The following may seem like an odd statement to begin a dissection of the reactions to Barack Obama's informercial/documentary from last night, but I assure you it's pertinent.

My mom loves science fiction.

I can remember tiptoeing through her office and staring in bewilderment at the vast assortment of books my mom kept there. From high fantasy to christian literature, biographies to mysteries, textbooks to historical novels my mom's voracious appetite for reading was enshrined on the walls and bookshelves of her ever-cluttered workspace.

At center stage in the impressive array of culture were the science fiction novels and VHSs of old tv shows. Doctor Who and Star Trek stood proudly alongside such works as Earthmen and Strangers or I, Robot. Of all of the seemingly infinite possibilities contained in the books and visual media the room represented, these held the greatest of mysteries.

One such mystery is that of the alien, the "other", the incomprehensible. In contrast to the Manichean settings of fantasy or the psychological obsession of detective cases, science fiction often delves into the uncomfortable realm of the unorthogonal. Human protagonists deal with creatures that have as many dissimilarities with our often ill-fated stand-ins as they do human characteristics.

It is in this mode of thought where we first experience the horrific idea of the alien culture and thought process. Many of the stories I found in my mother's treasure trove told of spacemen who were so unlike us that "culture shock" could not begin to describe the situation. Aliens who not only perceive the universe in a different way, but whose basic fundamental processes of thought are completely incompatible with our own reason and logic. It's not that they're irrational, it's that their definition, were there one, of rationality is completely foreign and beyond our ability to translate.

How does one begin to communicate with a race whose culture is based on, from our perspective, completely illogical and unreasonable tenets? Where does one begin when not only the basic assumptions that allow us to communicate are blown away, but the very concept of communication is something completely different to those on the other end? It's a challenge that many protagonists and ill-fated adventurers have accepted, their efforts the thrilling narrative of the novels I so enjoyed.

Which brings us back to politics. *rimshot*

Joking aside, there's a certain objectivity, self-awareness and rationality one expects from responses to something as important as Barack Obama's half hour infomercial. Whether your response is adulatory or vehemently opposed there is an underlying assumption that while one's gut instincts play into it so too does one's reason.

With that mindset, take a look at the following reaction from Craig Shirley:

On the Barackumentary: After watching The One last night, I weepingly came to the conclusion that our country should change the national pastime from baseball to breastfeeding. Let's all hold hands and sing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," and have a national group encounter session where we can share our pain with The One.

I'm sure if I confess to being a white straight conservative male and thus by definition evil, we can start a national dialogue to help me see the error of my ways. If I try really, really hard and get in touch with my inner child that is.


Putting aside the ambiguity that this could just as easily be discussing the conclusion to the Matrix Trilogy, I must ask one question: "lolwut"

"Irrational" completely fails to describe this succinct diatribe. Rather than engage the infomercial on any intelligible level, he defaults to burning the most sissified strawman in history. Maybe the low price of gasoline was too great an opportunity to miss.

The web of assumptions, condescending notions and obsolete stereotypes is so thick and tangled that I can't even begin to unravel it. Where exactly did breastfeeding come, what does it have to do with baseball, and how did Obama inspire that completely irrelevant point (if there was one)?

Who is Craig Shirley? He is the alien, the other, the incomprehensible being. Our fundamental assumptions, even the concept of an assumption, can not be used to outline or fathom the processes by which this man functions. At best, we can figure out that putting anything remotely liberal in front of him will result in an odd collection of unrelated nonsense spewing out of his mouth.

Unlike the heroes of science fiction we don't have the driving force of narrative by which we can make slow progress. As we encounter these people we can only hope and pray that some potential bridge can be found or built. In the meantime, we must watch in awe and fear as people such as Shirley attempt to dictate the politics of the future.

It would be easier to ignore the existence of these aliens in our midst, but unfortunately they are here to stay, and they will have children who will think like them. The longer we wait in trying to break through to them the more of them there will be and the harder it will be to succeed. Hopefully whoever is president can fix the education system enough to facilitate the process at a young age.

1 comment:

360 Trooper said...

While I feel your "alien" metaphor has some validity, there is a problem. The "alien" is coming from a completely different world, with a different evolutionary development, spiritual background, and national/global/galactic paradigm. Craig Shirley is from the same planet, species, and nation as liberals, and comes from a related culture that shares a common origin with liberal culture. So while the alien may choose an option we find incomprehensible, at least it has the excuse of being alien. The neo-conservative, meanwhile, looks back at 1992-2000 and says "no thanks" to stability and prosperity, instead preferring chaos and horror. Why?

Deep down I really believe that dialogue can fix so many of our problems. But perhaps my preferences in sci-fi and fantasy are born out of the easier solution. When encountering a civilization that you cannot understand, fire and genocide are always the correct answers. And whenever "Joe the Plumber" opens his mouth on FOX News I start to think that dialogue has failed us.