Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Politically Impaled

Sheer Torture

Impaled: It was my favorite word in 40 years as a journalist.

It’s a word so evocative of horror, yet one that could rarely be used. There was the police department horse that fell down a hill onto a spiked fence, or that truly horrible motorcycle accident best left to the imagination. Impaled just didn’t happen very often.

But now, there’s a new word for what’s happening to Americans: Impal(in)ed.

Politically, it’s sheer torment.

For Democrats like me, it’s the fear that Sarah Palin could become vice president, and as for John McCain – well, that melanoma keeps coming back. Look at all the makeup hiding his face in TV appearances, his pained expression and the way he holds himself so stiffly.

For Republicans, there’s also some fear – that Sarah Palin will continue to be an embarrassment every time she opens her mouth.

I have a hard time imagining a Republican victory.

Eight years of Republican administration have produced one disaster after another – chief among then a failed war premised on false warnings and outright lies, and the collapse of the United States as a moral and economic compass for the world.

I wonder at what difference McCain might have made had he defeated George Bush in the Republican primary elections eight years ago, and gone on to claim the presidency. But he didn’t – and that failure at a crucial time in American history does not make him worthy of the presidency now.

McCain’s choice of running-mate belies his own campaign slogan of “America First,” proving that he will go to any length to appeal to the party’s right-wing even if it means putting America at risk of being Impal(in)ed.

Do Americans care?

We’ll find out Thursday night, when the TV ratings show how many people watched the Biden-Palin debate.

Pushing the Right Button

I wore my Obama button today – a big red, white and blue oval that some clever soul was marketing two months ago. It boldly reads: “I like Barack Obama but is America ready for a President with a brain?

And I noticed that people were looking at it, a few smiling, others with bland expressions that suggested they didn’t quite understand the message or didn’t like it. But while I was checking out bargains in a newly-opened Goodwill secondhand thrift store (yes, sometimes dead men’s clothes aren’t bad), an African-American employee walked up to me and said rather hopefully: “Do you think he really has a chance?”

Flag Hunt

The main goal of my shopping trip was finding a small American flag. Amazing how many stores don’t carry them. I tried a couple of “dollar” stores, places selling party goods, even the Goodwill store, figuring that a little American flag would be a popular item. The best I could find was a tiny 15-cent paper flag, poorly printed in faded ink.

At a party “super store,” a clerk said the flag is in stock only around Independence Day – and when the flag isn’t in demand at other times (even for the Veterans Day observance coming in about six weeks), it’s not available.

But the clerk suggested I try a nearby Kmart store.

Clerks there remembered seeing them.

One suggested the sporting goods section, where there was enough camouflage gear, bright orange hunter vestments, fishing rods and gun oils to supply three towns the size of Wasilla, Alaska, but no flag.

Another clerk recalled seeing them in the garden section a few months ago, and sure enough – there they were, on a high shelf, in several sizes. I picked out a wrapped pack of two small flags, about the size that adorn graves in veterans’ cemeteries, but with Old Glory stapled to cheap wooden sticks topped by plastic points.

They were labeled as made in America – an increasingly rare phenomenon in 21st Century retailing – and there was no sales tax on the $2.99 price.

Except for the wrinkles of the cheap thin polyester-and-cotton fabric that need a little ironing, the flags were just what my wife wanted as a backdrop for some planned stock photography images of Iraqi and Afghan currency.

When she’s done, maybe I can find a patriotic use for them.

I love my country, after all – and retain an optimism that its people are not going to be fooled again.