Well, it’s election day. I, for one, could not be more glad to see it come to an end for a while. The various races here in Oregon (and SW Washington) have been crazy. State and US races for House and Senate seats have taken over the whole landscape. The TV is dominated by all of it—which is fine with me. I don’t mind the idea of turning away from the television in disgust. But I can’t even seem to drive down the street without being hit with a barrage of messages which would like me to believe that the world will come to an end, if I fail to vote for some candidate or other. The enormous pile of expensive campaign mailers that have landed in our mailbox in the last few weeks blows me away. I keep thinking: There must be about a million better uses for this money.
A candidate is shocked and incensed by the “attack ads” of his/her opponent and is telling me about it in his/her own return attack ad. Of course, that prompts another ad from the other side. Back and forth, back and forth goes the game of one-downmanship. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can seem to rise above it. And the minor parties simply lack the budget to join the fray.
As I drove through downtown Hillsboro the other day, I noticed on the marquee of a theater/dinner house that they are planning to show elections results there tonight. Now, this establishment is an interesting one that my wife and I have been wanting to try out for a long time, but have just not had the opportunity. We have stepped in a time or two; and we have heard about it from others. It is an old movie theater which the new owners refurbished and combined with a restaurant. Patrons can then combine their eating with entertainment—if I understand it rightly. Sometimes they show movies; sometimes they have live performances.
Last year (I think it was last year), the marquee displayed the fact that they were going to show the civil war game between the Ducks and the Beavers. When I saw that they were going to do that, I thought, How cool! A big room full of people enjoying dinner, dressed in their orange and black or green and yellow and making a bunch of noise cheering for and against the two teams. Kinda like a sports bar, but at a dinner house. What fun!
But the other day, as I drove past, I saw that they plan to do the same kind of thing with tonight’s “election results.” This strikes me as a bit… odd. With a sporting event such as the Ducks/Beavers game, people can cheer or groan or whatever, and nobody really takes any of it too seriously (one hopes). But is that what this election is like?
I keep imagining the news of victory for some candidate or ballot measure being displayed on the screen—to the joy of some and the chagrin of others. Do the victors openly cheer for their side? Do the losers openly groan or whatever? If not, why bother watching the results in such a venue? But as I imagine the “winners” hooting and hollering and celebrating their “win,” I immediately begin to imagine the reaction of the “losers.” It seems to me that things could get pretty ugly. I wonder about the wisdom of hosting such a gathering.
Then I had an even more disquieting thought. What if things don’t get ugly, because nobody really takes any of this political stuff any more seriously than they do a Ducks/Beavers game?
It is nothing new to realize that politics in America is almost indistinguishable from entertainment. And there is little distinction between entertainment and sports either.
The other day, I saw on television that Sarah Palin had said that she was quite willing to consider running for the office of president in 2012. The fact was reported by a regular newsperson; and then the clip was shown in which she actually said it. It was in an interview with Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight!
And why not? We have already had the oval office occupied by actors and saxophone players.
The dizzying circus of American political-entertainment-sport is almost enough to put me off voting altogether. By the time the next election rolls around, I may have come to that point. For now, however, I will go ahead and voice my opinion quietly on my ballot at least this one more time. I have left much of it blank, but I have marked a few things. And I expect to drop it off some time this evening.
I do not share the belief of many that these elections are of grave importance. I do not believe that the one political entity I really care about, the kingdom of God, is in any danger whatever the outcome of this or any other election. But I do agree that the ideas that are represented on my ballot are serious ones. They matter.
On Superbowl Sunday, at the end of the evening, one team has a Lombardi trophy. The other team has long faces. But it is not the end of the world for anybody. It was just competitive and fun entertainment. It seems that that also is what we are to think of the sport of government.
I will be watching the election coverage tonight with interest. But what I will probably notice more than anything else is the festival spirit with which it is enjoined by participants from every side.
To the coliseum! The game’s afoot!