Friday, September 12, 2008


Though I couldn’t bring myself to watch the entire interview, I did see a tiny segment of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson last night. And it finally struck me: all those grins, all those talking points glibly delivered, all that salesman-like addressing of the interviewer by his first name, “Charlie,” all raise one question.

Is this a real flesh-and-blood woman, or a robot?

Think about it. She has this piled up hair, all in place. She dresses in perfectly fitted suits (not Hillary-type feminist pantsuits either) that fit her perfectly. She has this perfect smile and this near-perfect delivery of her perfectly crafted lines. I mean if the Republicans had designed a candidate to their exacting specifications—hockey mom with five kids, small town mayor, governor of the most Republican state in the Union, rabid supporter of the NRA, Christian Fundamentalist in the most extreme segment of the most extreme end-times sect in the nation, pro-lifer who not only talks the talk but walked the walk to bear a child she knew would emerge with Down’s Syndrome—they couldn’t have come up with a better model. She even talks about the Iraq war as divinely inspired. And while she was at it, last night, suggested that in order to assure Georgia’s entry into NATO, it would be worth risking a war with Russia.

I mean, is there no doubt in the woman? Not a tic or a pause to reflect on what her blithely optimistic words might mean? It seems not. Robots have no doubts. Robots do not reflect. Robots simply move straight ahead to their programmed ends. God wants war—we go straight ahead. God wants my firstborn to serve in that war (apparently with a little help from a drug bust to be fixed by enlisting)—praise be. God gifts me a child with Down’s Syndrome—have it and be thankful. No doubts. Not a worry line in sight.

It’s something that has kept gnawing at me since that convention night when she gave her speech. All I could think of was that Down’s baby. The dominant impression was that he, like the rest of the family, only moreso, was on display. He kept being handed back and forth, first to Cindy McCain, then to the 8-year-old daughter, then another daughter, then the father, then on stage to Mom for a few seconds, then back and forth and to and fro. An exhibit—a human exhibit to prove his pro-life Mother’s humanity. Only that humanity was nowhere on display, then, or since. I mean having a child with Down’s cannot be a picnic. One knows the difficulties that are coming. The heartache. The constant questioning of the decision. But none of that ever seems at issue with Sarah Palin. Her smooth brow remains smooth, her smile fixed, her cheeks rosy, her upbeat aggressive confidence ever undimmed. Is there a heart there to ache at all?

This is why the robot answer comes to mind. A robot doesn’t have heartache. A robot doesn’t fret about the future. A robot simply rolls straight to the target. All systems go, like a drone swooping to launch its rockets into a suspected enemy hideout. And if there happen to be a few collaterals damaged, no problem. We’ll just tinker with the targeting system and do better next time.

What is most alarming about all this is that, increasingly, it appears that our politicians are all becoming more robotic. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the prototype—the original robot who gloried in his past role as the Terminator. A killing machine. Perfect candidate to be governor, where he became known as the Governator. McCain too; since the Convention repeating without letup the same lines, the same expressions, the same fake emotions. A robot. It almost seems to come with the political territory these days: you want to win public office, you become a robot.

The trouble is, these robots get into office and make decisions that affect our lives. Reading about Bush and his robotic response to 9/11 makes the blood run cold. He wanted blood. The man had to prove how tough he was, and his programmers, Cheney et al, knew just which buttons to push to get him to “man up” and agree to the most cruel and inhuman measures. Kill the bastards. That was really the program the CIA initially came up with: we’re going to go into Afghanistan and kill ‘em all; there’ll be flies walking across their eyeballs. Nevermind trials; nevermind habeas corpus; never mind Geneva; nevermind the law; just kill ‘em. And the cold eyes of the robot president sparkled with anticipation, his robotic response being the one all robots employ: “do whatever it takes.”

Robots. The entire nation, more often than not, seems robotized. Seems to WANT to be robotized. Robots that don’t feel. Robots that don’t worry or have fears. Robots who live their lives out on computer screens or TV screens where robots like Sarah Palin look perfectly cool for the perfectly scripted parts they play. And if there are some malcontents who yearn for the days when real humans displayed real concerns about real human problems, why never fear. The luddites you will have always with you—until, of course, the robotic End Times sort out the us’s from the them’s, once and for all.

Lawrence DiStasi

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