"Dumb Me Down" by Anonymous
Well, I've given myself the requisite two weeks to "calm down" after the election. It hasn't worked.
I'm not angry that George W. Bush is president. He was elected, finally, which is what we do in America (if you overlook the fact that literally every irregularity in the voting benefited Bush). I'm scared that he's president, but I am not angry about it, per se.
No, my anger is reserved for the half of the voting population of this country which has shut down its thinking to such a degree that such a man could be handed the power of the office of President of the United States. This man had no business being president once, let alone twice. And that this isn't obvious to 51% of our population is what is disturbing.
I imagine how a third grader awarded the starring role as king in the school play would portray that role, and that is what I see when President Bush crosses my television screen.
It is manifested in the almost comical faux Reagan power strut, the obsession with might and power, the misuse of our military for personal revenge, corporate gain, and, by his own admission, political capital, and the dictatorial style with which Bush is governing (the latest: the purging of the CIA of anyone who isn't loyal to the president. Yet we are supposed to believe that no pressure was put on these people to provide trumped up evidence to support invading Iraq?).
His has been a tenure of relentless grabs, subtle and not so subtle, at more and more concentrated power for himself, of immodest and constant reminders that he is our "leader", of his arrogance in turning a deaf ear to anyone with a difference of opinion or information that does not comport with his agenda, often resulting in the brutal smearing of such people. Since the election, numerous Bush Administration members have given speeches brazenly and without shame chastising anyone who dares to question the president. These are hardly American, let alone Christian, principles.
America is not a dictatorship, or at least hasn't been until now. America is about the People, not one man, but I feel that slipping away. However, I do not blame Bush for this.
Rove & Co. have shrouded over this obvious decline into dictatorial rule by appealing to what is most base in human beings: fear, hatred, and a false sense of moral superiority; in short, ignorance. Those who support this gang are responsible for allowing it to work.
The division in America is not in fact drawn by moral issues, much as the media would like to cajole us into believing. All human beings struggle with their demons and trip up morally now and then, except for our mistake-less president. (It is indeed ironic that more people should die when a president is so morally perfect as to make virtually no mistakes than when presidential personal transgressions occur). Rather, the lines dividing America are class and intellect.
A wave of anti-intellectualism is spreading like an insurgency in a certain Middle Eastern country. But this begs the question, who is really calling who dumb?
It is taken for granted that those in the blue states think those in the red states are intellectually inferior. Red staters defiantly lash out at the "liberal elite" in the northeast. They defensively claim that Democrats don't grasp the values of rural America and that until we do, we will be lost in the wilderness of intellect, informed analysis, and sophisticated and contemplative thought. Huh? These are bad things?
Despite the pummeling we on the left have taken, by moral, compassionate conservatives who say they want America unified, by being called unpatriotic, immoral, ungodly, un-American, Saddam and Osama lovers (even though it was left-leaning, Kerry-supporting areas of the country that were attacked and we who, by and large, lost relatives, neighbors and friends on 9/11), those who hurl such hateful slurs at us recoil in anger and hurt when they interpret criticism from the left as calling them dumb. They also swear revenge by promising to send the country evermore rightward and dumbward.
But one must admit that the "D" word has been tossed about recently, often directed by blue staters at red staters. But whether red staters are inherently more stupid than blue staters (they aren't) is beside the point. It is illogical to even make such a claim, just as it is illogical to claim that Democrats are more immoral than Republicans. Intelligence, like morality, has nothing to do with political affiliation or philosophy or geography.
No, the issue is who is treating the red staters as though they are stupid, and I would argue that no one is doing so more than Karl Rove & Co.
Think about it. John Kerry spoke to people as though he was having an actual dialogue with them. He spoke of the complexities of the world. He assumed his audience was smart enough to grasp the things he said, and half of us were, without any problem. He did not dumb down his words. He spoke in complete conceptual terms. He treated the voters as intelligent adults who can think and understand the intent and context of what he said without need for follow-up explanations. Maybe that was because in the "elitist" northeast, where the population is highly educated, they got it on the first shot, and Sen. Kerry took that for granted and treated all Americans in such a manner.
President Bush spoke in slogans and clichès and relied heavily on buzzwords. That is treating your audience like they are morons.
I can hear Rove now: "Mr. President, just repeat, 'He can run, but he cannot hide' over and over! They'll eat it up! They'll cheer you on, and you will not have actually said anything or need to explain why, after being attacked by religious fundamentalists on 9/11, we have spent 200 billion dollars and 1300 American lives to attack a secular country that had no intention of attacking us and did not attack us and by sheer coincidence you had said in 1999 that you'd like to invade to get political capital and to be seen as a great leader and commander-in-chief!"
"Mr. President, go with that 'more liberal than the senior senator from Massachusetts' thing again! They'll be roaring so loud, they will not hear you when you explain to them why it is their incomes are down, their tax burden is up, but millionaires, our friends the Haves and Have-Mores, are making more money and paying fewer taxes!"
Sadly, eat it up they did, every time he said it and all his other myriad of tough talk and simplistic slogans. Why? Because they recognized it; it sounded familiar. It sounded kind of like something Arnold or Clint would say. It hit them in their guts (as opposed to their heads). It demanded no thought or scrutiny. I was waiting at times for Mr. Bush to jiggle his keys at his adoring and pre-screened audiences to send them into a total frenzy of glee (and diversion). How could they stand to be treated this way? It was painful to watch.
Forgetting for a bit that he is president of the entire United States, Bush insulted every resident of Massachusetts by pronouncing the name of that state with a disgust usually reserved for Saddam Hussein (but oddly enough, not bin Laden anymore). He slammed not only his opponent, but Senator Kennedy, without whom his No Child Left Behind program never would have passed. True, Sen. Kennedy turned scarily liberal when he expected the president to provide funding for NCLB, but to be so snide about a senior US senator and his state was, at least, unbecoming in a president.
Of course, he neglected to remind voters that he got the brunt of his education in Massachusetts and all of it in New England. Never mind that Massachusetts has had a Republican governor for the past umpteen years. In fact, the latest is that Gov. Mitt Romney has been nominated to be vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and there is talk of him running for President in 2008. Suddenly Massachusetts is looking okay to Republicans. I've got whiplash.
I never heard President Clinton insult a state for being conservative, or for any reason for that matter. I never heard him target individual senators, despite being targeted for destruction by his patriotic opponents like no president before him. Bush was clearly appealing to base stereotypes and visceral emotion to get a rise out of his audience. That is treating your constituents like they are not too bright.
When Sen. Kerry mentioned the global test, Bush went to town, and Rove must have been foaming at the mouth. Now, one of two things happened here. Either Pres. Bush didn't understand what was obvious to the "elite" half of us, didn't understand what Sen. Kerry was saying, and it is not in any way comforting that our president needs to have pretty simple concepts explained to him (but it might explain why he didn't grasp the Aug. 6th PDB) or Pres. Bush knew his audience well and knew that they would eat up his distortion and, frankly, complete fabrication of what Kerry had said.
I think it was the second option. 'Twasn't Sen. Kerry who thought folks were dummies then, it was Rove and Bush.
How can anyone in this country get away with winning political elections by attacking our war veterans, esp., attackers who avoided battle? The only way is to know your constituency will buy it if you market it correctly. Sorry, folks. That is NOT treating your supporters with respect, not to mention your veterans. (Speaking of which, has anyone informed our Iraq War vets that their commander-in-chief considers their service over there fodder for attack 30 years from now should any of them decide to run for political office against a country club brat who supports the war in Iraq but won't go himself?) . The scorecard for this shameful campaign tactic? Republicans 3, Democrats 0, and all three worked, and that is a disgrace. But it also shows incredible disdain for your constituents since it makes clear you think they are folks who are neanderthal enough to applaud the denigration of people who went to war for their country.
Bush supporters seem to denigrate their own intelligence. They like Bush because he's "one of them." They like that he governs strictly from instinct. They like that he has no need for contemplation, reading, or getting objective information. They like that he is not an intellect. They like that he comes off as simple. That he'd be fun to have a beer with is sufficient. Nothing like lowering the bar to become President. Do you see something here? THEY admit to their simplicity, to their lack of intellect, and they are determined to bring America down to that level rather than doing the "hard work" of raising themselves up to join the enlightened, the educated, and the informed. Why keep America "elite"? Let's instead try a new, unimproved, regressive America where the uninformed rule. But then let's complain when liberal elites call us dumb.
But let's be honest here for a second. When red staters angrily reject the blue state "elite", what they are rejecting is blue state brains. Calling millions of people elite is the same as saying, "You think you're so great," which is an obvious indication of feelings of inferiority. They do not want complicated thought cluttering up their black-and-white worldview. But why should America be brought down to that level? America should be constantly improving, her population getting smarter, not dumber. We should be way ahead of the Founding Fathers in language, thought, and understanding of American principles. Instead, we are in retrograde. I believe the Founding Fathers, if they could hear us and see us, would cover their eyes and ears and hang their heads in shame and sadness. They gave us the greatest gift of opportunity on earth, and we are systematically destroying that gift by praising the dumbing down of America.
Don't we want America to be elite? Don't red staters want to be informed, educated? (Vicariously getting your anger and frustration out by listening to Rush Limbaugh spew vitriol is not getting informed, by the way). Why do they want America led by a group of bullies who have rejected the "reality based community" in favor of creating their own reality, a bizarre reality which the rest of us have to figure out how to survive despite the pervasive secrecy in this Administration?
Blue staters had every hope and belief that red staters would see through Rove's machinations and mistreatment of them. We see it so clearly. No one was more heartbroken than we in the blue states to see red staters acquiesce to Rove's belief that those folks are just dumb enough to be manipulated so cruelly. It was like listening to a battered woman saying he does it because he loves her. But no one was laughing harder at the red staters' expense than were Bush, Rove and Cheney. No one. The sound of high fives at Bush/Rove gatherings on election night no doubt reached the cacophony of a trawler of fish hitting the deck. And sure, a lot were meant for Bush's win, but make no bones about it, a lot were for having successfully exploited the ignorance of so many of their own countrymen.
The formula is pretty simple: if you don't want to be called dumb, don't allow yourself to be treated the way the Bush campaign treated you, like you are, well, dumb. But if you must, do not expect the rest of us to join you. Brains are stronger than bullets, the antidote to fear, the fodder for courage, and the best hope to stop all the bloodshed.
I am writing this as Anonymous for a couple of reasons. It matters not who I am. The message is all that matters. But mostly, I am sorry to say, I am afraid of this administration. It is shocking that anyone should be afraid, in America, to express him or herself, but afraid I am. I am an American citizen, and I am afraid. That alone shows how far we have fallen in four short years.