Saturday, November 01, 2008

Talking the talk

A former relative of mine once told me this story. There was an indigenous person in South America (um, I forget which country) talking to a visiting, well-meaning person from North America. My ex-aunt was big into languages - Spanish things, French things, Portuguese things plus her travels in Brazil - and had studied them forever and got her PhD and whatnot. I think the well-meaning visitor to South America was some language academia friend/colleague of hers. I'm not exactly sure who the indigenous person was. I clearly don't remember all the specifics but you don't need them to get the point.

Anyhow, so the well-meaning person whose native language was English and also spoke Spanish was conversing in English with the indigenous person whose native language was whatever that indigenous people's language is. And the English-speaking, well-meaning visitor asked if the indigenous person wanted them to switch to Spanish, this being (I forget which country) in South American and all. And the indigenous person's reply was that it didn't matter because speaking English or Spanish, it was all the same to him, because those languages were so similar compared to his original language.

This at first seems strange, maybe, but is so linguistically interesting (and sensible). I love language things so I am fascinated by different language families and the similarities in language families, even the entire Indo-European family, let alone the many common words and structures shared by English and the romance languages. And this leads to him saying well, once I'm not speaking my language, your English might as well be Spanish, and vice-versa.

Ready for the point? It's an allegory, of course.

John McCain and Barack Obama are English and Spanish. The indigenous language represents a true peaceful candidate, not B.O., whose claim to anti-war fame is that he opposed the stupidest, most lied-about war ever. Duh, so did any of us who, in fact, have the sense god gave a goose. And yes, I mean I opposed it from the beginning. Before the beginning in fact. I warned you all then that you were a damn fool if you believed Dubya had any possible legitimate reason to invade Iraq.

And now B.O. is all proud of himself for also seeing that. Unfortunately, the dude is not against war. He has said so. And as far as I can tell from listening to him in the debates, one of his first priorities right now is to get his war on in Afghanistan.

Imagine what a truly anti-war candidate might look all-or-nothing talk, no god-guns-and-glory platitudes. Instead of shooting and explosions, how about sending 100,000 able-bodied young men and women to Iraq as teachers, construction workers, civil engineers? How about a mandatory draft/year of service in the Peace Corps? (Or some other volunteer organization?) How about laying down your weapons, and beating them into plowshares?

Wouldn't that be a nice, uh, change?

Meanwhile, though, the military-industrial complex rolls merrily on, the Democrats and Republicans are essentially indistinguishable, and any candidate from -- gasp -- a third party is shunned, mocked, and discouraged. Even in those rare times when everybody is talking about the war, nobody does anything about it. You just keep on living as if war is an inevitable part of life. The only thing inevitable about war is that it brings a lot of death.

You can have your culture wars, your lies about book-banning, your so-called rage. You can have your cries of "elitist" and your suspicions and your pretense that we all suddenly care about universal health care as much as Hillary has for twenty years. (Find some coverage for a 30-year-old grad-student in either candidate's plan, would you?) The closest thing to a wedge issue for me would be torture, which McCain tried to stop before stopping torture was cool. The most important thing we could do in the world would be to stop the violence. Good luck finding someone in the establishment who wants to do that.

I look at my so-called choice between John McCain and Barack Obama and say "What's the difference?" So go ahead, keep speaking in McCain, or switch to Obama. I don't really care: you still haven't spoken to me.


jnap said...

Love the allegory. It's just I don't want a President who aspires to be "Commander in Chief." It's in McCain's ads. He could focus on being "Comander in Something Else."

Rene' said...

Hillary was for the war. I am not..never was and protested endlessly against it. I supported HC from the beginning and even campaigned for her. I am realistic about the current situations that plagues our nation and hope there is a quick resolution to the war. God knows, I've been preaching that for years. Don't vote on one on them all. It boggles my mind that someone so liberal could support someone like McCain. Read the Rolling Stone article about him and see if you feel quite the same way.