Wednesday, November 3

Reality 0 - Perception 2

"Subliminal perception, perception that occurs without conscious awareness, is not an anomaly, but the norm. Most of what we experience we can never tell each other about — with or without information technology — because we are not even aware of it."
- Tor Norretranders, author of The User Illusion

George W. Bush was re-elected President of the United States yesterday. He did not "steal" his re-election, nor was voter apathy an excuse. Both political parties delivered unprecedented numbers of voters to the polls; some say it is the largest voter turnout in over forty years.

John Kerry was defeated and Democrats throughout the country were defeated and at the end of the day, Republicans had gained seats in the House and Senate. The Congressional gains by Republicans together with the popular vote edging toward Bush must have propelled Kerry to concede the election, even before Ohio could count provisional ballots. This is the act of a brave and wise man. This is the act of any sane person wishing to avoided political death by majority strangulation. No Democrat can be an effective President with a forceful agenda if his plans and projects are consistently voted down by the ruling Republican party. Kerry ran his campaign with characteristic political savvy from beginning to the end and will be around to fight another day.

"In America, it is vital that every vote count .. but the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal fight," Kerry said.

So, what now. Here are what some of the political pundits representing all sides of the political spectrum are predicting. For those of us who like to lick wounds, there are post-election opinion pieces that soften the blow for the Democrats and progressives, and there are opinions that hammer home the unavoidable truth that religious fundamentalists now determine the fate of the nation.

I've discussed the Bush victory with family and friends, and it's clear to us that Bush supporters "voted from the heart" and Kerry supporters "voted from the head." Despite four years of an incomprehensible economic agenda, and four years of ever widening divisions between the rich and poor of America, and four years of environmental recklessness, and almost two years of horrendous bloodshed, Bush is perceived as a compassionate conservative. Still.

He keeps his language honed down to its most basic and appealing level and his speech writers and press agents have perfected the two-syllable spin (e.g., flip flop). He loses his temper, he tears up, he bows his head, he twangs his phrases with heartland fervor, and he is convincingly godly because he rules his obedient wife and honors his parents and pushes faith-based issues which are in direct conflict with America's laws. Even Jerry Falwell could learn a lesson or two from GWB as far as manipulating the masses with "heartfelt" messages while diverting their hard earned dough to create castles in the sky. He is every televangelists' wet dream.

Is America about to enter it's Falwellian Phase? A focus on limited social values such as the non-issue of gay marriage provides the Falwell's with two things: 1) a smokescreen to cloak a government which blatantly promotes the torture, repression and destruction of people it deems as "terrorists" in violation of international human rights laws, and 2) a vehicle by which Falwellian religious bigots can avoid tackling real issues, like the damage caused to families because fifty percent of traditional marriages end in divorce. The Falwellian style-over-substance approach glosses over the issues of the brain and even denigrates the "brainy" relegating them to the fringes of a well ordered, homogenized society.

Lately, whenever I visualize the difference between the Perception Citizens (PCs) and the Reality Citizens (RCs), a scene in The Pianist comes to mind. It's a pivotal moment where Szpilman, the pianist, is discovered by Nazi Captain Hosenfeld. In this scene, Szpilman is starving in a bombed out mansion in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto after surviving the devastation and horror of months of Nazi occupation.

****SPOILER**** He has just found a large can of pickles and is struggling to find a way to open the can. He's emaciated, grimy, shaggy with facial hair and in his weakened condition, he manages to puncture the can but it rolls away from him, spilling precious juice.

In an agony of thirst and hunger he grabs for the can and notices that it has stopped. Just beyond the can he notices a pair of gleaming Hessian boots and the camera pans slowly up the immaculate pant legs, belt, coat and face of a Nazi officer. He's gazing calmly at the Pianist. The contrast between the wild haired, hungry and desperate Jew and the well-fed, polished and confident Nazi is so stark and immediate, it's like a mirage, a fantasy.

Szpilman's reality is finding ways to survive a world bent on killing him for no good reason. Captain Hosenfeld is Szpilman's agent of destruction, but in his mind, he is part of a glorious ethnic cleansing crusade which will return the German homeland back to its pure warrior roots. Their eye contact in this scene is a strange and terrible moment. Reality is struggling with propaganda and when Szpilman is allowed to play the piano, the music transcends the lies and failure of the Nazi crusade. It unites them in a sublime moment of grace, a moment Hosenfeld recognizes as being natural and inevitable and he helps the Pianist survive to greet his Russian liberators.

Bush proclaims that he is a uniter and it will be a challenge over the next four years for citizens who value reality to unite with the those who value the Bush perception of reality. As I see it, Bush perceives the threat of gay marriage as more devastating to the Republic than the threat of a theocracy. Here is where the challenge begins and ends. America was formed as a secular nation, respectful of all religions, races and political views. Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution proclaims the good news that....

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Truth can be based on perception but is always grounded in reality. I intend to keep it real over the next four years for truth's sake.