I'd like to thank John McCain for helping me to see what it means to be a real American.
Putting country first, I now see, means we don't have to try to understand people who might not share our view of the world. We certainly don't have to try to learn from them. Real Americans assume we are right and everyone else is wrong.
The problem is that I don't think we can afford to be that kind of American anymore.
Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of listening only to themselves. I'm guilty of it myself.
As a nation we want things spelled out in absolutes: good and evil, black and white, friend and enemy, pass and fail, innocent and guilty. We're uncomfortable with nuance.
But our world is not one of absolutes. That's why I find this presidential campaign so unsettling. Sure the apple-pie issues like health care, the economy and taxes affect our everyday lives. But what's going to ultimately determine America's success in the future is how well we work together with other countries to solve global problems. Certainly the recent banking crisis showed us that.
And that brings me to McCain, and the questions he has been raising about Barack Obama's associations with "terrorists" and "radical professors."
Friends or enemies?
In an interview Wednesday night after Obama's 30-minute infomercial, CNN's Larry King asked McCain about his campaign's attempt to make an issue of Obama's friendship with Rashid Khalidi, an American-born Columbia University professor. Khalidi is a longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause and a critic of Israel. The Los Angeles Times reported months ago that Obama praised Khalidi at a party in 2003.
McCain didn't come out and say that Khalidi, a Yale- and Oxford-educated scholar who's considered an authority on the Mideast, is a terrorist or that Obama supports Khalidi's views on Israel. But he pointed out that Khalidi had been involved with the Palestine Liberation Organization. So he wants to see a tape of the party to see just what was said.
At a rally in Ohio, Sarah Palin said someone at the party (not Obama) said that Israel was "the perpetrator of terrorism, not the victim." Did it come as a surprise to her that Palestinians feel that way?
In any case, both Obama and Khalidi say they don't see eye-to-eye on our policy toward Israel. Apparently they still can enjoy getting together and intelligently exploring their differences. Imagine that.
McCain and Palin seem to feel that because Obama respects this man and finds him stimulating company, he is suspect.
No real dialogue
When did it become downright un-American to associate with other Americans with different opinions? Or to engage those who want to change U.S. foreign policy? Isn't that the essence of democracy?
A lot of people have bemoaned the lack of real dialogue during this presidential campaign. The pundits focus more on what the candidates are wearing and how polished they appear than the substance of their remarks — what substance there is — and then dissect the most recent poll data.
Cable news stations, talk radio hosts and bloggers at both ends of the political spectrum merely reinforce the biases of their audiences, repeating lies and ridiculous claims long after they have been shown to be false.
Myopia drives ratings. The cable stations and talk shows want us coming back for more, so they tell us only what we want to hear.
And we love it.
Myopia is no longer considered a disease, at least not in American political discourse. Sadly, it has become a badge of patriotism.
Contact Patty Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 920-5852.