[Forever young: Here’s Dylan getting his Medal of Freedom from Obama.]
I’m trying to get my head back into Campaign 2012, but am suffering from aversions. The campaign feels static, the story-of-the-day trivial. The things people talk about aren’t even “issues,” really. Like Obama’s birthplace. He was born in Hawaii. This has been settled. To discuss further is to descend into madness and lunacy. And so I’m with Cillizza on Romney and Trump: What’s Mitt thinking? Is there a secret strategy memo that says that the way to 270 electoral votes is to play the Trump card and flirt with fringe conspiracy theories?
As I wrote last summer when Obama released his birth certificate:
“... it is the nature of a conspiracy theory that all information must pass through a very discerning, yet simple, filter. Information that is confirmational is accepted; that which is contradictory is rejected.
“Conspiracy theories have the self-sustaining gift of ramification: They sprout new tendrils, like a mad vine that has invaded from another continent. For the committed conspiracy theorist, there is always another angle to explore, another anomaly to scrutinize.”
So the birther thing can’t and won’t go away, because that’s simply the nature of conspiracy theories. But I’m not sure there are a lot of votes there — as opposed to votes among middle-of-the-road folks who are concerned about fiscal policy and government regulations, etc.
For thinking people, presidential campaigns are traditionally and intrinsically repulsive spectacles that favor the low blow and the ad hominen (Latin for “subhuman”) attack. Naively, however, I had supposed that this year we’d see a pretty clear, robust debate on the proper role of government in challenging times. Debt, taxes, entitlements. Health care. Income inequality. Free markets. Climate change and other environmental issues. There’s just a lot of substantive stuff to talk about. Instead, Romney is campaigning with Trump.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a long, hot, dumb-and-dumber summer.
In other news, last night I discovered for the first time, thanks to my savvy friend Mike who is very good with machinery and technology and computers and whatnot, that my microwave friend has a Reheat button. Apparently this is the button you are supposed to use when reheating, but not cooking, food. I had no idea it was there. Also, I discovered to my great surprise, the microwave has a button that says “Potato.” In fact there are all kinds of buttons I had never noticed before (like, “Custom” and “Add 30sec”). They’re right there on the panel next to the buttons I actually use. Habitually I only use Time Cook, Start, Clear and the numbers. And i just don’t see anything else. To save my life I don’t think I could have answered true or false if asked, at the point of a gun, if there was a “Potato” button on the microwave.
Which raises a broader point.
There is so much we miss. We sort of train ourselves to be inattentive to much of the world in order to focus on the things that are essential, or easy, or familiar. We limit our vision, or, more precisely, our awareness.
Simultaneously there is a whole layer of consciousness that is below the level of direct attention. This happens when driving, for example — we’ve got sensors operating sub-consciously.
I wonder what else I’m missing. My computer screen is lined on all sides with icons I don’t look at, ever (looking at them now, they’re vaguely terrifying). What’s more worrisome is that I’m missing a lot of what you might call human information. People stuff. Obliviousness is too often my default position.
Prefiguring the ultimate oblivion to come, perhaps.
Maybe tonight I will find out what happens if you use the Potato button on something that isn’t actually a potato. Will keep fire extinguisher handy.