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It seems like only yesterday we were talking about candidate’s third grade essays and their political implications. Ah, gone forever are those halcyon days of silly season – only a few months, but so so long ago. This week there has certainly been a change in the seasonal winds. Temperatures on the campaign trail have plummeted as the tone has turned bitterly cold. This week has been reminiscent of Orwell’s Hate Week, a systematic campaign designed to solidify rage and abhorrence against “enemies of the Party”. It is a short and slippery slope from hate rallies to Krystallnacht – out and out violence and destruction in the streets

John McCain is old enough to understand from history what can happen when rage seethes unchecked. He remembers the lunatic-days of Fascist Europe and Red China. He remembers the blind fervor of America’s own Red Scare that ruined the lives of so many. He knows the damaging power of frenzy. However, the cat is out of the bag and he seems powerless to contain the ire of his supporters. To his defense, he has tried to rein in the ignorance and acidity of his crowds. Yet, they boo him, ignore him. They want to hate no matter what their candidate may say. Sarah Palin on the other hand seems eager to nourish their rage. A day after McCain tried to regain his crowd back under his control, Palin further riled hers with cruel suggestions that Obama is a baby-killer. The crowed bayed their utter contempt.

History can teach us that these hate-mongers are in fact a minority of the larger community, yet their opinions win the day. They are loud, aggressive and tend toward violence. They intimidate the majority into keeping silent or even following along. Present day Germans still carry the shame of the silent masses of their grandparents’ generation. Literature demonstrates that dissent may exist in individual hearts within a state-controlled mob; yet social pressures overpower personal disquiet. Winston and Julia, in Orwell’s 1984, both secretly revile the socially imposed “Two-Minute Hate” sessions. Yet, they participate and even quietly critique each other’s degree of demonstrable vehemence. Our society is becoming reflective of these examples. For the past decade, we have gravitated to radio and television programs where hosts and audience members scream over each other, fed by a common hate for a common enemy. To publicly shout out your rage somehow makes you more loyal, or more honorable, or more knowledgeable than your neighbor. It continuously ratchets up the impassioned disdain for the other side, until any common ground is completely eradicated from the equation. These periods creep up throughout history – moments when public furor is stoked by rage for a common political goal. The French and American wars of revolution. The Bolshevik Revolution. Hitler’s holocaust. Stalin’s purges. Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia. The Balkans. Rawanda. Darfur. It continues, regardless of ethnicity, geography or culture. For all of our beauty and brilliance, this is one of our more sordid human characteristics. An angry man can be rational. An angry crowd? Don’t hesitate. Turn and run.

History and Literature offer glimpses into our future. So does mythology. During this dizzying descent into chaos and ire demonstrated at McCain/Palin rallies, we are reminded of Greek Mythology. Sarah Palin resembles a young Pandora. The powerful gods sought to punish humans for Prometheus’ crime of stealing fire. So, they decided to create a woman from the Earth. Unquestionably, the ancients had misogyny issues. The referred to her as a “beautiful evil” but they named her Pandora. Each god bestowed upon her a unique“gift” and placed it in a gilded box. Of course we all know what happened then. Driven by curiosity, Pandora peeked inside the box and let loose all the evils of the world. Greed, vanity, slander, envy and pining spread throughout the world and changed our lives utterly and eternally. Talk about a bad first impression.

As soon as she took the national stage at the Republican National Convention, Palin cranked up the ire. Her introductory speech went beyond the cynical sarcasm typical of any political forum. Her words were rude, belittling, cruel and bitter. And her audience lapped them up like mad dogs. Moreover, Palin clearly set the tone that night for their campaign, culminating with the rallies we see now in the closing weeks of this race. Our new politician on the scene has let loose all this ugliness and now its fire spreads. At these events people arrive armed with ignorance and vile. They call Obama a terrorist, yet can’t explain why they think that. They inaccurately call him an Arab thinking this is synonymous with evil. They have let their minds and their fears run amok. Like all fires, they feed off one another until nothing remains but destructive heat and smoldering ash. McCain cannot control them. He cannot apparently control Palin either. His base has overwhelmed him and he must feel the shame of allowing the creation of this Hydra. Palin controls the crowds now. She stokes the flames of hate and seems hell-bent on burning down the house with everyone in it.

But, remember the mythology. All was not lost when Pandora’s box was opened. Elpis remained to comfort and illuminate mankind in this sinister, dark new world. Elpis was the spirit of Hope. And for all this spreading ugliness, slander, envy, greed and all, we have a clear source of hope in this election. Will we make the right choice?


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Long ago, on a bluff overlooking the Potomac. John MacCain returned home from battle. On his way, he came across three strange witches. Before his arrival, they plotted and planned a most dismal fate for MacCain.

Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches

First Witch

When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch

When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the ballot’s lost and won.

Third Witch

That will be ere the set of sun.

First Witch

Where the place?

Second Witch

Upon the plain.

Third Witch

There to meet with MacCain

ALL

Fair is balanced, and balanced is fair:
Spin and spin through filthy air.

First Witch

A sailor’s wife had patience long,
And waited, and waited, and waited:–
Her husband’s to Tonkin gone, master o’ the Flying Tiger:
But in a cage he thither wail,
Just like a rat without a tail,
He’ll do, He’ll do, and He’ll do.

Second Witch

I’ll give thee a wind.

First Witch

With which to spin and spin.

Third Witch

And I another.

First Witch

We will drain him dry as hay:
Sleep shall neither night nor day
Hang upon his ten-house lid;
He shall live a man forbid:
Weary countless years
Shall he dwindle, peak and pine:
Though his bark cannot be lost,
Yet it shall be tempest-tossed.
Look what I have.

Second Witch

Show me, show me.

First Witch

Here I have a pilot’s thumb,
Wreck’d as homeward he did come.

Airplane overhead

Third Witch

A plane, a plane!
Come, here, limpeth John MacCain.

ALL

The weird sisters, hand in hand,
Pollsters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about:
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again, for 2009.
Peace! the charm’s wound up.

Enter MACCAIN

MACCAIN

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

Speak, if you can: what are you?

First Witch

All hail, MacCain! hail to thee, thane of Hanoi!

Second Witch

All hail, MacCain, hail to thee, thane of Arizona!

Third Witch

All hail, MacCain, thou shalt be king hereafter!

MACCAIN

Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more:
By Uncle Ho’s death I know I am thane of Hanoi;
But how of Arizona? Goldwater of Arizona lives,
A prosperous gentleman; and to be king
Stands not within the prospect of belief,
No more than to be Arizona. Say from whence
You owe this strange intelligence? or why
Upon this blasted heath you stop my way
With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.

First Witch

Lesser than your fathers, and greater.

Second Witch

Not so happy, yet much happier.

MACCAIN

Greater than my father? And Grandpa too?

Tell me more! What say you?

Witches vanish

MACCAIN

Into thin air; they couldn’t stay?
I sure like what they had to say!

And so, MacCain left that day with this new idea in his mind. He plotted and planned. He connived and contrived. With his wife, the ever-shrewd Lady MacCain they climbed and climbed the ivory tower, building alliances and allegiances that would bring MacCain to his destined place.

Years later, MacCain, indeed the thane of Arizona, desperately sought the throne also promised him. He sought the strange witches for a special spell, a binding pact that would assure him his prize. The strange sisters knew his intentions and were already mixing the special potion.

A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

Thunder.

First Witch

Twice the Maverick hath been denied.

Second Witch

Twice the hedge-pig tried and tried.

Third Witch

The elephant cries ‘Tis time, ’tis time.

First Witch

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poisoned entrails throw.
Rove, that under cold stone sat,
Seeks the head to hold the hat.
Boil him first in the charmed pot.

Add a drop of Nazi snot.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Tax returns of gambling stake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of Christian and toe of Jew,
Drums of war – throw in a slew,
Soldier’s tongue and Hannity’s sting,
Keating’s leg and Palin’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Chained to war in the gulf.
Make five friends of friends of Bush

They shall give the needed push.
Throw in lies and promises all,
Climb MacCain, but do not fall,
Rant and rave and call and bay,

Down upon your knees and pray.

Virginian coal and Ohio church,
Lest you leave them in the lurch.

Time to unleash your Alaskan babe
She makes the masses rant and rave.
Make the gruel thick and fat

For the ingredients of our vat.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Cool it with Chicago blood,
Then the spell is firm and good.

Second Witch

By the picking of his chums,
Something wicked this way comes.

Enter MACCAIN

MACCAIN

How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!

Standing there in filthy rags!

I may be thin on top and you call me runt,

But I don’t paint on makeup like a trollop, you cu…
ALL

Behold! A deed without a name.

MACCAIN

You promised me better than that of my fathers,
Yet here I stand, no higher than Goldwater.
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,

It felt good to get out of the rain.

I’ve snuggled with Keating off in the Bahamas.

His money can’t help me gut punch Obama.
The White Castle is in sight, I see.
Help deliver it unto me.

I’ve embraced everything I once despised.

I’ve sold my soul, I’ve compromised.

Even till destruction sicken; answer me
To what I ask you.

First Witch

Speak.

Second Witch

Demand.

Third Witch

We’ll answer.

First Witch

Say, if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths,
Or from our masters?

MACCAIN

Call ’em; let me see ’em. Grrrrrrr!

ALL

Come, high or low;
Thyself and office deftly show!

Thunder. First Apparition: a bald Head

MACCAIN

Tell me, thou unknown power,–

Oh, ‘tis you, Karl!

First Witch

He knows your thoughts:
Hear his words, but say thou nought.

First Apparition

MacCain! MacCain! MacCain! beware Obama;
Beware the thane of Illinois. Dismiss me. Go to Omaha!

Descends

MACCAIN

Heh! Heh! That’s super! I’ll get you, Barack!

I’ll get you for showing me up on Iraq.

First Witch

He will not be commanded: here’s another,
More potent than the first.

Second Witch

Funny you should mention that long bloody war,

Here’s a ghost of a child, one of so many more.

Thunder. Second Apparition: A bloody Child

Second Apparition

MacCain! MacCain! MacCain!

MACCAIN

Had I three rum sours, I’d hear thee.

Second Apparition

Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn.

That’s it.

Just be violent and malicious and vindictive.

Good luck!

Descends

MACCAIN

Whew! That’s easy. This could be fun.

Unleash my rage and this race is all done.

I’ll take off the gloves, and sling some mud,

I’ll rile my base, I’ll call for his blood.

I will hurl at my foe the very skeletons I hide

Accuse him of my sins, and let the people decide.

And if that doesn’t bring the sheep to my call,

My pitbull Palin will persuade them all.

Obama’s too kind and trusting and fair.

We have vitriol and toxic hot air.

Thunder. Third Apparition: a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand. He is surrounded by merry crowds dancing, singing and laughing all around.

What is this
Some infant hippie like the issue of a king?
Who are all those people with flutes

And what do they sing?

ALL

Listen MacCain, but speak not to it.

‘Tis hard for you, but you can do it

Third Apparition

Be lion-mettled, proud; but take no care
No need to worry with war in the air.

MacCain will not be vanquished until

Peace has come to the City on the Hill.

Descends

MACCAIN

That will never be
Who can ever be so stupid as to hope for

Peace.

Oh Boy! Oh Goody! I have nothing to fret,

Haven’t felt this good since my last Vegas bet!

War firm in hand and spreading my rage,

Peace will never come to us in this age.

Soon I’ll be crowned, soon I’ll have won.

Then maybe my father will be proud of his son.

But I must have two terms, to vanquish my past.

Tell me, how long can my kingly reign last?

ALL

Seek to know no more.

MACCAIN

I will be satisfied: deny me this,
And an eternal curse fall on you!

Tell me!

First Witch

Show!

Second Witch

Show!

Third Witch

Show!

ALL

Show his eyes, and grieve his heart;
Come like shadows, so depart!

A show of Eight Kings, the last with a mirror in his hand; Obama following.

MACCAIN

Thou art too like the spirit of Obama: down!
There I see a long line of kings

And yet I can not believe these things!

They do not look like kings of the past.

They look so common, from every caste!

I see a poor farm boy holding his girl.

For these does the true flag unfurl?

These can’t be kings, they do not fit

There is no throne for those people to sit.

What happened to white? What happened to rich?

What happened to my reign? Tell me, you witch!

There I see a skinny young man, and

A tall and strong woman holding his hand.

How can this happen? How can this be?
Why oh why do you show this to me?

I felt so high, now I feel so low.

Apparitions vanish

What, is this so?

First Witch

Ay, sir, all this is so: but why
Stands MacCain thus amazedly?
Come, sisters, cheer we up his sprites,
And show the best of our delights:
I’ll charm the air to give a sound,
While you perform your antic round:
That this great king may kindly say,
Our duties did his welcome pay.

Music. The witches dance.

MACCAIN

Ah… that’s better. Bring a Bourbon with ice.

This feels like Vegas. Let’s roll some dice!


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As I watched the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate I felt personally uncomfortable. I felt like my girlfriend and I were out for dinner trying to enjoy the evening but the waitress kept coming over and overtly flirting with me. During the debate, I kept glancing over to my girlfriend, who wisely ignores these trainwrecks, checking to see if I was somehow getting in trouble here. I was just trying to watch a debate. I did not expect such… er… personal attention. She held my eyes and spoke to me familiarly like a neighbor, waiting just next door. But I was strong in the face of those smiles and winks and I thought I might have caught a blown kiss in there too. I held my ground. I would not be lured unto the Siren’s rocks. It helped immensely that the familiar neighbor talk was largely a major turn off. I guess plenty of fellas out there would respond to all the darn tootins, heck yeas and you betchas, but they made me cringe.

Then I asked myself what if a male vice presidential candidate spoke in this manner. I think we call them land sharks or lounge lizards. I usually just call them greasy or creepy. What if Joe Biden had spent the entire night flashing that million dollar platinum grin directly into the camera, cocking his head, dropping the occasional wink and head bob? I think his name would be on a sexual predator list by now.


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I have to admit, I was getting a little worried there for a while about the newfound excitement growing behind the McCain/Palin ticket. But then John McCains spoke. I will sleep better than I have since Grandpappy Fred delivered his speech two nights ago. I think the scene that captured it all best was when the cams were panning the audience after Cindy McCain’s speech. It settled on an attractive young blonde woman with unbelievably large black buttons on her sweater. She was full-on yawning. Mouth wide, no hand-cover, no apologies. Just flat-out yawning. Then, when she was done, she broke out into a second gaping yawn. The camera operator must have realized his shot was live and he quickly panned left. I was left wondering if that poor girl, with the oversized black buttons might have yawned herself to death.

All this was going on while they were playing Chuck Berry’s Johnny Be Good, one of many great songs that are now forever ruined in my mind by the RNC. Can Kool and the Gang and Heart get together and sue the RNC for damages. I bet Ann and Nancy Williams will never play Barracuda live again. As I saw the poor girl yawning to Johnny Be Good I was wondering why they chose this song. Was it to try to remind McCain to please try to hold his temper? It almost worked.

He smiled his way through his introduction, his approach to the podium, and the longwinded cheering. It was about the third wave of applause and cheers that his old temper looked like it was about to take over. Then the USA chants started in and I swear I heard him growl just a bit. I thought for sure he was about to reflexively let out a “SHUT UP!” But then he seemed to realize he was neither in a closed committee hearing, or standing on the floor of Congress, so he politely reeled in the rage. He should have yelled for the crowd to shut up. They say a speech should have a strong introduction and that would have certainly been a strong introduction. The intro he went for instead, was not. That set the tone for, pretty much, the rest of the speech.

But I will say now in his defense that as boring and unmoving as his speech was, it sounded like a JFK, MLK and Obama oration all wrapped into one compared to his wife’s. What can I say about Cindy McCain’s speech that a corpse couldn’t explain better? I was struck by this notion: the late great Tammy Faye would have been pleased with Cindy’s appearance. And I would have to agree. She did not look like some canary-colored Vampiress tonight like she did last night alongside Mrs. Bush. She told some heart-warming stories about her understanding of impoverished nations and their people. I hope she donated her $300,000 getup form the previous night to the people of Bangledesh. They could make a tent out of her de la Renta when those pesky monsoons come. Sadly, she didn’t confirm or deny if her husband did in fact drop the C-bomb on her. And, in her defense her make-up didn’t seem “painted on”, nor did she look like a trollop (though if she did, no one but John and his 96 year old mother would think to use that word to describe her). She spoke without saying anything. She smiled without seeming kind or nice. Basically she left me with the same feeling I get every time I hear her speak or see her walk into a room: fear. She reminds me of the Snow Queen from Narnia, ready to cast the world into an icy frozen existence while her army of snow leopards wreaks havoc on all the innocent little deer of the world. But that’s just me.

John’s speech wasn’t THAT bad. It wasn’t much better though. He was introduced by a voice over from none other than Grandpappy Fred, which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I felt safe and wondered if summer might not last forever. Before that, I saw a video which taught me a lot about John McCain. Not that he was a POW. I have heard that countless times. I get it. I appreciate it. John is a hero. But do I have to give over my country and my civil liberties. Just because he was a prisoner, do we all have to be? No I knew John’s war record. I didn’t know his father’s (not to that degree anyway), nor did I know his grandfather. Both 4 star military men. That’s when it hit me. The White House is John’s 4 stars. He couldn’t get them with is injuries and all, so he’s going to outdo his forefathers by getting promoted even higher than they ever did. It’s an old macho ambition thing! Now I get it! That’s why he sacrificed his own will in selecting Lieberman or Ridge for Palin. That is why he wouldn’t budge on an unjust war no matter how the real intelligence changed. Ambition. Blind, dangerous Ambition. It all makes sense now. Like Bush, McCain has Daddy Issues. Great! We can all pay the price for those, too!

The speech itself was not only a snoozer in its delivery, but in content as well. And I am not talking about vocabulary, though someone needs to tell Mr. McCain, and Mrs. Palin for that matter, that the word is pundit, not ‘pundint’. But that is a trifle. I mean the real content – all the stuff that makes a simple speech into a hearty stew. This speech was a watery, salty, bitter porridge that left me feeling like little waifish Oliver wanting “more sir”. The most significant thing he said in this speech was that the Republican party has been ruined to its core by corruption. He admitted that they – I presume he meant him and Strom Thurmond – had all gone to Washington 120 years ago to change Washington, “but Washington changed them.” Now he was proposing to fix it… as a Republican. Isn’t that like a cop saying he’s going to clean up the streets by dealing crack for the gang-bangers?

Other than his accurate assessment of the Republican party, there was little meat at all in his speech. There was an attempt to liven it up about half way through. Good speeches often rely on repetition. McCain tried a variation on this method at one point. He tried to mix in a simple equation with the repetition. The equation looks a little like this: “My [insert your policy here] will [insert something good here].” Then add, “His [insert your opponent’s policy here] will [insert something bad here]. The result should be a volley of “Yays” and “Boos” respectfully allotted to you and then your opponent. McCain failed to set the equation up well and it wasn’t until he’d nearly run though his list of inserts that the crowd knew when to “Yay” or “Boo”. It all sounded confused and a little awkward. I figured by then, the girl with the big black buttons was dead asleep in a corner somewhere.

Speeches are supposed to have attention-getting intros; this one didn’t. They are also supposed to have rousing endings; this one did! It sure was rousing alright. It got me so excited; I wanted to run out and punch my neighbor in the head! McCain got the repetition trick right at the closing of his speech. He decided to repeat the word “fight” over and over. This is a great tactic as almost all of us, unless home-schooled, have a memory from childhood of a playground scuffle where the fight-fight chant stirred great emotion in us – either because we were getting pummeled, we were pummeling or we were watching one of our friends either getting pummeled or pummeling someone. Well, there weren’t too many home-schoolers in that audience, I can tell you. Everyone went wild for the fight-fight-chant. I did too. And I will tell you something else. I don’t even know who he was asking us to fight, but I was all for it. Obama and Biden? Sure, fight ‘em! Big Oil? Sure, I’ll fight them too! The Iranians? Fight ‘em! The Russians? Hell yes! That Putin thinks he’s such a big shot! Let’s fight him! Mother Nature? With all her stupid global warming! Let’s fight her too!

But wait. Haven’t we been fighting anyone and everyone for the past eight years? Where has all that fighting gotten us? Maybe McCain’s conclusion wasn’t so great either afterall.

-Peter J. Burns

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