Primal

During my undergrad years in Ann Arbor, I had some really great friends who were significantly older than me (or what passed for a significant age difference when you were 20 years old). One couple, Pat and Tony, had a kind of ramshackle, yet comfortable, rental in those days, and I used to go out to their house on the edge of town for dinner fairly frequently. Sometimes, I would see television. [I should add that Pat and Tony went on to buy the house and fix it up real nice!]

Of course, I was far too cool and edgy to have a TV in my own house, and I really didn’t find it all that interesting when I had the opportunity to see it, but my friends were big “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fans, so it wasn’t uncommon for some rerun to be showing when I showed up for dinner. On one occasion, I recall seeing a commercial for some forgotten product; the pitch was so incredibly asinine and contemptuous of the intelligence of the audience that I was offended. I turned to the people in the room and remarked that I couldn’t believe that the advertisers would air such insulting garbage, and I’ll never forget the response from my friend Jon Ellison, who simply turned to me and said, “It’s not for you, Stefan; it’s not for you.”

After seeing the conventions, and in particular, the Republican convention, I think I’ve come to realize that, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the American political process, at least as it plays out in the media, is simply not intended to reach the audience at any kind of intellectual level. When the campaign manager for the Republican candidate says “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates,” you pretty much have it in writing. It’s primal, tribal, almost Dionysian, and if you approach it expecting that the decision-making process will be based on objective reality, you’re going to drive yourself crazy.

Well, at least it’s driving me crazy, and so I think I have to go cold turkey and take a break from following the spectacle for a few weeks or more. I’ll probably tune back in for the debates.

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