Friday, September 19, 2008

Our Politics Today

It seems to me like our politics today is like trying to figure out good strategies for teaching science while creationists are beating at the doors.

There are good science teachers and bad ones; there are different schools of thoughts on how to teach science; and so forth. But none of these things can be hashed out when people are demanding that science teachers teach unscientific falsehoods. Rather, you close ranks -- which elides the (very serious, if you take science education seriously!) problem of how to teach, and who can do it well -- and focus making sure that science is taught at all.

You can't figure out how to do it well until everyone involved in the conversation is at least trying to do it.

You might have noticed: we have an enormous number of problems in the world. We're in two wars that aren't going well; our country's economy is swirling down the toilet (and while I don't know enough to say for sure, it may well be that the result will be a huge bill for the taxpayers and an inability for the government to do any of the positive things that need doing); our constitution has been shredded by the current administration; we now torture as official policy, and lots of people are OK with that; we have a terrible health care system; and so on.

But we can't really deal with -- can't begin to deal with -- any of these problems as long as the crazies are in the room.

The sheer level of insanity -- lack of actual attachment to reality -- represented by the present-day Republicans is such that it's not so much that they have bad ideas: they have mediocre PR masquerading as ideas. Mainly what they have is a favor towards war-mongering, culture-war and giving lots of money to the rich -- but quite frankly they don't even do any of that very well.

It's not that Obama will fix everything. He may not fix anything much. His ideas on health care may be bad ones; his administration may die an inglorious death in the mountains of a guerrilla war in Afghanistan; he may not be able to do more for the economy than keep it collapsing. And so forth.

Obama may not fix everything, or really anything -- but he'll let us start having rational conversations again.

Once you kick the creationists out, you may be left with a bad science teacher, using a terrible pedagogical method. But gorram it, at least science will be being taught -- not falsehoods.

Defeating McCain will solve little; Obama has lots of flaws. But electing him is the first step towards righting our politics.

Unfortunately, winning this election won't sufficiently change the debate. We need to root out the insanity -- the willingness to do anything, no matter how crazy, how detached from reality, how vile or immoral or destructive -- that has become the mainstay of Republican politics. We need to make it so that those voices are no longer causing us all to go deaf from their screaming.

Then we can talk about how to dig our way out of the hole we're in.

Which is to say: even defeating McCain won't solve this problem. It's like winning one creationist argument -- they're still there, arguing for nonsense to be taught. And that will still make it difficult for us to move towards getting good science teachers and good science pedagogy, being too busy make sure we have someone teaching science at all.

But it's the first step. The necessary first step.

I don't know how we're going to dig our way out of the disastrous mess we are in (that, let's be clear, Bush has put us in). I don't know if we can.

But we can't figure that out until the lunatics leave the building.

That, my friends, is step one.

After that, we'll see.

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