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July 12, 2012

Up On Hawthorn Hill: Rainy day thoughts

I often wonder why it is that so many millions of dollars are spent on advertising, especially the daily spew of political ads splashed tsunami-like across the country hour by hour. I may be wrong, but I can not remember ever buying anything, or voting for anyone, because of an advertisement.

About the closest we come is keeping an eye out for those discount coupon inserts often sandwiched between the sections of the daily newspaper that one actually reads – well, not always. Political analysts, a breed of cat I pay less and less attention to these days, seize on the these ads with an obsessive fervor that causes one to wonder how they might respond to matters of substance.

The recent coverage of the presidential campaign, as pointed out by one of Washington’s more thoughtful writers, is more concerned with chronicling candidates’ gaffs than it is with the issues that most voters care about.

The other thing that puzzles me is how it is possible for anyone to be undecided about whom to vote for at this stage of the game. According to one view, the millions of dollars earmarked for ad blitzes around the country are aimed at approximately ten percent of the electorate.

I am not one to be critical of indecision, since I am guilty of it as much as anyone, but it seems to me that if one does not have enough to go on by now then the reason is willed indifference – even ignorance. Turns out there is plenty of that to go around.

This year’s presidential election will set records for the amount of money spent. The figures I have read about represent a level of obscenity almost impossible to fathom.

Equally disturbing, and patently indefensible, is the extent to which we parcel out billions of dollars overseas, much of which ends up in the coffers of ruthless dictators and scapegraces of all sorts.

Right now there is legislation before Congress that if passed would not only put quite a few unemployed people back to work, but would go a long way to improving this country’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Its passage is unlikely, yet the same people who oppose this type of expenditure see nothing incongruous, or immoral, about increasing the Pentagon’s budget by several billions a year.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision, one of its least defensible rulings to date, so-called Super Pacs have sprouted up in ways that make mushrooms seem like slugs.

It brings to mind the debate about judicial activism, one that has always struck me as both specious and silly.

Having spent much of my life teaching literature and given much thought to processes of interpretation, even writing a dust collecting dissertation on it, I am well aware of the infinite variety of interpretive postures, strategies, and inclinations that exist.

To suggest that language is as opaque as so called strict constructionists would have it is to assign a level of clairvoyance to oneself that borders on self-delusion. Every one of us comes to our beliefs as a result of many different influences, many of which we accumulate unawares as we get through time. We differ because our basic assumptions differ. Frankly, that is what makes us a pretty interesting, if irascible, lot.

It would be nice if those billions could be put to worthy use. Instead of funding inane ads it would be nice if those fat cat funders would establish college scholarships for needy students. Or perhaps buy up an abandoned military base or two to provide shelter for the homeless. Or even create a private sector version of the old Civilian Conservation Corps.

Meanwhile, forget the ads. Look within.

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