Over the past few years, I’ve developed a hideous aversion to politics. I haven’t been able to watch a State of the Union address for more than two minutes without feeling the urge to vomit, or shout, or weep. I haven’t been able to read more than a sentence or two about the latest end-run around the Constitution, or yet another erosion of my civil liberties without flinging the paper aside with a muffled cry of despair.
I didn’t even vote in the last major election. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I didn’t feel like punching holes in a little white card could possibly make a difference. Bleh. Call me Jaded.
But Change has come to town, and even I have been intrigued by the idea that something different (possibly better?) is on the horizon. I’ve surprised myself by making it all the way through the last two televised debates without feeling the urge to carve my eyeballs out with a rusty melon baller.
One of my favorite moments came in the debate in Austin, Texas last week. Mid-way through, the candidates were asked whether they would meet with the new leader of Cuba. When the question was posed to Barak Obama, he replied:
“If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time, and I think that it’s important… for the president to be willing to take that extra step.”
At that moment, I wanted to jump through the television screen and plant a big, wet kiss on the man, if for no other reason than the fact that he elevated the platform of ideas to include diplomacy. What a concept! Maureen Dowd wrote that Barack tapped into his “inner chick” in answering this question, but I’d like to think that he tapped into his inner sage.
His answer felt both wise and savvy, reflecting an understanding that the balance of international power has significantly shifted, and so must we. Look, I said to Petra, we have a candidate for president who will openly acknowledge, on a public stage, that there might be a better way to move throughout the world than through power plays and posturing and requiring other countries prove themselves while we stand aloof and disapproving. We have a candidate who is willing to talk about the importance of communication and collaboration. This is awesome!
Petra rolled one sleepy eye in my direction, and then fluttered her eyelid shut again to resume her nap.
Yes, I’m experiencing a frisson of excitement, but don’t worry: I’m not getting ahead of myself. Partisan politics are dirty by nature, and no single individual, no matter how level-headed and diplomatic, will be able to undo the myriad of knots we’ve tied ourselves up with.
That said, the mere notion of an America that talks before it shoots, that listens before it destroys, that leads by example, makes me feel a glimmer of joy – and even, dare I say, that much-derided word, hope – that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Be still, my heart.
So forgive me, Michelle Obama, but I sure would like to kiss your husband.
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Funny: Andrew Sparrow offers a hilarious 4-line summary of the last debate (scroll down to the very end).
Useful: the debate analyzer on the New York Times (I tried to get the screenshot above to link, but it didn't work. Boo.).