Thursday, October 2, 2008
SARAH PALIN MAKES ME WANT TO HURL, and thoughts on the nature of reality and perception
Let me start this with a link that I think you might all find of interest: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-neffinger/the-nightmare-vp-debate-s_b_131113.html
Now let's talk. I'll begin by saying that the picture below, my total proof of the paranormal, is not a ghost, but a picture of my hand reflected in the glass. A trick of the light convinced me that I had discovered an alternate reality, which, if others only saw what I did, would change the world. It turns out that I was wrong. My perception was colored by what I wanted to see, not what was actually there.
I watched the Vice Presidential Debate tonight, and I had the occasion to ponder the issue of reality and interpretation yet again, and to question the very notion of "truth" in all areas of human inquiry. What matters, as I have discovered both in myself and in the world of politics, is not reality or truth per se, but the perception and creation of reality and truth.
Did it matter that Palin was barely able to put together a sentence? Did it matter that she refused to answer many of the questions that were posed to her? Did anyone care that she botched her facts on numerous occasions, and generally seemed unable to think for herself? She repeated the lines that had been fed to her, with no indication that she had thought in any depth at all about the issues at hand. At one point, I had to walk away: it was too painful for me to watch Biden destroy her on every single major point in the debate. It was a train wreck, I thought, and surely everyone would be lamenting her awful, pathetic performance.
But no. They barely had time to mill around on stage with family members before the talking heads and media celebs were declaring this debate a triumph for Sarah Palin. I blinked in disbelief: did these astute critics of the political scene actually WATCH THE SAME DEBATE I DID???? It simply didn't seem possible; as they gushed praise for Sarah, I felt ill. The same kind of ill I feel when someone radically disagrees with my sense of what is real. After this debate, I felt as if I had been told that today wasn't really Thursday, I am not really married, my three cats are really large hamsters, and my father is a Russian spy.
My interpretation of reality was blown apart by Mr. Tom Brokaw, a man who I thought was at least moderately objective. I trusted him to tell it like it is; and then I had to ask myself . . . do I really understand "how it is"? Is this just another case of self-delusion? When I saw the ghost in the glass, it was real--so real that it defined an entire world view for me, if only for a few weeks. Then there was that night, that fateful night, when Ty looked at the picture again and saw my hand. He traced the outline of my fingers on the computer screen, and then I saw it, too. When it became clear to me that my ghost was simply my hand holding the camera, reality shifted again--this time, away from me. My new belief, based on what I thought I had seen, dissolved so quickly it seemed never to have existed at all. Perception can change in an instant. Reality then follows; then, one's entire understanding of the world.
It occurs to me that my perception of Ms. Palin's performance tonight was not based on the reality that a huge percentage of Americans experience every day. I am watching Ms. Palin from the standpoint of someone who has a Ph.D., someone trained in critical thinking. Whereas my ghost was an exercise in lack of critical judgment, I was overly analytical when arriving at my conclusions concerning Palin. For Sarah, I am just another elite, intellectual Leftist who doesn't understand a darned thing about real Americans like her. The reality? People like Palin don't trust people like me; there is something suspicious about my education, something that distances me from the "meat and potatoes" folk that "sit around the kitchen table wondering how to put the kids through college". Of course, that entire notion of the home-spun, Main Street, common Joe is a political myth used to cover up the rampant greed for money and power that drives our politics.
Or is it a myth? Maybe I am still seeing ghosts where there are justs hands. Perhaps the hand in the window, the truth of all this, is simply that it doesn't matter if you're smart, or well educated, or know the issues that affect all of us, every day: all that really matters is that the "average Joe" looks at Sarah and sees someone they could hang out with at the hockey rink or the bar on that much-lauded Main Street, someone who thinks No Child Left Behind was a big success, and that the 4,000 + men and women who died in Iraq were necessary losses so we could "win" the "war". The words don't even make sense anymore.
If she represents the average American, then I have no idea who the average American is. If she "won" that debate, then I am the ghost in the window and no one will ever see or hear me, for truly, I do not exist.