Copyright (c) 2012 Scott F Paradis
I’d have to give the edge in the presidential debate to Mitt Romney. Of course it is easier to play offense than defense in such a contest. The president, who himself ran on a platform of hope and change in 2008 has, in four years, succeeded at getting more people to hope for change.
Both candidates want people to believe they can in fact change things for the better. But real, substantive change is nowhere in the offing. The election season fantasy we so enjoy is not how life works.
Every four years the presidential election cycle treats Americans to a spectacle of fantasy, falsehood and fabrication. This is an opportunity for supposedly rational and intelligent people to entertain the notion of Santa Claus – a mythically powerful person who fulfills dreams – coming to the rescue. We just wake up on inauguration morning and our something for nothing fantasy is realized – stockings are stuffed, presents abound, and peace, love and joy reign. Appealing isn’t it? The truth is, however, Christmas morning celebrations are not the product of a mysterious individual swooping around the globe bearing gifts, it is the work of countless people giving of themselves so that others might benefit. This is how life works.
Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney seem like decent, caring men who genuinely want to do good. The question is, do they believe what they are saying? I ask this not as a test of authenticity and faith in the vision they present, but rather to ascertain whether they have the practical knowledge and knowhow to do what they say. A determined demeanor and appealing rhetoric are an incomplete formula for success. A strong, productive, free and prosperous America sounds great, but making that happen will take more than a flight of fancy. Real work is involved. The status quo would have to change in a big way and changing the status quo, one that benefits so many, is a daunting prospect.
Politicians operate from a basis of fantasy, falsehood and fabrication because we, the people, are children at heart. We want to believe in super heroes and easy, instantaneous change. We have deluded ourselves for so long, we have come to expect that by casting a ballot we can generate a new reality. Politicians have learned to tell people what they want to hear despite the facts, because we want to believe someone else has the power – someone can in fact change things. By relying on them, the salesman asking for a vote, I won’t have to do anything. I won’t have to confront the bitter facts. I won’t have to assume responsibility for the mess. And I won’t have to make the difficult choices and take the necessary, painful steps to right the course.
The truth is a presidential candidate will not, and cannot, do the vast majority of things he claims he absolutely will do. Hope in awe-inspiring rhetoric allows for a fleeting flight of imagination that someone else can change my life for the better. After all they are clamoring unceasingly to be given the chance – all I need do is allow them the opportunity. This election season dance nurtures the expectation that we’re not, nor do we need to be, responsible – someone else can and will take care of us. Unerringly the dance ends poorly – as this election cycle will prove – because that just isn’t how life works.
Real change comes from one place only. If we want to change our circumstances and our world we have to change ourselves. Despite all the political promises to the contrary, that is how life works.
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