It seems there is a new threat to our country- an insidious danger that is seeping into our homes and everyday lives that must be stopped at any cost. That threat is intellectualism.
We have heard some of the buzzwords of this political season- Folksy, Joe Six-pack, Elitist, and Arugula Eating. It seems the new "culture war" or wedge issue is intelligence. The Vice-Presidential debate only solidified the lines in this war. On one side, you had Palin- full of "folksy charm" and "you betcha" language. Then you had Biden, who had a command of the issues, but was called "boring" and (gasp!) "professorial" by the pundits.
Is this the point we have come to in our country? Do we really think that having knowledge about an issue is a liability? Have we learned nothing from the past eight years about voting for the person you "want to have a beer with"? Is being smart or intellectually curious a bad thing?
It seems the war is on and the Republicans have launched another surge strategy.
I have been absolutely dumbfounded as I have watched the level of discourse (and the ensuing media coverage) in this political season. There has always been a level of "east coast intellectual" bashing from the right, but this cycle it has been raised to a completely new level.
We have seen McCain release vapid attack ad after attack ad about "celebrity", all the while being devoid of any facts or issues. We have seen Palin stumble through interviews, to the point of not even being able to name any newspapers she reads (very reminiscent of George W Bush, who famously said he doesn't read). The media even praised Palin in the debate for being "down to earth" and a "breath of fresh air."
How is dumbing down our country a breath of fresh air? Lowering the discourse to these levels (Paris Hilton, hockey moms, and lipstick- oh my!) has been staggering and disheartening to watch.
The war has not only been waged by promoting the "Joe Six-pack" quality (a term that makes my skin crawl and sounds incredibly offensive) of McCain and Palin, however. They GOP has taken to throwing around charges of elitism, arugula eating, latte and martini drinking to show how Obama and Biden- and by extension all Democrats- are "out of touch" with "real" Americans. It's an amazing argument- by being too smart and thoughtful on issues, they just don't understand anything. Want proof? They eat fancy salad and drink coffee.
It is also constantly being said that both Obama and Biden are too "professorial", as if being an intelligent leader is a weakness. Professors are people who KNOW THINGS and can lead and teach others. How is that an insult? They simply know too much to be the leaders of the free world? All those pesky details floating around in their heads makes it impossible for them to lead? Huh?
How did we get here? I certainly don't want just any old Average Joe to lead our country. I want someone who knows facts and issues. And if they don't know something, I want someone with the intellectual curiosity to learn and find out! Pick up a newspaper, get online, and surround yourself with other intelligent people. Yet McCain can't use the internet and Palin can't name a paper she reads. Where is the intellectualism to be a true leader in this time of trouble in our country?
Let me be clear- I don't care if politicians don't seem "fun" or "folksy"- I don't want to have a beer with them. I want them to lead. "Going with your gut" is not a viable option for this level of leadership. Quick sound bites or catch phrases don't make you a good leader. I don't care if you can hunt, were in the PTA, or wink at me- I want you to be educated about the issues facing our country.
Intellectualism is a quality we want in a leader. I would rather have someone who might be a bit dry and heavy on the facts than someone who is folksy and dead wrong any day.
But hey, what do I know? Maybe I'll just stick to eating my elitist arugula salad and reading.
UPDATE 2: A second post was written in July 2010 following up on this one: The War on Intellectualism Pt. 2: Mainstream Media Madness
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