Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sound Bites

Ten Years After--"I'd Love To Change The World" (mp3)
Pretenders--"Message Of Love" (mp3)

By the time you get through both conventions, even without watching them very much, you can get numbed by all of the party messages, catch phrases, chants, platforms, attacks, and everything else that came out of everyone's mouths for the 8 days of conventioning during the last two weeks.

I'm not much of a convention watcher, but I do enjoy going to a bar called Magoo's in East Ridge with a retired friend of mine every Thursday night. It's our way of keeping our friendship going even though I'm mired in the world of work and he's mired in....well, let's just say his yard is well taken care of.

The beauty of Magoo's is that for the longest time, it has pretended that it is a sports bar. What makes this funny is that they only have about 3-4 tv's, one of them pretty large, and they always run them with the sound off. So even when we were in there for the Vol's National Championship game back in 1999, we were crowded around a large table watching a game with no sound.

Hey, they don't turn the sound on for conventions, either. And that's where my insight (however small) kicks in. If you don't hear the misleading words that come out of people's mouths, if you only watch the people themselves, you can learn a lot.

For example, when you just watch the people in the crowd reacting to Sarah Palin's speech, you are immediately struck by the fact that virtually all of them are the same. I scanned the crowd, looking for differences, thinking that surely there was some diversity. But the virtual sameness of the faces only supported my conclusion, each time the camera scanned the crowd. Now, I know that this insight of mine isn't particularly original to anyone who saw the Republicans in action, but it does bear repeating and reminding yourself any time you ponder one of their positions--the delegates at their party's party do not reflect the make-up of our country.

I was driving back from dropping off a friend at car dealership this afternoon and just thinking about the America that I live in, as represented by about a 4-mile stretch of road through Chattanooga:

*the people driving around me on this main artery of a typical American city do not look like the Republican party I saw on TV

* the people in the 5 grocery stores I frequent regularly do not look like the Republican party I saw on TV

* the owners and the waiters and the workers and the ethnic offerings in the range of good restaurants in this city do not look like the Republican party I saw on TV

* even the well-to-do neighborhood I live in has a more diverse population than the Republican party I saw on TV

* more amazingly, the students at the exclusive, expensive, conservative, Christian school where I teach do not reflect the Republican party I saw on TV

So what gives? Who are these people and how do they think that they are pursuing a political agenda that is good for the rest of us? Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Republicans. It's just that when I saw the absolute sameness of all those faces, I knew that what their party represents has nothing to do with me. The current crop seems to be even more cookie-cutter than ever before.

Oh, by the way, you didn't think I was talking about how all of the people on television at the Republican National Convention were white, did you? Heck, I am a white person. I'm practically a checklist for the website "Stuff White People Like." No, I'm talking about what I saw without the sound on--I saw mockery, derision, pettiness, sarcastic laughter, condescension, exclusivity. You think you can't see those things without the sound on? Well, you can. I saw the same thing on every face--man, woman, young, old. There was no dialogue, only the silent, open-mouthed chant of a mindless army.

And I thought of the America that exists here on the streets around me, and it was nothing like that. There was sharing, there was disagreement, a friendly wave, a thank you for a driving courtesy. Some were for, some were against--whatever it was. In the stores and restaurants, no one cared what color you were or who you were for, they were generally acting with basic decency and a willingness to give you a fair shake, no matter who you were.

Sometimes you don't need sound. Maybe during this election season, that is truer than it ever was. Because people are going to be saying a lot of things. And, even if you can't hear exactly what they're saying, my guess is that you can still tell, just by looking, whether someone is speaking to you from a position of basic decency. I hope so. Because that's what I think I'm voting for.

The Pretenders' cd, Pretenders II, and Ten Years After's cd, A Space In Time, are both available at Itunes.


db said...

That's a really cool take on it -- very even-keeled. Ten Years After will always evoke the 2004 race for me, because it was the track used in the extremely effective trailer for Fahrenheit 9/11. It makes me remember how charged up we all were here in NYC, what with the repub convention and watching our city's tragedy be so crassly exploited by people who otherwise openly loathed us. Good times.

Billy said...

Theres too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Cant you see
This is a land of confusion.

This is the world we live in
And these are the hands were given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

Sorry. Just couldn't help myself.

michael said...

you get the same slack-jawed reaction at both parties' conventions. sameness, boorish pandering and elitism crosses the color and party barrier - look at what passes for 'deep thought' and 'intellectualism' in any collection of people who consider themselves beacons of a better future - just so much preaching to the choir. all political gatherings display the same closed-minded arrogance, pettiness, etc. of the chanting mindless drones regardless of their leanings. if they didn't, they would not be there, not would they be shown on tv for that particular shindig. more to blame than the individuals shown, who are, obviously, not the sharpest knives in the drawer, is their use by the parties to pack their collective courts, as well as the media (for whom i worked more than ten years) who seek and feed only upon anything they can exploit.

until we can get past this posturing on both sides of the aisle and be honest about the fact that we have to truly work together to accomplish anything, but also grow up as voters to realize that merely electing a president, no matter who they are or what they believe, guarantees nothing, we will never evolve politically. candidates can promise whatever they want, but, the reality of the situation is that true change will never occur until someone will stand up and be honest about the fact that a president alone cannot make our hurt go away, or make it worse for that matter, they all had/will have help to accomplish either.

the uglier part of these gatherings is the fact that it signals just how low we have sunk. it is unfortunate that we have allowed our political system to be reduced to two weeks of tripe akin to an 'american idol' episode. to paraphrase billy shakes, they are filled with sound and fury and signify nothing.

Bob said...

Michael, maybe I'm biased, but I heard a lot of reaching across the aisle from the Democrats, but then I did watch them with the sound ON.

michael said...

not to cast doubt or accusations on anyone, but one thing i have learned in life is that we all (i am as guilty as anyone else at times) have, at least, a subconscious editor that kicks in when we are watching/listening to someone/something with whom/which we agree. regardless of how unbiased we believe ourselves to be, it is nearly (if not entirely) impossible to to avoid (at least subconsciously) tainting what we see/hear with our own personal opinions.

as a society, over the past decade to two, we have become more polarized than ever causing us to seek out those with whom we agree to give us the 'unbiased' opinion upon which we will base our decisions. it's human nature and a part of human nature we have to temper, or fight outright, in order to seek out both sides of the issues we face in order to make a truly informed decision.

i write all of this being a truly undecided voter at this point. i am still learning all i can about the candidates in order to vote my conscience. i am fighting my own human nature in order to avoid falling into what i call the 'preaching to the choir' politics to which we, as a society, are so prone. i know this sounds, at least, a bit arrogant, but, believe me, it's not meant that way. i merely feel the need to share what i have discovered about myself, society in general, and, certainly, media and party influence/indoctrination in the hopes that i can help in any small way.

thanks for the opportunity to say this and tanks for any future debate which would be welcome.

Bob said...

Michael, we're glad you're checking out our blog.