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Stephen Lewis on Infrastructure, Identity, Communication, and Change

Palin and Language, McCain and Strategy, “Supporting Our Troops,” and Alfred E. Newman Redux

Posted by Stephen Lewis on October 6, 2008

Like half of the population of the United States (i.e. the half that opposes the Republicans) I had intended to write about vice-presidential candidate Palin’s misuse of language and deformation of facts and logic during the televised debate with Democrat Joe Biden last Thursday.  However, better and brighter people beat me to the punch.  And, as often as not, the best and the brightest is Bob Herbert of the New York Times.  Click here for Herbert’s incisive Palin’s Alternate Universe.

McCain and Strategy

Equally worthy of merit, but far less known, are the reflections of Jan Searls, a retired career naval officer and sister of my long-time friend and colleague Doc Searls.  In a short piece buried deep in the comments section of Doc’s weblog — so deep, in fact, that I won’t post a customary link — Jan debunked Palin’s snide aside that Biden did not know the difference between “strategy and tactics.”

Tactics without strategy, Jan notes, is what enmeshed America in the Vietnam War.  She adds that it has also been the hallmark of the Bush Administration in Iraq, in its so-called “War on Terror,” and, by extension, in its domestic policy.  On the basis of her decades in the military, Jan Searls deflates John McCain’s supposed mastery of strategy and tactics by pointing out that: “… McCain never was a leader in the well-honed military sense. He went from playboy plebe to pilot to POW to politician.”

“Supporting Our Troops”

In the jingoistic language of US political discourse the phrase “supporting our troops” has become confused and conflated with presidential requests to — and Republican candidates’ conviction that we should — send more troops and materiel to Iraq.  The real support to the troops is taking place at the grassroots level and in the Obama camp.  Examples: Retired naval officer Jan Searls is out this weekend knocking on doors in rural North Carolina on behalf of the Obama campaign.  My good friend and neighbor Eric Werthman, a psychotherapist, filmmaker, and life-long political activist, is doing the same in the depressed small towns of southeastern Pennsylvania.  Eric, by the way, provides free-of-charge therapy and counseling to Iraq War veterans with problems of adjustment, rage, and what is now called “PTSD” (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the “Shell Shock” of past generations).  In his own private time, thus, Eric does what the Republicans refuse to do, provide Americans, veterans in this case, with the support they need but often cannot access or afford.

Footnote 1: Twisted Language and Twisted Logic, Afghanistan-style

Late last year, I met up with a long-time acquaintance who is a high-ranking US diplomat in Afghanistan.  When I asked him the state of the pursuit of Bin Laden and the subduing of the Taliban, he answered: “The Taliban is finished.”  How did he know this, I asked.  “Simple,” he replied, “they are committing more attacks on civilians in urban areas … a definite sign that they are desperate and on their last legs.”  Hopefully, in the time since, he has spoken with the general whose name Palin cannot remember.

Footnote 2: “What, Me Worry?”

I’ve tried to keep a somewhat professional tone in posts to this site, so forgive me the following lapse (although few things I would say could match the obscenity of the Republican opposition to ensuring Americans with the health care that is considered matter of course in other “first world” nations*).

For the last months, I’ve had a nagging feeling that I’d seen Governor Palin before.  And then, I remembered.  (Note: to understand this, one must have wasted a portion of one’s youth reading Mad Magazine in its golden years.)  Palin is the spitting image of … Mad’s signature idiot Alfred E. Newman (alias Melvin Coznowski).  But in drag!  And in heat!  Note the protruding ears, the shining eyes, the wrinkle-fee brow, and the smile masking … absolutely nothing.  Mad afficianados will not be surprised if in a future malapropism Palin refers to the US commander in Afghanistan ala Mad as  “General Potrzebezi.” Palin’s motor-mouth presentation and seeming lack of logic struck another familiar note … the onstage persona of American comedienne Kathy Griffin, whose non-stop patter and unexpected mid-sentence swerves in subject matter turn her appearances on CNN’s Larry King Live into a dadaist comeuppance.

*For a concise comparison of the consequences of McCain’s and Obama’s approaches to health care, go to Paul Krugman’s Health Care Destruction in today’s New York Times


2 Responses to “Palin and Language, McCain and Strategy, “Supporting Our Troops,” and Alfred E. Newman Redux”

  1. Doc Searls said

    Thanks, Steve.

    Couple of things. First, here’s the link to Jan’s comment. It’s not obvious in WordPress, but the link to a comment is behind the date/time stamp above the commenter’s name. Second, “supporting our troops” is an emotional shell game that I’ll bet has killed more people than it’s saved. Who wouldn’t want to do support their country’s troops, especially when they have relatives in uniform? Such has been the case in our own family for much of the Iraq war. I’ve been looking for the Hal Crowther piece that nails the problem here — a problem we’ve had for the duration. But I can’t find it. All I can remember is this one line: “The best way to give a lie the force of truth is to soak it in innocent blood.” But even that may be a bit off. Best I can do for now.

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