Echo chambers can be a good thing sometimes. Many people consider the Hurricane to be an echo chamber. Unfortunately, most of the voices have left the cave, so I don’t know how accurate that would be these days. However, the nature of the echo chamber was never more in full force than the various sites that have been commenting on Sarah Palin’s latest speech. The usual course is a free flowing of what we would call snark. For the uninitiated, snark occurs when people are overly sarcastic and derogatory towards an individual or a group of individuals.
For me, those comments serve a specific purpose, but at the end of the day they aren’t particularly helpful. Yes, they may make us chuckle for a brief moment, but they serve to shut down dialogue more than to inspire it. Think about being strapped to a chair and forced to watch the station (whether it be Fox News or MS-NBC) that matches the opposite of what you believe. Would you feel like compromising and coming up with a common sense solution to our problems after that? I didn’t think so. So, while taking pot shots at specific politicians might seem like a satisfying experience, it isn’t a particularly fruitful one.
A comedian once joked about the often bellowed sentiment that a president is someone you would want to share a beer with. The comedian said, “go down to your local bar. Look to your left and then to your right. Do you see any presidents there?” I don’t want the president to be someone that I can find at my local bar. I don’t have any hesitation in saying that the president is someone that should be even smarter, more thoughtful, and more patient than I am. Maybe in the past an every man would have done. These are increasingly complex times. Whoever is the next president will have to be someone that can process a tremendous amount of information on a number of issues and make decisive and wise decisions on all of them. At the very least, while they may not be able to speak like an expert on every issue, they should at least have the intelligence and wisdom to surround themselves with people that can give them such information at the ready.
This brings us back to Sarah Palin. It would be easy to throw out a quip, turn on the laugh tracks, and then move on. Unfortunately, a litany of insults will not get rid of her or solve any of our nation’s problems. Every level of government has its Sarah Palins. They exist on our school boards, on our city councils, in our state legislatures, and even in Congress. Both sides of the ideological spectrum make their hay making fun of them. While there certainly is a place for satire in our world, we cannot allow our various levels of government to play out like a satire. There are too many lives at stake. There are too many issues that are far too important.
For the people that called Sarah Palin “drunk” or “high” after that speech, just ask yourself this question: if someone threw you up on stage in front of hundreds of people, how eloquent would you be? For the people that said she was suffering from some kind of dehabilitating medical condition, shame on you. Both sides have to be better than that. Even if the others won’t be better than that, each of us has to strive to do more. Have I made those jokes in the past? Shamefully, yes I have.
Perhaps the answer for all commentary and campaigning is not to lower ourselves to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps if we start demanding more substance we will get that which we demand. The usual course for a Democrat is to hope that the other side puts up people in its primary that are so inept that our candidate will have to fall over him or herself not to win. The Republicans think that about Democrats too. The reality is that we shouldn’t wish for that. We should wish for the best and brightest on both sides. It’s only when we fill the room with the smartest and most serious people that we get the best results. If I know my opponent is sharp as a tack then I will have to be more prepared to win. A more prepared candidate makes a more prepared president, senator, congressperson, legislator, or school board member. If you have 535 prepared, serious, and intelligent people in Washington (and an additional one if you count the president) then you just might get more good and wise decisions.
So, make your jokes if you must. Check out Youtube and get in your chuckle. The problem is that most good public relations people will tell that there is no such thing as bad publicity. As long as we are laughing at Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin manages to stay relevant. In between moments of pure schadenfreude just ponder the reality that negative energy exists on both sides of the coin. Someone is feeling it just as strongly towards public figures we like and care about.