1. Politicians Speak Their own Language
Quick, define “Freedom.” Is that financial freedom? Freedom to say whatever the hell you want? Freedom to buy cheetos at 2 am? Or perhaps freedom to go on a murderous rampage every 3 years? If you are still sitting there, scratching your head with no real definition of freedom, then you are just as confused as me and also a good candidate for a literary degree. Look out. Yet, this one little word is thrown around like vowels in Scrabble.
How about the bumper stickers that accompany election years. What exactly does “Don’t drink the Koolaid mean?” I read it and I assume that “Don’t join a socialist cult, move to South America, shoot a congressman, and then kill yourself in a mass suicide” was just too long to fit on the back of a dodge, but hey, you know, that’s my lens of understanding shaping that interpretation. Maybe you have that bumper sticker because you are opposed to Red Dye # 5 or are terrified of giant pitchers full of red liquid that burst into your home and shout “Oh yeah!” presumably before eating your family like pork chops. Or how about “Gobama!” which just makes me think that you are a fan of a sports team that probably exists in Alabama. Side note, I feel that Obama would have received more votes in the South had he pronounced his name “Barrak O’Bama.”
I could keep looking at all the empty words politicians throw around, but the fact is that there are too friggin many of them. Also, they piss me off. Language, especially English, is slippery, and to use stupid codewords in place of complex ideas makes us trade complex ideas for the bumper sticker slogans. It’s also why every other country thinks that we are all at one giant frat party in the good ole U.S of A. Sarah Palin has said she is like the modern day Shakespeare when she makes up words, and the sad thing is, she kind of is. Politicians change the way we look at language.
The advertisement below is both terrifying and awesome and showcases lots of the lingo of politics.
2. The Lone Ranger, Will Rogers, and John Wayne
I grew up watching westerns, and I feel qualified to discuss the genre here because, quite frankly, the pattern is pretty simple. There’s always a good guy, and he generally wears a white hat. Sometimes he has a sidekick, but he always has a horse. Those western movies shaped the way we Americans see ourselves. Hell, I’ll admit they shape my understanding of my country. I grew up in the midst of the old west. It’s real. The oversimplification that we grew up with, the good vs bad dynamic, however, is not. And you are all reading this and nodding your heads. Maybe even mumbling “well, duh. I knew that. Shades of Gray isn’t just a pornographic novel!” But I saw at least 4 attack ads that cast one presidential candidate in a bad light while highlighting the wonderful qualities of the “Champion” of the American people. Just check out the Rick Perry ad below. Here’s Perry the not-a-platypus in a rustic setting, wearing a work jacket, telling us all about how he’s going to save our poor kids who can’t even celebrate Christmas or pray in schools from Bad Bart Obama and his army of openly gay folks. Notice how he uses “liberal attacks,” (cleverly, ok, it was probably accidental) using a play on words to denote that the attacks are both classified as politically liberal and also liberal in the sense that there are a lot of them. He’s the good guy here.
3. The Only Thing We have to Fear is Every-fricking-thing
Below is one of the most famous political ads of all time. The ad says, “We must either love each other, or we must die,” which is an admittedly good sentiment; however, the overall sentiment of the commercial is that we must all vote for Johnson or else we’ll die. Ah, fear. Fear is so much a part of our discourse that our most famous (and awesome) faux-pundits held that fabulous Fox-News-Bashing rally in honor of it. Every single ad is designed to scare us, to make us tremble. And they work.
4. Everybody is an Expert
Quick poll: The Healthcare law, is the individual mandate a tax or a fine for freeloaders (gee, enough with the accidental alliteration, me!)? Ok, good, now, what is a super pac? What does the First Amendment mean? We could go on, but the point is, depending on where you get your news (and this is so sad) your answers are going to vary, but you are going to say that you are citing facts. Colbert calls it “Truthiness.” That’s just the way our politics work right now. This is just my opinion, but I don’t think anyone thinks he is more of an expert than the flannel-wearing Joe the Plumber types who want to tell us that we are headed for the sequel to Nazi Germany. So, go ahead, feed your truthiness, but don’t get upset when others have their own.
My example is once again Rick Barber, who apparently has a direct line to the ghosts of all the dead presidents. Awesome. Also, Abe’s mole is big enough it should pay it’s own taxes.
5. I’m not a Witch; I’m You
Politicians are always telling us how very like us they are, but if that was true, Anthony Weiner and 90’s era Bill Clinton would be running on the next ticket. The thing is, most of us don’t sit around thinking about politics until conflicting advertisements piss us off enough to make us argue about them. Me, I am much happier to sit back and listen to some mellow music than I am to sit around talking politics. Politics make me uncomfortable, and I’ll only talk about them with people who have similar enough beliefs that they won’t tell me I’m insane, which really doesn’t help progress at all. I’m not thinking about stimulus packages for the auto industry when my car is overheating either.
The example for this one is a terrifying look at Christine O’Donnell who claims to be me. But there’s one problem with that. I am a witch. Sorry, Christine.
PS. There’s an obvious political bias up here. Get over it.