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Portrait of Martin Luther by Hans Balding Grien, 1521 Woodcut
"We dare not squabble over Issues …"

I take issue with Issues, which seem to have become the primary medium for political discourse, such as it's become. Reporters ask where a candidate stands, offering hardly a thin, brittle branch for any candidate to stand upon. They speak in a curious shorthand where keywords stand in for actual questions. "Where do you stand on abortion?" one might ask, a guaranteed double-binding, damning sort of non-question almost certain to elicit a meaningless response. Abortion has become a poisonous word. Even a sentence fragment containing it seems certain to taint anyone associated with it, for it's become the primary marker of ginned up moral outrage. Nobody ever asks where a candidate stands on preserving the life of a mother, for the unborn seem to have become citizens with rights exceeding any of those enjoyed by the previously born, even though they have universally failed to qualify as citizens at all. Their primary occupation seems to have become sparking outrage, which seems quite the clever accomplishment for anyone having not yet come into this world, let alone of age.

Issues represent the gotcha game of our time.
Each shrinks some unimaginably complex subject down to a single out of context dimension for the purpose of trivializing that subject and disqualifying any candidate attempting to take a public stand on it. There's no place to stand anywhere near there, and I believe that we all deep down understand this to be the case, but civil discourse still seems to demand that we ask these meaningless questions to goad meaningless responses, so that we might decide who might best serve as our elected official. This amounts to selecting a medication based upon the color of the pill rather than whether it might treat whatever actually ails us. Sober deliberation cannot matter if the basis of the decision-making qualifies as completely irrelevant. Issues spawn good sound bytes, though, and seem infinitely capable of encouraging endless squabbling over rights and wrongs well beside any cogent point. Much of what any candidate, once elected, might actually do depends more upon who that candidate is rather than upon what opinions s/he might hold on any odd Tuesday during a campaign. No elected official was ever an island and none seem likely to ever become one. A generation and more of Repuglicans strongly opposed abortion without ever managing to actually change our Constitution to outlaw it. Their opposition has apparently proven as meaningless as the issue it was carefully crafted to appear to be on the right—the faaaar right— side of in the eyes of an infinitely gullible electorate. A clear majority continues to oppose opposing it, and everybody, even the most dedicated "values voter" knows this. Maybe a dictator could get 'er done.

I ache to know a candidate's manner of thinking, an expectation easily disqualifying all candidates proven incapable of actually thinking for themselves. How, I wonder, might they approach a difficulty featuring innumerable dimensions, the typical damned-whatever-they-do dilemma? No pat answers, please, since those could only disqualify a candidate from consideration. I care little of what any candidate already knows. I want to more deeply understand how they come to know and how they acquired their convictions, not those convictions themselves. Do not serve me leftovers from some long ago policy paper. Show me who you become at work, what you do when you don't know what to do. Help me see who you aspire to become once your term of service is done and history starts having her way with you. Do you hope to become an inspiration? Inspire me with expressions of your highest aspirations, please.

Most of us out here have never once been sued or found reason to sue anyone, certainly not for defamation. If you have filed scores of lawsuits in your time, you've already disqualify yourself from further wasting my time as well as the courts'. Retreat, please, back to your sorry-assed golf courses. If you assert contrary positions on made-up situations, frequently, multiple times in a single day, go away. If your prose reads like a whacked out junkie's,
palease, stifle. If every blessed goddamned thing you've ever engaged in throughout your life is a closely-held secret surrounded by spurious non-disclosure "agreements", stuff your invisible achievements. Insult me or anyone else, just once, and I'm forever thereafter deaf to you. If you don't do dignity, you've abandoned me; you've rendered yourself no better than some background irrelevance, securely beside every possible point. A dead man shows more dignity than you ever did. Quit while you're still behind.

I expect my candidates to be adults capable of deflecting irrelevant questions, not a stand-up insult comic. I want that person to perennially appear to be the grown-up in the room. Show up, state your case, tell your story, and shut the you-know-what up. Show the odd ounce of empathy or, better, bring a dump truck overflowing with it. Don't promise me impossibilities. I already have more than I need of those, and don't insist that you alone can cure the human condition. Just be real, that will be plenty satisfactory for me. Humble yourself before the face of the awesome responsibilities the job entails rather than pretend that you have sole access to the good ear of anyone's god. Put your pants on one leg at a time. Report that you've proven yourself fallible multiple times and found justification to forgive your own trespasses, so that I might better understand how you might respond when (not if) you commit some trespass against us. I dare not expect you to perform flawlessly, but transparently. No BS. Straight scoops, from your freaking heart if you have one.

I feel uncertain if anyone could get elected on any straight ticket, one focusing not upon Issues, but underlying temperament. Had Lincoln shown himself to have been as brilliant as he turned out to eventually seem, who would have supported his candidacy? The Powers That Be seem most interested in nominating those proven more pliable, those shown perfectly capable of lying through their smile. Guile seems essential for retaining any privilege. Someone not overtly averse to accepting a little something under the table without feeling offended by the generous gesture. Someone with enough dirt on them to render them persuadable in any pinch. Someone so distracted by their own itch that they won't bitch too much at being rendered an irrelevant son of a bitch when history portrays them. Someone, in short, very like our present President, the most incompetent incumbent ever witnessed. Still, 40% of us seem so focused upon irrelevant Issues that they'd welcome a repeat performance. Our job is to make certain that eventuality does not happen. We dare not squabble over Issues when character and temperament's at stake, along with our Constitution.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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