Sunday, October 10, 2004

Still working on that proposal. Once it's turned in, and while I'm waiting for information about some more immediate alternatives, I'm going to do some volunteer work for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. It was exhilarating to walk into our local HQ late on a Saturday afternoon and watch people pouring in to donate time and money, and requesting yard signs and bumper stickers. I later spent some time electronically consoling an Australian friend regarding recent election results there.

Later last night, I watched some televised archive footage of the Kennedy-Nixon debates. It was an odd experience; I haven't actually watched a Presidential debate since the first Bush père-Dukakis matchup in 1988. (I'm still angry with Dukakis because he didn't excoriate Bernard Shaw for asking a totally inflammatory, obnoxious, and personally offensive question in the second debate.) As a committed Kerry voter, I'm admittedly happy with the way things seem to be going this time around, but I still have little faith in the ability of the debate format to resolve real questions; the best it can do is help undecided voters make up their minds, which may be a good cause in its own right. Of course, having watched competitive debates, I also know that good debaters can take any side of an issue. (I won't even get started on the bizarre spectacles of "creationist-evolutionist debates", and the equally bizarre assumption that scientific propositions can be supported or refuted by rhetorical skills.)

Still, it was interesting to watch the one that started it all. I had just turned 4 in September of 1960, and one of my first memories ever was being at a Hallowe'en party that fall and seeing a couple of kids dressed in Nixon and Kennedy masks. One of them had a sign that read, "DON'T BE A DEADBEAT IN THE DEBATE". (Yes, I could read very, very well at age 4, although I didn't yet know what either "deadbeat" or "debate" meant, and the first in retrospect seems to be a confusing usage.) It really did seem like a more politically innocent time, despite all we know now about the Cold War and the personalities and prejudices of the two debaters. Also poignant, given the eventual sad fates of both.


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