October 15, 2008
Even a hardened political junkie like me can get tired of an endless campaign like this one. I'm probably going to skip the debate tonight.
I'm told that the meat of the upcoming debate will be the confrontation by John McCain of Barack Obama on the earth-shattering relationship between candidate Obama and Chicago education reformer Bill Ayers. If he sees fit to bring this up, McCain will be prepared to point out that Obama has obfuscated and denied this relationship, clearly indicating Senator Obama's ability to gloss over the facts and present a false front to the American people. After all, early on in his career, Obama attended a fund-raising "Meet the Candidate" coffee in the home of this violent and unrepentent terrorist.
Now I must come clean myself: There are less than six degrees of separation between me and Bill Ayers. I lived on the Upper West Side in the late 1970s and my daughter, a teenager who often needed pocket money, had a part-time job at a day care center alongside Ayers and his wife, who were working under assumed names since they were at that time still under cover for their activities in the previous decade. They were a committed couple with a child in daycare, and she reports that they were the last people anyone would have thought had been involved in the overthrow of anything.
Did you notice that I said all this happened in the late 1970's? The assumptions of the sixties, that the center would not hold and that the upheaval of the younger generation ("Make Love, Not War") would threaten the American way of life forever had become out of date and the few urban guerillas left were coming clean and paying their debt to society in various ways. This was before Sarah Palin was born, and I'm here to tell you the times were a-changin' and then changin' back.
Most of us observed from outside, held down jobs, raised kids, and observed the political scene with some unease on both sides. Raised with a comfortable Eisenhower in the White House, we had wanted someone with youth and vision from our team in that post, and soon after he got there, we lost him.
So what scares us most about the upcoming election is the frenzy John McCain's side seems to be welcoming. McCain himself claims to be oblivious of this, and says it's just the same at Obama rallies (occasional boo's, which Obama quells like a high school history teacher with a scolding, "We don't need that."). The debate is unlikely to reveal anything new, and if it does, that 20-second clip will be shown a zillion times on the next 24-hour news cycle.
People feel passionately about their political choices, and nothing I can say is likely to change anybody's mind. I despair at trying. You have probably guessed my own leanings, and I do have a suggestion for you if, as John McCain says, you don't know "who Barack Obama is." The man has written two books to explain that to you. His autobiography, Dreams from My Father, is an easy read and a beautiful, inspiring work. If your mind is already made up, which it probably is, you might assume it's a tissue of lies from beginning to end. But it's not a polemic designed to incite you to any political action. It's one of those books about a unique life that might make you think once or twice about the diversity of lives in our nation.
I doubt that the debate will do that. I think I'll check out Turner Classic Movies and watch Fred Astaire tap dancing.