01. October 2004 · Comments Off on No Banners, No Bugles · Categories: General, Politics

There is something very curious going on in this election; for all that the candidates are debating, and every issue is being argued, hammered on, protested and shouted over in every venue from network television, the blogosphere and dead-tree media, the candidates are conspicuously absent from yards, and vehicles.

I know the area where I live is not apolitical, and even though Texas is not a swing state, it is not absolutely 100% for one candidate, but in the last few weeks I have only seen a bare handful of cars with Bush/Cheney, or Kerry/Edwards stickers, not more than half a dozen or so. I cover pretty nearly every street in the development where I live, and there are only two houses with Kerry/Edwards banners. Another resident has a car covered with Kerry/Edwards stickers, but it was parked in the garage the only time I spotted it. There are two houses with Bush/Cheney banners. I missed 16 years of presidential elections through being overseas, but I am quite sure that banners and stickers were much more evident in previous campaigns.
There are far more houses with American flags hanging, and Texas flags, and little banners in the window with blue stars denoting military service, and bits of patriotic folk art on fences, or amid the geraniums, nothing overtly partisan, provocative.

Maybe the absence of campaign banners and stickers is as telling about the degree of passion this particular election arouses. Just about every other election that I remember— and I am old enough to have been aware of the Kennedy-Nixon debate— had a certain degree of theatricality about it, rather like a pro wrestling match, roaring great hollow threats at each other and mugging for the crowds’ applause. Deep down, one had the sense that it was all staged for an effect, that there really wouldn’t be much difference between them, in the long run. The great grey work of the federal bureaucracy would roll ponderously on, perhaps with small diversions to the right or left, regardless of who was the official designated figurehead. After the one-every-four-year sports event was over, everyone put away the partisan banners and were friends again, like fans of the World Series or Super bowl contenders.

But not this time. We are on the other side of the great chasm that 9/11 put across our world, and on this side, the outcome of this election matters to people. We are passionately convinced that it matters, completely assured that the election of one or the other will be an unmitigated disaster, that we are betting the lives of our children— and that is more than hyperbole for those of us with sons and daughters in the military—on the roll of the electoral dice. This is more than just the regular election circus; the conduct of the war against the forces of aggressive Islamofascism depends on its outcome. Do we carry on as we began, or change tactics, and what will be the final human cost?

This matters greatly to us, but in a strange way, it’s become almost private, like the things that really, really matter. This is like your religious beliefs, or your sexual practices, or your income tax returns— not something that you want to put out in front of just everyone, but keep among friends, or people whom you know can be trusted to begin screaming. And this is not something you want to provoke other people about, unnecessarily… after all, you share the neighborhood, or at least the highway with them.

And really, the only place where it really matters that you state your preference will be in the polling place on Election Day.

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