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The Shameful Pandering to Ignorance

My fourth grade teacher was a positively bone-white crotchety old buzzard.

Mrs. Young, I recall, was a woman that seemed to only experience delight when writing about, reporting, scolding, punishing or berating my bad behavior.

To be sure, we were enemies. My name was a regular feature (usually accompanied by a small crowd of "checkmarks" next to it) on the daunting blackboard of the classroom, indicating that the sandy playground outside would not feature the small prints of my little nine-year-old feet for the next two weeks or so, due to time spent in detention.

While Mrs. Young's furrowed brow was so often converging into an arrow-tip aimed directly at my heart, it was also looming over the rest of the class and at the chalkboard most of the day while she was infusing into our young minds lessons having to with everything from conjunctions to primitive multiplication.

And yes, an hour or so a day was spent going over the basic structure of the United States Government. I learned from Mrs. Young what the job of the Vice President of the United States of America was. And would you believe it? She was correct.

If I am remembering her exact words correctly, she described the second highest office in our country in the following manner:

"The Vice President's job is to take over for the President if the President passes away. He also breaks ties in certain votes made by the United States Senate, which brings us to the next branch of government..."

In later years, as my interest in politics heightened and the lessons became more complex, even up to my days in college and beyond, this very simple definition of the basic description of the US Vice President's job has hardly changed.

Recently I have witnessed some astonishing events emerging from the current political landscape. I am actually beginning to get bored of being astonished, to be honest. I have seen things happen and heard things said in the context of this most recent campaign for the Presidency that have brought on a rather annoying case of rug burn to my lower jaw.

I grew up in a Conservative Republican environment. My father was a cop that loved Ronald Reagan, hated welfare and taxes, and felt as though every member of law enforcement in the universe was being persecuted by the Liberal media. And yes, he used the phrase "Liberal media" in the days long before it was a tired something emitted from the mouths of Conservative pundits as often as carbon dioxide.

My father is no fool today, and he was no fool back then. He is an extraordinarily intelligent man whose understanding of critical thinking and a seemingly bottomless well of knowledge reared what was to become many years later, a wildly radical Liberal son. Yes, I am Liberal Democrat. Yes, I believe in the principals of Socialism. I am a relentless critic of the USA government. I deplore USA foreign policy. I believe that liquor stores and gun stores are on the street corners of ghettos for intended and sinister reasons. I believe welfare helps people. I am okay with higher taxes. Yes, my ideas can be considered by many to be "radical", I suppose. To me "radical" is a synonym for "Patriotic American", mostly as a result of having an understanding of what those Colonists back in the late 1700's were up to.

As a citizen of the United States of America, and in line with so much of what Mrs. Taylor and my Conservative Republican father taught me at nine years old, I have every right to be wildly, radically - socialistically - Liberal. Indeed, this (as cliche` as it is to make this statement) is part of what makes the USA so great.

I spent many years of my life learning how to be a Republican. I spent my late teens and early twenties absorbing the Conservative philosophy. To this day I believe that there is much to be valued about the idea of Conservative Republicanism. After all, it is an idea that half of the United States strongly believes in and lives by.

I possess deep respect for many intellectual Conservative Republicans. I relish in provacative discussions and enlightening conversations with them often. My father taught me, "you never are who you say you are unless you always question what you think you are". Republicans help me to do that all the time. I would not be a critical thinker if I did not persistently critique my thinking.

My dismay with Republicans and my breaking of ranks with the Party began with what suspiciously coincides with the first administration of George W. Bush. But it wasn't just Bush that nudged me (sometimes dragged me kicking and screaming) leftward across the aisle and eventually in the tank for Che Guevara. I also joined the US Army and saw much of the world. I faught in a shooting war in Baghdad. I went to college later and sharpened my knowledge gained from experience with a higher education.

I do not possess contempt for Conservative Republicanism. I do not possess contempt for Conservative Republicans. I do, however, possess a very high degree of contempt for ignorance and stupidity.

This bizarre tactic of championing lack of knowledge, a strategy that is for reasons I think I can guess enthusiastically embraced by so many leaders within the ranks of the GOP, is both embarassing as well as tragic.

The heights of knowledge are limitless to all, and to all it is an attribute to be desired, and because of this truth, I say that Sarah Palin does not belong on any party ticket, for Vice President, Governor, Mayor or otherwise.

I do not hate her, I do not want to see anything bad happen to her, I have zero hostility toward her and wish her the best in life...just not as Vice President of the United States of America.

Sarah Palin has been on display quite appropriately to the American public for many weeks now. She has had numerous opportunities to showcase her strengths. She is supposed to be criticized and vetted by the American public, just as anyone running for the highest office in the Land, for her weaknesses.

I am not a stupid person. I have a last name. I am not proper noun followed by "the Writer". I have never seen nor heard of a "fake" region of the USA. I possess the ability to recognize and analyze a person's worth for a given venture based on merit. As an American citizen and as a registered voter, it is my responsibility to apply these abilities to anyone whose name I may find on a ballot in a voting booth, Republican, Democrat or otherwise.

I have applied the same degree of scrutiny to Barack Obama, Joe Biden and John McCain that I have applied to Sarah Palin. Each have their weaknesses. Each have their strengths. The problem with Sarah Palin is that her weaknesses so dramatically, obviously and overwhelmingly outweigh her strengths that to me, for her to have been considered by the GOP as a viable candidate for the office of the Vice President is positively frightening.

In the fourth grade my teacher taught me what the Vice President's job was. From that day forward, I have known and understood the Vice President's position. Most people in the United States (I truly do hope) are also aware of the job description. Sarah Palin does not know. Nine year old's know more about the position she is vying for than she does.

There is no spin one can toss onto this one. Palin clearly and without question has a fundamental misunderstanding of the roles and responsibilities of the Vice President of the United States of America. The Vice President has no power on the floor of the Senate other than to break ties within the vote. They do not "...really get in there with the Senators and make a lot of good policy changes...", as Mrs. Palin has so recently assessed.

In terms of raw competency, even if Barack Obama was the Indo-Kenyan-Muslim-Marxist-Terrorist that so many are so grossly and inaccurately accusing him of, he would still be more qualified to be on a Presidential ticket than Sarah Palin.

And therein lies the problem with the GOP today.

If Sarah Palin were a Democrat and Barack Obama had chosen her to be his running mate, I would feel insulted by the Democratic Party. I would be completely outraged. I would feel as though Barack Obama was okay with considering me and my fellow American citizens to be very stupid people. I would not hesitate as a proud Democrat to openly criticize the selection and promptly announce that my vote will not be going into the DEM slot this election year.

After all, I have my dignity, no matter what my voter registration card says.

To their credit, some in the GOP have done the right thing and have begun to restore something honorable within the ranks of the Party by stating their honest analysis of Mrs. Palin and John McCain's show of judgment in choosing her to be his running mate.. Sadly, not enough of them have. Many in the GOP have chosen to deal with Palin's many incompetencies, embarassments and highly questionable behaviors in a super-charged version of what they have done with the debacle that is George W. Bush.

Too many in the GOP have chosen to replace common sense with commonalities, knowledge with ignorance, and information with half-truths and falsities. Too many have raised the white flag of surrender in the face of substance and retreated into the dark, confused woods of Rovian aggression. They have embraced a disturbing atmosphere of dumb.

What happened to the "intellectual conservative"? Adying breed, it would seem. I refuse to have my ideas challenged by those who think that Barack Obama is a foreign Muslim. I do not want to debate those who reduce their arguments to "Sarah Palin is a bimbo" or "Joe Biden is a Socialist". Not that there's anything wrong with being a foreign Muslim, a bimbo, or a Socialist, mind you. It's just that Obama, Palin and Biden are not in any way any of those things. This sort of sophomoric name calling is in no way anything challenging or worth my intellectual energy.

And I'm just a regular guy. I didn't go to any Ivy League schools. My grades were always lukewarm until I was admitted into a small community college. I also hate latte's and drink straight black Folger's every morning. I work hard and earn my paychecks, get oil changes, pay taxes and buy groceries, just like millions of other Americans.

At the same time I hold no contempt for those that have gone to Ivy League schools or received straight A's their whole lives. As sharp as I often consider myself to be (a self-regarded sentiment that I have absolutely no shame in admitting), I simply cannot understand the public's acceptence of this legacy of stupid.

Sarah Palin, both symbolicly and somewhat covertly/somewhat overtly, is calling millions of Americans stupid...and asking them to be proud of that. Where does this irresponsible and rather dangerous political tactic take us?

What it does is offer to the voluntarily stupid person silent permission to be really dumb. Ignorance equals fear. Fear manifests itself into irrational and often dangerous behavior.

I do not think that Sarah Palin is inherently stupid, I just think that she chooses to be. To her, ignorance represents something "down-home" and "authentic American", and she is at least smart enough...or cynical understand that this sentiment is just positively eaten up by the crowds that surround her. She stands up behind podiums in small towns across Red-State America and seems to half-recognize to what extent she is a billboard for the commodity of dumb. "Why not?", the conscience in her must ask from time to time. "George W. Bush served two terms under that premise..."

And so the circle of idiocy is complete. The shrewd tactics employed by the Bush Administration over the last eight years that made intentional use of appealing to people's intellectual laziness...the legacy of pandering to those who would rather not ask for a source citation or run a fact check...the platform that thrived from instilling such a terrible and blinding fear into so many Americans to serve their own ends...all of this has accumulated into a very large portion of the GOP standing behind who is without question the least qualified Vice Presidential candidate in the history of the United States of America: Sarah Palin.
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