October 3, 2008

The Vice Presidential Debate

In the past year, I've been lucky in that I've made several new friends. One of them invited us to his home last night to watch the debate. Actually he was kind of insistent. I think he views it as a patriotic duty to watch the debates. So my husband and I went over and watched.

Ordinarily we wouldn't have seen the debate. We don't have any network tv in our house. We only watch movies on dvd. My opinion of the debates differs from my friends. I think the debates are an exercise in propaganda. I do think the study of propaganda can be useful. It can tell you things about what direction the powers that be are moving. It also can be helpful in political organizing, to know what the people around you are being exposed to. But I'm so busy that I don't usually have time to add that detail of knowledge to my schedule.

In the back of my mind, I knew I'd need to write about viewing the debate here, on my blog. Driving to my friend's house I was thinking about what irritated me most about the Republican message, especially in regards to Palin's speech at the Republican convention. What bothers me the most (and believe me, that's a long list to be at the top of) is the meanness.

Let's be honest, that's what really stood out in her convention speech, what was the most appealing in a sick backward kind of way. As a former defiant bad girl, I found myself responding to her tone of tell-it-like-it-is sassy-girl hostility even though I knew what she was saying was a misrepresentation. And I was disgusted. And I was worried. I thought she was showing a remarkable ability to induce people to bypass the frontal lobe, higher level, logical part of their brains and stay in the atavistic, more primitive region. She looked sincere. Her body language was sincere. She hit the right notes. I feared the Republican party would be able to do something with that.

The Sara Palin we saw last night was very different. Most of her speech patterns sounded as if she was reciting memorized passages. And that was the the better part of her performance. When asked questions at the end of the debate, questions that were not so easily predicted in advance of the debate, her answers were gobbledy-gook (to use early childhood terminology). And it seemed to me something was terribly off in her body language. I can't put my finger on it, but her body language gave me an uneasy feeling.

In watching the debate, I wanted to just let my emotional reactions emerge and try to gage how the rest of the nation might be reacting to the performances, instead of analytically listening to the words. I've always had the tendency to take a strong emotional reading in any given situation. Lately I've started to wonder if maybe I can use that tendency as a strentgh instead of bemoaning it as a weakness and struggling to keep up with my uber-analytical husband (not to mention other rising family members, I think you know who you are or which ones you're raising).

I know that the greatest influence on most people's decision-making process is emotion. And I know that as social creatures, humans are very sensitive to body language and tone of voice. Under that criteria alone, poor Sara didn't do too well, did she? And add to that the fact that she was up against Biden, who is clearly a master political debater, I feel bad for her. She's way over her head.

My prediction (lol), Obama wins the election by a healthy margin. The American public realizes that meanness is sooo over. We usher in a new era of kindness and respect, while fighting the good fight for a new New Deal in a good way. We are all much happier.

You heard here first.


Anonymous said...

A comment on emotion versus logic: Einstein often brushed aside thinking in words. Even Albert Einstein did it!

Emotion and clear thinking can mix in ways that we do not appreciated enough. Emotion -- or its cousin sensation -- is intuitive and quick. But emotion thrives on grounding in careful thought and fact. Consciously appreciated emotion or sensation set carefully in proper context may have been crucial for Einstein's enormous success: Rather than writing exotic equations backed by elaborate words, he first pictured himself in carefully set scenarios: 'What would it be like to ride on a light beam?'

Others might make similarly important progress blending sensations and emotions in their own explorations. The combinations could be similar to Einstein's or the patterns could be intermingled for very different ventures or escapades. (Choose your preferred venue/synonym.)

If not disciplined, emotion has a way of slipping under the radar only to return unappreciated, not recognized -- even by its host.

'Here he struggles to deal with emotion using words and visa versa.' "I need to give it more time, much more patience. If only I could find the right pictures or sounds ..."

Cipher? NOT!

Carl Davidson said...

'She's way over her head.'

That's exactly the phrase I used when my neighbor, a Baptist preacher leaning to Obama, asked me.

But I prefaced it with 'Well, the kindest thing I can say is...'

But you're right, she does have a mean streak, as does the whole rightwing populist crowd. Their 'loving,' and 'small town solidarity' such as it is, seems narrowly tribal, far from reaching out to all 'God's children'.

Good report.

Leah said...

It was extremely difficult and fascinating to watch the debate -- not far from the feeling someone would get rubbernecking a car crash. Aside from the fact that I will never remember Top Gun the same way ever again, each time she spoke was like enduring nails on a chalkboard for 90 seconds at a time! I hardly watch spectator sports, but this is the closest I came to a rabid angry fan, shouting at the TV at times, wondering why the ref -- Gwen Ifill -- succumbed to being spooked by the machinery's PR pre-emption charging bias -- completely overcompensated by hardly moderating at all!

But while the polls seem to be showing reassuring numbers post-debate, why do I have this lingering fear that the folksiness and faux-populism (golly, gosh darn it, you betcha, shout out, doin' it for people like me, not to mention nukyuler) will work? Maybe it was watching the guy from Idaho interviewed post-debate saying that she spoke more to the issues or the Hispanic woman who says Palin can relate to women? Or maybe because it worked twice before for W? I get scared that because Joe Biden showed greater intelligence that John and Jill Central PA might actually feel alienated. I fear that in this difficult time, that the winking cuteness might bring comfort to some.

I expected more of a bloodbath -- in the same proportions as the Couric interview.

Whatever the end is, it is scary that this woman has come this close to being responsible for pushing the red button. Huffington Post calls her the first pure Rovian Republican and it can't be more true. She was chosen for nothing else than to speak to the American's worst id.

Anonymous said...

I have reflected a little on Palin's actual debate. It is no wonder that you focus on emotions and body language. Her verbiage is so fractured it is almost impossible to follow. Yet she might become President. Perhaps as Frank Rich speculates she knows there is something really wrong with McCain. It is inappropriate to dwell on abstraction here. This
is not a real debate.

Cipher? NOT! I was just off track

Tina B Shannon said...

Someone sent this link to me and it was too good not to post.


Anonymous said...

Following up on non verbal imagination, let me take another tack on those last two paragraphs.
of my Einstein post.

It takes time and patience to get the emotions to communicate effectively.
It's like giving the mind a chance to yield the word you can't quite find. It's like giving your mind a rest to come back with a suitable resolution on another day. It's like waiting for your mind or perhaps subconscious to link emotions and sensations with appropriate physical actions or words.
An answer or approach to a physical problem often comes back to me after I'm no longer exerting. It is as if the non verbal content has somehow figured out on its on how to point to an explicit expression of the situation.
Is that what (some) dreaming is about?

Hope that is not too confusing,
but I am still searching and thus to a certain extent still forcing.

Cipher? NOT!

Anonymous said...

George Lakoff in the introduction to his book The Political Mind talks about reason and emotion. You cannot thinks properly if you cannot recognize your own emotions, is is the case for some victims of brain damage through stroke. Start reading around page seven in his hardbound edition. A number of assumptions about reason and emotion come under examination in light of contemporary thinking about the brain.

Cipher? NOT!