should, like, get to have partner tests, and, uh, everyone should be able to tape the darkies and Pakis (and Afghanis - yes, I KNOW they're called "Afghans," and that the Afghani is the currency unit, but Incurious George doesn't know that) to the field goal posts." And the crowd cheers, waiting for Georgie's patented "burt" at the conclusion of his speech. (for the culturally unaware, that's a combination of a simultaneous fart and burp - two bodily expulsions of gas from two different orifices, very difficult to accomplish.)

On the other hand, the second pair can win, provided they are able to keep their reputations intact, unfairly smeared as they will inevitibly be by the bullies, and provided that the votes are allowed to be counted fair and square, and provided the mature, intelligent students who see the big picture bother to take the time to vote. The second pair says "We should start a peer tutoring program, and try to discourage graphitti on the school by having a crew paint over it as soon as we find it, and we should have a teacher appreciation week to show them that we are greatful for what they do." And the crowd politely applauds, knowing that John is right, but not wanting to appear "uncool" by enthusiastically embracing the maturity and vision that John presents.

Two different approaches, two different world views, two vastly different end results.

Which one will our student body choose in November (if they're allowed to choose at all)?



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