A Measured Response

A friend forwarded this email conversation to me.  It's the last two exchanges in a political discusion between him and a family acquiantance.  The response is so well thought out, and it sums up my thoughts so much better than I did, I felt compelled to share it here. 

First, here's the email from Steve's family acquaintance

(This message was the result of a brief exchange where a Pro-McCain message was sent to Steve, and he replied by simply saying, "Go Obama!"). . . .

I can't believe you would prefer socialism to the form of government our forefathers fought so hard to get.  Tell me what Obama has done for our country so far that makes him your choice.  Also tell me what change he plans to make that you see as positive - I am NOT interested in his higher taxes or socialized medicine - people come from Canada and Europe all the time for surgeries they can't receive or at least not before they would be in a dire situation or even die in their county because of socialized medicine.
Don't tell me you are caught up in his media hype - you have a keen mind -
Are you also aware that he is refusing to produce his birth certificate - it may be that he was not born an American citizen - his visa as a small child was not from the US. 
Are you honestly comfortable with his terrorist friends?  Doesn't this send up a red flag?  I think he is the most frightening person ever to run - Hillary isn't so anti-America as Mr. & Mrs. Obama.  In fact, it would not surprise me if Hilary voted for  McCain - listen to her comments after Sarah's debate.
There is some speculation that Obama could be the anti-Christ - I can't judge that, but I have heard the evidence and it makes me wonder - of course, only God knows that. 
This man is not interested in keeping our country the land of the free - but if he is elected, we will have to remain brave.  I have a lot of information you need to read and think about, but I won't just send it as you will most likely delete it - however, I would send it if you would read it and check out its validity.
Steve, you frighten me with this statement - I fear you have been dooped.

Now, get some milk and cookies.  Here's Steve's epic response:

I've been weighing the value of a response ever since I received your e-mail.  I've had trouble drowning out the nagging argument in my head, so value be damned, I'm responding.

Your assessment (that I can only come to support Obama by gullibility) undermines the effort I've taken to research and understand the issues and insults the intelligence and values I've cultivated with which to appraise them.  I've garnered enough experience to warrant respect for my opinions, and such a casual dismissal is irreverent.  And since I usually speak when I feel it's important, I would hope that my shared opinion would have a little more gravity.

That said, my intention here is to respond with measured words and respect.  I am not here to be critical of you, but critical in reviewing the issues and arguments.  Remember, we're all in this together, and in the end that's how we have to work it out.  In return, I hope you entertain or at least respect my perspective.  In that light, maybe we can agree to disagree.

I want to start with this; that experience has taught me that the truth generally sits between two extremes.  That's where to find balance.  It's also the core value of debate, and the wisdom of the democratic process, and our system of checks and balances.  I believe THAT was the intention of our forefathers when they created our 'living' document.  It's important to test and weigh ideas, and important to listen for what rings true on BOTH side of the fence.  Generally speaking, dismissing or ignoring one agenda altogether, no matter what the reason, is just that: intentionally ignorant and therefore unbalanced.  That applies to both extremes of the spectrum.

A lot of these extreme viewpoints are propagated by appealing to one's sensibilities, stringing an emotional charge along a series of loose associations to conclude with something that sounds factual because it had us hooked at the start.  That's how to rally an angry mob.

It's also a way to make complex issues look temptingly black and white.  And every argument in your response paints Obama as evil.  (Oddly enough, you didn't offer any support of McCain's platform, which I have to assume is your preference by default.)  I really wish the election was a simple choice of good and evil, but I can't accept that simplicity.  How often has circumstance cleared the gray area from life and the issues?  Consider that the VP of the Republican ticket is eroding the typical conservative notion of family values with a pregnant teen.  How?  Because that's life. It's messy and most of it is gray area.

I also have difficulty with this rallying cry against Socialism.  Just like 'pink is the new black,' Socialism is the new Communism in modern McCarthist politics.  But before we get to that, let's discuss what Socialism is.  Socialism attempts to create an egalitarian (everyone is equal) social system through redistribution of resources.  Taken to extremes, it's unbalanced, easily corruptible and dysfunctional. No one's contesting that.

But looking closely, we have examples of small-scale socialism all over our government.  Anything that is subsidized by taxes for the level benefit of all (especially with tax bracketing) is socialist.  Your local library, the majority of roads we all drive on, the police that regulate those roads and respond to crime...  our taxes go to pay for those, and poor people who pay less than we do get the same benefits too.  Socialism!  At this moderate level, it's generally thought of as government. Is that what our forefathers are frowning at?

On that same thread, we can argue that any regulation applied to the free market of capitalism is socialist in nature; these policies are put into place in an effort to keep the market fair and free of exploitation.

So before we paint a big ugly word on something and cast stones at it, let's consider that word, what it means and how it does or doesn't work.

More importantly, let's examine what we're painting.  Is Obama supporting socialized medicine?  According to your argument, he is trying to make our system like Canada's, where care is paid wholly by taxes.  If you don't read the particulars, you might make that assumption.  So let's do our homework and look at those particulars for good measure.  Obama's plan focuses on regulation of insurance companies and drug companies. His goal is to allow us to make medical decisions with our doctor, not by the limitations of insurance carrier. His plan builds on the existing system, uses existing providers, and the existing doctors and offers the same coverage of government workers to those who otherwise have none. This is not Canadian Health Care, it's an attempt to improve our own. The specifics are here:

Where does the money come from? The plan intends to fix current inefficiencies and leverage money from new regulation. And of course, there are taxes. Wait a minute. Taxes and regulation fall into the 'gray area Socialism' just like libraries and police. As I stated above, that's simply government. The issue is not socialism but bigger versus smaller government. And the question here is whether it's 'New World Order' enough to sound the Socialist alarm and throw the word around as a slur. Perhaps it is for you, but I'm willing to give it a try. Checks and balances (if not the next election) should bring it back around if it becomes problematic. That's American.

Regardless of systemic moniker, can you even say with a clear Christian conscience, that your neighbor should not receive medical insurance if they're impoverished?  'Love thy neighbor' is a rather bold tenet of Christian faith, and a shameful principle to sacrifice for semantics and elitism.

On the topic of Socialism, what of this bailout?  That smacks of socialism more than any example I've cited, and the champion of the bailout?  NOT OBAMA.  Additionally, McCain wants to buy up bad mortgages.  More Socialist policy, and again, NOT OBAMA!  You have to concede that the politics of this election are by no means black and white, or good vs. evil.  If only!

So you're not interested in his higher taxes either.  I'd be surprised if his plan affected you directly, since it will increase taxes on incomes greater than $250k.  I read this as a modification of the existing tax brackets, which we've already determined to be socialist in nature, but really just government being government. And while we're on taxes, let's remember that it was our first Bush that forgot to read his own lips and raised taxes.  What was the result?  It buffered the budget and economy, and in the irony of our shortsightedness, Clinton got credit for the good times.

The birth certificate claim that you herald as fact sounds suspect, and what do you know?  The authority on urban legends dispels that as a silly rumor.  That's good enough for me.  Spending any more time on this subtracts the time I have to follow and assess the issues that aren't rumor, but important to me.

In regards to your other point: I have a friend that had an abortion in high school.  We were in marching band together.  I went to a party at her house once.  I guess that's the same as having an abortion myself.

That's the exact same line of logic that this 'terrorist friends' argument follows.  Those who want it to be more than it is will believe it so. My father had his favorite talk radio station on the other weekend and they were crucifying Obama as a terrorist himself because he knew this guy.  (The strength of this terrorist tie is also addressed on This is exactly what I mentioned above: string an emotional charge along with loose associations and the conclusion looks temptingly factual.  We all know what kind of emotions the word 'terrorist' elicits.  We marched into war in Iraq in the wake of grief from 9/11 with vengeance in our collective heart.

I've heard two other arguments trying to tag him as a terrorist: his middle name and the question of his faith.  His middle name is Hussein.  Mine's Cameron.  There is no line of logic to follow there.  But isn't he Muslim?  He's not.  And if he were, would that matter?  Is that a prerequisite for our commander in chief?  In all their wisdom, the forefathers established this as the Land of the Free by guarding religious freedom.  Not freedom of a specific faith.

And a thought on patriotism; how do you prove that someone is anti-American?  Can you quantify or qualify Americanism?  I'm completely baffled.  I've always been leery of arguments regarding patriotism, and believe it's thrown around to simply skew perception.  It's a tactic used to make someone appear as an outsider. I said it above and I'll say it again, we're all in this together.

It's interesting that you put a little distance between yourself and the claim that Obama is the anti-Christ.  You won't judge him on that claim, but you'll still casually mention it.  As for the claim, grade school history provides us with the Salem Witch Trials as an example of similar sentiment to reject this as nothing more than un-provable superstitious conviction.  Furthermore, pegging someone as the anti-Christ is on the level of other end-time extremists: the Waco Branch Dividians, the Raliens, and Jim Jones.  All of those followers were convinced, as was Salem, but the rest of us know the truth with the passage of time.  Besides, we've already had plenty of other figures identified for that role: Hitler, Mussolini, and even the recent Saddam Hussein.  Ah!  Hussein!  Man, I'd be fucked if his name had been Saddam Cameron!  The anti-Christ label is used to incite hysteria, and is ridiculous.

All of these arguments have been explained or dismissed to my satisfaction, and are no further concern to me.  Spinning those wheels any more is a distraction from the policies that are being discussed, and those are the issues I'm following and evaluating to determine my vote.

So what are those issues? Like you, I'm untrusting of big government. But I'm placing greater importance on foreign policy, plans for energy independence, economic strategy, environmental welfare, and civil rights.

It's not what Obama's done that sways me. It's more of what he plans to do.

He offers more diplomacy to foreign policy - a better strategy to build global confidence than McCain who refuses diplomacy with our biggest rivals. It's a much better strategy to rebuild our global image in the wake of Iraq, and image impacts confidence and eventually impacts the strength of our dollar. Additionally, he has a plan that puts a time limit on our occupation in Iraq. McCain will pull out as soon as we're victorious. How do you measure victory at this point?

Obama's energy plan is robust, like a diversified portfolio. His plan leans on federal incentive, tax credit, and investment programs to eventually support commercialization of viable alternative energy technologies. McCain focuses on fewer technologies and is relying on market forces that move at a pace too slow to yield the necessary results in time.

I'm not well versed in either economic policy, but Obama believes an early focus on energy is key, and that outsourcing should be targeted. McCain's bailout plans are more pointedly Socialist than anything else I've heard.

Many conservatives have just now acknowledged that global warming is a real issue. They still refuse to acknowledge that 6 billion people (more than double the global population when you were born) have an impact on the environment. I was appalled when Palin said in the VP debate, "We have got to encourage other nations also to come along with us with the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that." Considering the U.S. has yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol from 1997 (when 182 parties DID, and duly noted that our president at that time was a Democrat) and similar opportunities since, we have to focus on catching up before we believe we can blaze the trail.

Civil Rights issues come to a draw. I was disappointed to hear Biden deny marriage for gays. That's simply where I stand.

So after assessing those issues and party platforms, let's take a broad look at the candidates in a general sense. McCain and his campaign have lacked consistency, except in the mode of reaction and transparent politicking. The VP pick was a glaring political stunt, as was the sudden adoption of reform as a mantra, and use of the term 'Maverick.' McCain "suspending" his campaign was a weak talking point, and so far has backfired on him. There is a great statistical chance that he dies in office leaving Palin as commander in chief, and I'm not confident in her or comfortable with that following her initial Ms. Teen USA South Carolina–like performance with Couric.

Obama has been consistent. He is the tortoise in this race. His calm, collected, and measured persona is the representation I want of me on the global stage. His use of the media, which you criticize, is actually impressive and current. It speaks to this generation. His campaign was founded on the notion of change, support for the middle class core of the country; he has touted alternate energy strategies, and supported the right of differing opinions. McCain has picked up these sound bytes after realizing their popularity, from being a Maverick with a average middle class hockey mom, to diversifying his energy plan, to conceding that Obama is actually a decent guy. Also consider that the president is merely a figurehead to the advisors he surrounds himself with. Obama is clearly better advised and up to date in his campaign, and I consider that a 'prologue' to his presidency.

I also want to point out that I don't hate and fear McCain as you do Obama. I just don't think he (or his successor) is the better of the two options.

So no. I have not been duped. I have prioritized the issues, considered them at length, weighed the extremes and assessed it all by my values. If I weigh different issues and come to a different conclusion than you, is it necessarily by gullibility? Is it not valid? Is it really that awful that we're not alike? Next time you forward political content, please consider that and the discussion you're inviting.

Sorry for being a windbag, and thanks for reading.

Uploaded 10/27/2008
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