I came across a passage about an American POW who was tortured for five years by the Vietcong. Imprisoned in a small, narrow bamboo cage, he was immersed every day in a rat-infested water upto his waist from dawn till dusk. The man survived a breakdown by building a five-star hotel in his mind, brick by brick, with complete details such as the quality of the sheets, the color of the walls, the cabling and other intricate details that go into the real life construction of such a building. John McCain was a POW and was allegedly tortured and kept in horrific conditions. He carries the physical reminders of the injuries that he sustained during that time, his inability to raise his arms above his head.
When McCain fought George Bush for the presidential nomination in 2000, an anonymous smear campaign (how can they be anonymous, I wonder) caused him much grief. According to the NYT: “A smear campaign during the primary in February 2000 here had many in South Carolina falsely believing that Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, was a drug addict and that the couple’s adopted daughter, Bridget, was the product of an illicit union. Mr. McCain’s patriotism, mental well-being and sexuality were also viciously called into question”. Bush won in South Carolina. McCain would say of the rumor spreaders, “I believe that there is a special place in hell for people like those.” According to one report, the South Carolina experience left him in a “very dark place.” When McCain campaigned in South Carolina in 2008, many people reportedly came upto him and his wife and apologized for the behavior in 2000.
I expect a president to learn and to empathize. To remember how bad it felt when he was at the receiving end, and make sure that he uses his power to spare those who followed, what he suffered. To never put another human being in that horrific condition called “war”, especially an unjust and unnecessary war. What did McCain do when Bush and his cohorts decided to attack Iraq ? Said “You’re doing one heckuva job, George” and supported him whole heartedly, differing only in wanting a greater number of US troops sent to Iraq. What is he doing now that the polls indicate that he’s largely trailing Obama ? Turn on negative ads. His VP nominee, Sarah Palin, is quoted in papers as saying: “There is a time when it’s necessary to take the gloves off and that time is right now”. Even before this, he endorsed several negative ads and his campaign has already been attributed as being abysmal in its usage of negative, false advertisements.
The nadir, for me, came when he selected Sarah Palin as his VP nominee, hoping to win the support of Hilary Clinton’s supporters. In the short span since that time, Sarah Palin has demonstrated that not only is she inexperienced and ignorant, but willing to go after personalities when she lacks the ideas to debate issues. She seeks to activate primal fears with fear, uncertainty and doubt instead of cogently discussing issues. For example, in Florida, she is quoted as having said:”I am just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America”. The subtext of race raised in a Southern state is abhorring. In the much anticipated VP debate, it looked she was running for American Idol, not the vice presidency of the United States. Instead of lambasting her performance and her attitude, the right wing sopped it up, demanding more. Further, she combats her ignorance with a fierce determinism and certainty, driven in large part by her Christian faith. A very dangerous combination given the past eight years, especially in a world where the rules are changing so fast. For a man who professes his love for his country, to put a person like her the next in line is feckless. And it is not a very unlikely scenario, her becoming the president, since McCain is “older than dirt”, as he likes to think of himself.
I came across a quote from Thomas Pynchon’s acclaimed novel, Gravity’s Rainbow: “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.” By forcing race into the issue, by forcing personality into the discussion, by questioning his judgement, his name, his religion, his very being, McCain and Palin are trying to force the voters into not thinking about the issues, issues they answer with increasingly unrealistic ideologies.
A colleague at work hangs a sign at his desk: “Great minds discuss ideas, mediocre minds discuss events and small minds discuss people”. I’m fearful that this country will bring to power these incredibly small minds, based largely on race and fear. I will not be voting for such small minds.