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How Much Culture Should a Politician Have?

By       Message Margaret Bassett       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Barack and I share something in common.  We both were brought up by mothers from Kansas.  I read his description of how his mother got him up before school to learn English and history, in effect to Americanize him. I thought about how my mother--a schoolteacher when my father found her--drilled us children in reading.  One of the first things I really learned in school was that my classmates couldn't read.  As I tried to sort that out, she told me everyone learned in her own way.  (Came in handy later when I met the Autism Spectrum).

I don't know about anyone else.  But I don't think there is anything wrong with Kansas. The people I know there, relatives mostly, are  no-nonsense people.  I guess I contracted some of that, too.  Once when Mother was reading a story, there was something which didn't seem real.  Already I was tuned in to the fact that a lot of folks didn't live like we did on the prairie. Finally, she said: IT'S JUST A STORY. All my life, whenever I read something, I want to know whether it's real, or is it just someone's imagination?

I think Barack is a little like that.  I twinge when I hear him run on about some topic , because I remember how my high school teachers--and even my husband in later life--would warn me.  My dearly departed once said:  Analyzing!  Analyzing! Aren't you ever going to stop analyzing? I said it was tough, and becoming a programmer didn't make it any easier.  
The Wall Street Journal's Lee Siegel wrote an article on September 13, 2008, entitled 
Triumph of Culture Over Politics.  
Far be it from me to argue with a commercial journal, but I think he's been reading the dictionary too long.  Doesn't he know that communication is composed of one-part words and the other two-thirds are non-verbal clues? 

I wish he could meet my friend's granddaughter.  At two she is precociously verbal.  As I manage the task of getting in the car, I turn to see what Addison is doing, tied back there in her car seat. Out of the corner of my eye I notice she is peering around to find out when I'm going to notice her.  When I do, she flashes that sparkly smile.  Even on my most arthritic days, I wait for Addison.

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So I've got something to ask Mr. Siegel.  He writes about culture and politics.  But it seems to me he is really writing about McCain and Obama, a couple of Senators who are taking a shot at living in the Big House across from Lafayette Square. 

Perhaps I should mention that I watch both candidates pressing the flesh.  Seriously thought of sitting up to watch Obama on Saturday Night Live before the hurricane changed his mind.  I learned this morning he cancelled engagements because of the storm, and that he offered the mayor of Houston the use of his website for what would help  600,000 Texans without electricity.  I tend to think of that as a politician's idea of culture on a national scale.

To get back to those taciturn Kansans, did I mention my dad came from Kansas too?  We had hard times. My parents talked about whether FDR would  keep our  bank from failing. Then they worried about whether he would get us into war.  Definitely, as a kid with three new dresses every fall, plenty to eat, and a tablet to do artithmetic, I felt blest.  The tablet?  You know those old ones with an Indian chief on the cover and paper the consistency of wrapping paper?  I could do my figures, erase them, and find more to figure.

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So the way I feel about the election this fall between an old, arthritic white man who has shining eyes and a sometimes smile and a young black man who spends time after "talking," shaking hands.  Did you ever see those young hands--many white as John McCain's--reaching out to be next to shake his hand.  Is that culture or politics?

What I know about the 08 election is that people are hurting for money, and some just for a dry bed.  With due respect to Professor Lakoff, parsing phrases will only get a leader so far.  I don't know what others remember of JFK. The image I carry is of him standing, bareheaded, on the Capitol steps, pledging himself to uphold the Constitution.

In the interest of "fair and balanced" (UGH) I quote a paragraph from Mr. Siegel's article.  Make what you will of the words:

Sen. Obama still struggles with the sin of pride, he tells us with his confident grin and his air of perfect poise. You could be forgiven for thinking that he is proudly displaying his scorn for his own oversized pride. Sen. McCain, on the other hand, confesses, with his lean, Bogartian mouth set in a near-grimace, that "I've been an imperfect servant of my country for many years." And then he describes for us the gripping origins of his imperfection. Meanwhile, Professor Obama explains, eloquently and stirringly, the theoretical distinction between "ought" and "is." The difference between the destiny-battered Republican candidate and the issue-arrayed Democratic one is like the difference between a mass-market paperback and a college syllabus.


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Margaret Bassett passed away August 21, 2011. She was a treasured member of the Opednews.com editorial team for four years.

Margaret Bassett--OEN editor--is an 89-year old, currently living in senior housing, with a lifelong interest in political philosophy. Bachelors from State University of Iowa (1944) and Masters from Roosevelt University (1975) help to unravel important requirements for modern communication. Early introduction to computer science (1966) trumps them. It's payback time. She's been "entitled" so long she hopes to find some good coming off the keyboard into the lives of those who come after her.

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