Victory in the War on Brains
And a war on brains the last eight sorry years have been. In his NYT column on Sunday, Nicholas Kristof coined that term, which I hope will go viral. It sums up our prior condition… sadly, or still current official condition until January 20, 2009… perfectly. W is even less curious about the complexities of the real world than Ronald Reagan was, if that’s possible. Palin – and Dan Quayle before her – were cut from the same mold… ignorant, proud, cocksure, and dismissive of complex thinking.
I’m hopeful about an Obama administration, because the man himself is an exemplar of cool rationality. Unlike his predecessor, Obama actually values expertise. Unlike W, Obama has a functioning, agile mind that is free of lethally hubristic certainty. Obama respects science, but most importantly he respects the scientific process of exploration tinged with humility. We don’t know everything. But not knowing everything isn’t an excuse to consult the bones and prostrate ourselves before dead gods. Understanding the limits to knowledge should be the default position, from which it is possible to climb towards a higher vantage point. W and his festering ilk don’t have to do that because they already have all the answers. How comfortable that must feel… until indifferent reality smacks you in the face.
It was impressive to watch Obama’s first press conference, on November 7th. He spoke briefly, but he spoke to the points and he made himself clear. He answered questions directly, point by point, with language that was cogent and straightforward. How refreshing is that? No folksiness, no awww-shucks cowboy nonsense, no appeals to invisible sky pixies. Instead we got facts, intelligence, and clear thought. The novelty of that from someone in government was stunning, and a shameful reminder of the stupidity we’ve been forced to labor under for the past eight years.
The contrast between what we had leading this country and who we have now could not be more glaring. W was happy to force abstinence-only education on an ignorant and helpless American youth. W was happy to allow the most egregious young-earth creationist filth to infect the apparatus of Federal science funding. W bent the knee to old-world coal and oil barons who demanded silence – or better, denial – on the issue of anthropogenic climate change. And at every fork in the road, W consulted not with the world’s best and brightest experts, but with his Bible. Under W and his luddite billionaire cronies, we were firmly on the track to becoming the world’s most dangerous third world power.
And now, all that is over. Yes, I’m giddy with enthusiasm. After eight long, dragging years inside a dictatorship of the dumb, can you blame me?