Beneficiaries of Duality

Over the past few weeks since I’ve been back from traveling I’ve been forcing myself to listen to a little conservative talk radio. As anyone who might read this blog on a regular basis will know that this comes as a bit of a stretch for me due to my liberal/progressive political tendencies. Now, for the record, I must admit that I generally dislike any kind of political talk radio, both conservative and liberal. I get a similar case of willies listening to Air America as I do listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

The most glaring problem with these kinds of commentators is that they inherently refuse to tell the whole story. The radio personality skillfully presents a partial truth and then dresses up that partial, incomplete truth as the whole truth. In doing so, they diligently assume the absolute worst of the person or group whom they oppose. It’s a worldview supported by the non-stop, crippling duality of us and them, good and evil, liberal and conservative, God and secular humanism. Never does anyone consider the perspective or circumstances of the other. And why should they? “Evil” people don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

This kind of approach is displayed in this clip is a perfect example of duality in it’s purest form:

Here we have the issue of two men, John Edwards and John McCain, who’ve admitted to having an affair. Both men committed unfortunate mistakes and both have lived with the consequences of their actions. But Hannity cannot bring himself to consider any kind of circumstances in Edwards’ case, but freely gives McCain a pass because of McCain’s circumstances. The point here isn’t to point out which man committed the bigger sin, but to consider that we are all fallible and that we all contend with circumstances that contribute to failures as well as failing to be personally responsible. In Hannity’s view, only the guy on his team can have the benefit of “extenuating circumstances.” When it comes to Edwards, because he is the “enemy”, the circumstances in his situation have no place in the debate because the “evildoers” don’t deserve any subtly or nuance.

And this isn’t to pick on Hannity. He’s simply one spoke in the very large wheel of propaganda in this country, coming from both the right and left. And sadly, this kind of punditry is big business and telling people what they want to hear will always keep ad revenue high and the pockets full.

I think this is precisely why Barack Obama has not surged ahead in the polls like many, including me, thought he would. He represents an attempt to transcend the dualistic political landscape that George Bush, Karl Rove, and now John McCain thrive on. We’ve been conditioned to expect leaders to have an either/or approach that makes their base happy while annoying their political counterparts. Obama doesn’t necessarily fit into the either/or worldview and that tends to make everyone unhappy. John McCain used to be this type of leader but has decided to adopt the Rovian world view where dualism reigns supreme.

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8 thoughts on “Beneficiaries of Duality

  1. One of the things about Senator Obama that really appeals to me is his willingness to say complementary things about those not of his party. A related trait is his ability to consider the fact that he may be mistaken even when it comes to some of his personal beliefs. He looks back to a time in politics where the partisan divide wasn’t nearly as profound as it is lately.

    By contrast, Senator McCain is using the playbook that was used against him back in 2000. I understand this on some level, because that playbook has been successful of late, but I cannot condone it. He knows *exactly* how vile it is, and *exactly* how much hurt it can cause its victims.

    Speaking of vile, did you hear what Rush Limbaugh said about Elizabeth Edwards? The man is a walking piece of refuse.

  2. EXTREMELY good thoughts. I would disagree with one thing though. I think Obama hasn’t surged in the polls because DON’T see as a different kind of politician. He’s a different kind of speaker, he takes different views on issues, but at the end of the day, he is seen as just another politician, as dualistic as the next guy. I realize you won’t be able to agree with that, but if we are looking at the whole story and everyone is honest, it’s at least plausible.

    And Evan, you are being dualistic with what Rush said and only looking at half the story as well. I will agree the POS comment, cause he is, but be a bit more fair could you?

  3. I find it interesting to watch Obama. What he does, in my opinion, in much more fascinating that what he says. I’ll give him full props on the stump, but going to Europe for no reason other than to get acquainted with world leaders…genius.

    In true postmodern fashion, we who watch him shake hands and walk around with global dignitaries are left to form our own conclusions. While he didn’t say anything much while overseas that tripped my wires, my opinion of him as a world leader was deeply impacted. He looked like “leader of 21st century” material — strictly from my POV.

    Meanwhile, McCain crept from townhall meeting to townhall meeting in Middle America, like a William Jennings Bryant in so many ways. What McCain did was underimpressive to my well honed visual media psyche.

    In fairness, not wanting to speak as a dualist, what Obama doesn’t say is as concerning to me as what McCain does say. Obama may be trusting the postmodern worldview a little too much, but with 2,000,000 online contributors, I think that his actions and subtler approach are striking a chord with voters. Let’s face it. They’re politicians. They’re trying to win the White House, not a pulpit. So far, I feel that we are getting more than we have come to expect.

  4. You describe eloquently a side of America I think the world fears, this “us vs. them” mentality. It is very similar to the view of muslim extremists.

    There aren’t bad guys and good guys, however inconvenient that is to Hollywood. Even our stereotypical “terrorists” have at least one valid point which they too chose to view in an “us vs. them” way (e.g. many will get into terrorism due to feeling powerless to stop the horrendous Palestinian occupation etc, or other genuine injustices against muslim people, not just to be evil). Evangelical fundamentalists and militant Islamists say many of the same things in pure ignorance of each other’s culture and neither represent a coherent view. The world is AWLAYS shades of grey, NEVER black and white, never absolute.

  5. Thanks for the comments all. Rich, I think that Obama, much like McCain use to, consistently shows that he’s not interested in painting the other guy in the worst possible light. I try to look at the whole story and from my perspective, while you are obviously not a big fan of Obama, you are not crediting him enough for doing what he can to take the political high road.

    I’d be curious what examples you could give us of Obama being equally as divisive as McCain has been in this campaign.

  6. Rich, perhaps I’m having a “moment of stupid,” but I honestly cannot see what there is to be fair *about*.

    Rush Limbaugh all but stated that he thinks Elizabeth Edwards is responsible for her husband having an affair because she is a) even smarter than he is, and b) very politically active. Maybe I am being dualistic, but this issue actually has clear moral sides to it. Leaving the misogyny of his exact wording aside for the moment, Limbaugh blamed the *victim*. That *is* the story. He blamed the victim.

  7. i think we’re at the point in the campaign season that everyone hates. this is the stuff that divides people and it’s not really the candidates fault. the ads that come out and the shows on tv and radio are what do it. zach is right about how each side paints their picture and sells it as THE picture. i think both candidates probably have very different ideas about what should be done, but when it comes down to it they need to get elected if they want to enact those ideas. so this is what it turns into. i do see that mccain says way more about obama then he does about his own plans. as a more conservative persuaded person i don’t feel represented by anyone because no one is communicating the real values that alot of us hold. it just becomes how much a person can attack the issues that we don’t agree with. i hate that.

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