With the imminent publication of Sarah Palin’s memoir, Going Rogue, and the just-released Sarah From Alaska (written by two embedded campaign reporters), attention has been turned back in recent days to last year’s Republican presidential campaign.
Juicy tidbits about the McCain-Palin ticket’s late-stage meltdown continue to be strategically leaked so as to whet the appetites of those who have already elevated Going Rogue to number three on the bestseller list at amazon.com – which, interestingly, is selling the 30-dollar hardback for 9 measly bucks. The same people – fans, foes, and the merely curious – will also blow Oprah’s ratings through the roof when Palin appears on the show on November 16.
The Democrats have been backward-gazers of late, too, albeit wistful ones – longing for the days when candidate Obama’s charisma and rhetorical genius could make hearts flutter and tears flow. Hearts may still be beating fast and there might be some crying out there, but these symptoms have other causes now: deep anxiety and profound disappointment.
As someone who has had a pretty big crush on the President (and the First Lady), I’m disheartened by all the negativity and the piling on. But I also feel some of the anxiety and disappointment myself – a pretty good dose of the latter, actually.
But then (as I go back and forth on this) I’m reminded that much/most of our cultural anxiety and disappointment – our general dis-ease as Americans – is largely and regularly manufactured by pundits and prognosticators whose (dubious) business is to continually keep people edgy about something.
Our imaginations are being colonized all the time – no big shocker there. We’re instructed what to feel, how to react, when to panic with every bright-colored “breaking news” logo that flashes across the cable-news cosmos. Which, by my unscientific calculation, is at least a half-dozen times a day.
David Dark asks and answers the central question this way in his book, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything: “Is someone putting us on, giving us an assortment of paradigms we feel strangely compelled to put on ourselves? Yes. The put-on is on.”
This is not news, of course. But it is a sober reminder that how we evaluate our leaders, narrate our past, explain our present situation has a great deal to do with how leadership, history, and our current “reality” are framed and shaped, packaged and programmed for mass consumption by ever-proliferating mass media in the grips of monied interests.
The media conglomerate underwriting Sarah Palin’s new book will make a tidy profit or, more likely, an obscene one. The columnists and talking heads damning President Obama at every turn (on both Fox News and MSNBC; in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times) benefit handsomely from the advertising revenues generated by their fear-mongering copy.
So patience and perspective are called for. A sense of calm. A refusal to panic. An ability to avoid being pulled into the vortex of spin and speculation intended solely to unnerve and incite. Qualities, come to think of it, that were evident in candidate Obama and which might – just might – one year later, be present in a President trying to lead.