Yesterday was rather surreal, all told, and a good bit volatile as well in the face of some long odds and a decent amount of personal boredom. I am in what I might describe as a sort of fugue state these days… the interim between December trips with families and the trip to India, the limbo between status quo and change at work, the suddenly discombobulated outset of an election that may not be signed, sealed, and delivered after all.
I spoke aloud while walking to lunch yesterday, saying that it seemed like “you can see the seams on the Metaphor today”. My perception of the planet we inhabit (and indeed, likely, all physical planets and realms) is that it is part of the grand Metaphor of the universe. None of this physical stuff really exists, which is why I find the physicalists (“realists” in some circles) so laughably ironic, believing as they do that the Metaphor is all that really exists. I could write a book on my theology that stems from things like the Metaphor (hey, I might), but a thumbnail starter sketch might look a little like “The Matrix” of movie trilogy fame, but without the machines and the enslaved humans and all the violence. And without the real world behind the shadow world being, itself, a physical domain. That part really didn’t make any sense.
And also, I would say, without quite as much rule-bending as “The Matrix”. The point is that the Metaphor probably only hangs together on rules and boundaries, a playing field of sorts for the moral and spiritual progress and lessons of the Metaphor. Why do you think there are “laws” of physics in the first place? Does it make any sense that there would be rigidly definable and discoverable laws in a universe randomly created by happenstance, luck, and flying asteroids? I ask you.
I’m getting a little lost here, or at least bogged down. It’s easy to do in a fugue state. Regardless, yesterday had moments where it looked like the tapestry that holds the Metaphor together was visible, as though one could actually see behind the curtain and watch the strings being pulled. Of course one never can actually physically see behind the Metaphor (there’s nothing physically there to physically see), but it seems that way. And days like that, one has to wonder if things are unraveling, or it’s getting urgent to start really seeing things.
Today is different… soggy, ambivalent, quiet, and yet highly pensive with that small highlight of hope and uncertainty that seems innately tied to both Tuesdays and election days (one being a function of the other, after all). Emily tried hard (probably without trying) to talk me out of any enthusiasm about Obama last night. He is well-connected with Washington tradition, steeped in special interest, lobbies, and big bucks. I could see a lot of pressure being placed on someone younger and with demographic differences from our last 40-odd presidents to conform and demonstrate that “he’s not so different after all”. Those who view the world racially would characterize his term, his life, his success as a referendum on whether his race could lead this country at all. Preposterous on all fronts, but you know that’s how the media would handle things. Like judging all white males on Hitler or on Kant (those are meant to be incomparable polar opposites, in case you’re not sure where I stand on those historical figures)… the truth is always in the middle, in the gray, in judging individuals by themselves and their actions alone.
But it’s a lot of pressure that would be on Obama, to not rock the boat and to instead pave the way for others like him by appearing “reasonable,” “moderate,” and other mild adjectives that involve preserving the status quo march toward full-scale plutocracy. Most presidents have caved under far less pressure, with far less riding on it other than personal plunder. And it seems like his status quo march is already well under way, pandering to the lobbies and holding back on sweeping specifics.
Nevertheless, Obama has upside. “Upside” is usually a term applied to baseball prospects to indicate that they have a high potential. Some pitcher with raw power who can’t find the plate, who can throw 102 with no control has a lot of upside. Yes, they’ll probably walk more than they strikeout next season and linger with a 6.02 ERA in AA ball. But that kind of raw talent can be crafted into something under the right tutelage, molded into someone like Randy Johnson, who might aim for 99 instead of 102, but with pinpoint control. Whereas a finesse pitcher who is playing well now, but has already learned 5 pitches has little upside. He’s a known quantity. He might be better overall than the pitcher with upside, but that upside gives the wild fireballer more potential.
So then it’s an issue of how much you want to gamble. And a lot of people like to gamble on upside.
This may make Obama sound worse than he is, in part because most minor-league baseball prospects have upside. But I can’t remember the last time I felt like a presidential candidate who got more than 10% of any vote had a lot of upside. Edwards may be slightly better overall, but I don’t really see any upside that he has. Most of his stuff is out on the table, including voting for the Iraq War and running with John Kerry. These are indicators of a total lack of upside.
Whereas Obama has almost nothing on the table, didn’t even get to the Senate till after the Iraq War had started. He’s like a long line of people who we don’t really have any idea what he stands for. But unlike most of them (such as, say, Colin Powell), the indicators are really good with Obama. He has fervently made the war and opposition to it an issue (again, gulpingly admittedly without committing to actually ending it). He has spoken with glowing rhetoric about change and hope. He has not been in politics long. He does not think Islam is the greatest threat to humanity.
It’s not a lot to go on, but it’s a lot of upside. Enough to make me actually hope that he wins New Hampshire and gets the jump on this whole nomination gambit. In large part just to stop the Clinton/Bush royalty from having a shot at extending the dynasty. But also because of that lingering upside.
New Hampshire is allegedly known for its independents, stemming from its strong sense of independence. Don’t Tread on Me started in New Hampshire, depicting the United States as a sort of crotchety agitated snake in perhaps the most accurate zoological representation of this country in history. I think it was a rattler, but I envision the USA more as one of those constrictors that goes around squeezing things to death and swallowing them whole, until eventually one can’t even see the outline of the enormous thing just swallowed. Always consuming, at a rate that seems to defy what an individual could want or need. Maybe that’s why Mexico’s flag has the eagle nabbing a snake. Rise up Mexico, and put your northern neighbor back in its place.
In any event, it’s interesting that the state that has the most and most disproportionate influence on our presidential selection process, crying out about its independence, has managed to give us such mainstream moderate plutocrats. Yes, they voted for McCain instead of GWB in 2000 and Tsongas got the nod because of geographic proximity (though Clinton’s strong showing while being from far away was what really launched him) in 1992, but NH has hardly prevented the rise of the two-party monoliths of mediocrity. And when “Independent” is a proxy word for “Libertarian,” I get plenty spooked anyway. Maybe they’ll like Huckabee’s so-called “Fair Tax” that gives everyone income tax-free and only goes after spending. Yes, there is some mild concession credit to the especially poor to prevent it from being the Most Regressive Tax Ever, but the fact that the poor spend 150-300% of their income annually while the rich spend maybe 50% really indicates the unfairness of this plan. But it sounds right up New Hampshire’s alley.
(And don’t get me wrong, I want to trim the IRS and decapitate tax loopholes as much as Huckabee… I just might instead replace the status quo with a 10% income tax at $50,000+ a year, 25% at $100,000+ a year, and 50% at $250,000+ a year. And abolish for-profit business, taxing 100% of would-be “profit”.)
In any case, I’m going to stop short of making predictions this time around, maybe just because of the mood. I still think Hillary has a good shot to bag this one, or maybe to overwhelm Super Tuesday even if she doesn’t. But I’m really hoping to be wrong about that, and that we will at least have someone who has some potential in the running. Hey, if it’s Obama vs. “Fair Tax,” I might even care about the general election this year.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself. For now, I’m just going to squint and try to see the seams. Bait my breath over early returns that should leave New Hampshire before I leave work. Pause to ponder why everyone shaved massive amounts of facial hair yesterday (or at least, confirmed and documented, myself, Mark Samburg, and David Letterman, the last two in major public displays).
Shedding weight? Dropping anchor? Going younger, slimmer, more hopeful?
Maybe it’s just time to make cuts.