Neither of us was motivated to actually watch the speakers.
This morning the aftermath was about "who won." I heard Joe Biden say malarkey and stuff, sounding like he had to try really hard to not drop an S-bomb on a vice-presidential debate. Now that would have been entertaining. I heard Paul Ryan giving us earnest evaluations of what could have been done and what should have been done, while imagining those startling blue eyes looking at the camera. The guy would make a very compelling Law & Order attorney. Biden referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as "BeBe" over and over again, emphasizing what close friends they are, and Ryan recited a really impressive assortment of statistics. And I had not the faintest idea if anything they said was relevant or reliable.
Dinner was late last night because I wanted to hear the debate (we'd skipped the one that Jon Stewart claims Obama didn't really show up for). My blog post today is late getting out because it started out as a rant, and then I tried to correct it into something useful and got caught up in hours of fact-checking. As it turns out, if we want to evaluate anything these guys tells us, anything at all, we have to run it through the fact-checker. And then there's the question of which fact-checker, because apparently they all have biases, too.
So, frankly, I gave up. I'm sorry, but you're going to end up with the rant.
This week, I forgot to show up for my youngest son's pre-K breakfast, because I had two other obligations that same day. This morning, my kids overslept (because they got dinner late because I was listening to the debate), so I forgot that it was my morning to help out with the school traffic duty. I wrote a to-do list that failed to mention that I need a babysitter for tomorrow evening and therefore the one I was able to hire will be working different hours than I had intended, with consequences that will be determined tomorrow. Now, I know I should be on top of things, but the message here is: my life is full. My government has its responsibilities and I have mine. I am doing the best I can to make my corner of the world a better place and to be an informed citizen, and if the people who want our votes were doing the best they could, that would not mean that I have to spend twice as much time reviewing fact-checking organizations about issues on which I have only the fuzziest understanding to determine if the guys on my ballot are equipped to do a job I know I can't.
Here are some terms we use to describe elected officials:
- Civil Servant (ahem)
Those functions aren't functioning.
Here are some issues that I really, truly care about:
- Shifting federal support of agribusiness to farming (if we must subsidize the national grocery bill) so that poor people who can't afford to vote with their wallets can still afford to eat safe, healthy, sustainable foods
- Spending some money on support of our infrastructure so that we're more than one 6.0 earthquake away from the end of American life as we know it (as any viewer of the Disaster Channel... I mean the History Channel... can tell you)
- Spending some money on healthcare -- in a RATIONAL way -- so that providers can make a reasonable living and pay off their student loans, and people of all income levels have access to healthcare. Like they do in industrialized countries.
- Empowering people to explore sustainable living practices, including changes in energy policy, so that when that 6.0 earthquake does take out our quivering infrastructure it doesn't mean the end of life as we know it.
- Education is the future of our country. It should not be the first thing cut in a shortfall.
- Please can we not be at war anymore, can we stop pretending like being at war is irrelevant, and can we support the soldiers and their families who have been carrying the total burden of war for the rest of us for the last ten years?
Here are the things that I don't want to see as front-burner election issues:
- Abortion. Yeah, I said it. I believe whole-heartedly in women's and children's health issues, and I don't think that those are being served by everybody getting all hot and bothered by one aspect of it. If we put our money where our mouths were back when "safe, legal, and rare" was the watchword, then it would be. And we wouldn't be getting beat over the head with a hot-button issue when our national quality of life is in free-fall (see above)
- Same-sex marriage. Yeah, I said that too. Certainly I have my views on same sex marriage, as does pretty much everybody else. And they're sort of irrelevant in many ways. If the history of marriage shows anything, it is that the condition of marriage is a progressive one, and we don't need the President getting tangled up in it.
- The precise unemployment rate that we should be at on any given date. If you can name me one non-economist voter who has the means to determine if we should be at a 6% or an 8% unemployment rate given the amount of the stimulus (which is its own can of worms, but this is a soapbox, not a cargo container), then... it won't matter because I can't tell if that person is pulling it out of their ass anyway.
Hot-button issues are clubs that candidates and the media have used to beat us into mindless zombies who are willing to trash talk our fellow citizens, in sometimes extraordinarily brutal language, for favoring the other guy. They distract us from the fact that we are eating fake food, paid for in part by the federal government, which will make us fat and sick and send us off to the doctor in our polluting cars because there is no safe way to make even a short trip on foot or by bicycle, except for in very limited urban settings. We are a crowd of spectators, treating the future of our country like a pseudo-intellectual sporting event rather than the building project it truly is. And the sad thing is, I don't know how we will ever be able to grasp the difficulties of our own situation in such a way that we really can become the country we claim to be.
Who won the debate? That depends on which zombie you're rooting for.