Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mencken on Politics

HL Mencken once wrote:
“Turn, now, to politics. Consider, for example, a campaign for the Presidency. Would it be possible to imagine anything more uproariously idiotic — a deafening, nerve-wracking battle to the death between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
I defy any one to match it elsewhere on this earth. In other lands, at worst, there are at least intelligible issues, coherent ideas, salient personalities. Somebody says something, and somebody replies.

Here, having perfected democracy, we lift the whole combat to symbolism, to transcendentalism, to metaphysics. Here we load a pair of palpably tin cannon with blank cartridges charged with talcum power, and so let fly. Here one may howl over the show without any uneasy reminder that it is serious, and that some one may be hurt. I hold that this elevation of politics to the plane of undiluted comedy is peculiarly American, that no-where else on this disreputable ball has the art of the sham-battle been developed to such fineness…”

And so, we are finished with this silly season, happily. Finished also with a pseudo-leader who is incompetent in two languages, a man who cannot complete an intelligible sentence. We now come to a period in which we will have a leader who is a learned man, one who actually speaks English.
What will we do, having such a leader?
Perhaps, such a leader will make us to understand that a leader cannot solve most of our problems. He may guide us to a solution here or there, but largely we remain masters of our own universe. If we choose to work at solving the problem of undereducation, then solutions are possible, even if at some cost. If we choose to work at bringing peace to places that have not known peace for many decades, perhaps centuries, then perhaps peace may arrive.
If we decide that all of our people should have access to decent health care, then perhaps, one day, such a health care solution might be devised.
But our leader cannot do such things on his own. He can only point to the way.
I expect our new leader will do just that. Whether we the people will follow his advice and his guidance is still in doubt. Remember, 143 years after another leader showed us a new way, we seem to remain committed to continuing The Civil War.
But perhaps our new leader will ignite a new flame, and something akin to enlightenment will follow.
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