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Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Obama and Elian

It is impossible to tell Elian's uncle that he is wrong--it is impossible to tell any parent or avuncular or grandparent that wanting the child is wrong. And yet...

Part of the problem with politics in the US--though I'm willing to bet politics nearly everywhere--is that the pathic argument is unarguable, and so is used. It's easier to tell someone arguing logic that she is wrong than a woman screaming for her nephew. It's easier to disagree. But it's not even a matter of whether Elian's relatives are "wrong" or not. the problem is that their argument is illogical.

They may be against the people Obama is hiring--and rightly so--but to conflate that opinion with Obama being a dangerous approach to Cuban alliance, well, that's just completely illogical. But anyone who has ever attempted to use logic with an upset or emotionally involved person knows, it's impossible.

So what do we do?

The intelligent option is to walk the straight logical line and not engage. The intelligent option is to continue to act as one sees is correct and admit that the pain is real and the wishes are valid--without buying into the argument.

But intellect is anathema in US politics.

We spend hours watching our broadcast journalists discuss whether Michelle Obama wears pantyhose and why she hasn't changed her hair and how she's dressing for her visit to the view. But I have yet to hear a clear discussion of her husband's platform (you know, the guy running for office?). I've heard several reports about Cindy McCain's plagiarized cookie recipes--and trust me, as a writing teacher, I am often angered about plagiarism--but who cares? We care!

We care because it's easier to worry about Cindy's cookies and Michelle's fist-pump than it is to read through and try to make sense of the workings of government. Not only is it easier, it's expected. People who read these things are nerds. Intellect is not just unpopular, thanks to the last 8 years of anti-intellect governance and the last half century of anti-intellect "touchy-feely" movements, it is unAmerican.

And in the post-911 world, thanks to agonistic rhetoric, unAmerican is SIN!

So Elian's family will make a dent. What size dent? Who knows. Most Floridians are already so pissed at both parties that they don't feel like voting for either. Besides, most Florida Cubans are Republican and staunchly so.

But any dent is sad proof that there is no arguing with emotion. Which is fine, until the argument affects everyone's lives. It's fine, until the argument backs the anti-intellect stand.