Monday, October 27, 2008

What Does the Word Authority Mean?

As I contemplate the temperaments of both McCain and Obama I'm struck by how the words each of them uses indicate two different and distinct definitions, connotations, of the word "authority".

It's not an academic point. It has to do with why they want to be president and how they would use the office.

McCain believes in having authority, that is to say, a position of power. He wants to be president for the power that office would vest in him. As a military man, with a top down, command and control world view, he wants the very highest position in the land for its commander-in-chief role. Like Bush?Cheney he sees the presidency as being the seat of power, the commander-in-chief of America, not just the military.

The unmistakable clues can be found in his language which is sprinkled with military jargon. Ready to "do battle on day one". Not wanting to dampen the "ferocity" of the woman who called Obama an Arab at one of his rallies. And McCain's acolytes, the Bill Kristols, using militaristic analogies like "I attack" and "give it a shot" and in their spun columns cheering him own, as in "Onward Christian Soldiers".

He relies on demonizing his opponent, calling for "victory" over the enemy, and calling that opponent weak and soft on terrorism because he proposes discussing differences, tantamount to surrender in McCain's view. It's a black and white, all or nothing, win or lose world view. It guarantees continued aggression, by using language that pits people against each other, of right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or evil. You're either for us or your against us.

This is the language of the neocons who stir up dissension and conflict around the globe in order to set the stage for future battles for which the arms industry and the Pentagon, the military/industrial complex, can justify designing, making, selling, and employing the tools of war, so they can play with their new toys. The ones who die with the most toys wins.

Obama, in stark contrast, believes in that definition of authority which has to do with knowledge and expertise; being an authority on something. He wants to be president in order to have the platform it provides to persuade others to follow him; to be able to use his knowledge and expertise in the country's behalf. He salutes another for being an authority on something important, not simply because that other is, for a time, in a position of authority.

The choice on Nov. 4 is clear.

We have a candidate whose temperament is such that he will use the presidency for its position of authority in his treatment of the people of America and the people of other countries, relying on the power of that position to get his way. It is at least a negative and veiled threat approach.

And we have a candidate whose temperament is such that he will use the presidency as a platform from which he can address Americans and others around the world, coming from his own personal strength as an authority on the challenging issues which he wishes to address, in order to persuade others. It is at best a positive and non-confrontational approach.

One wants to be in charge as a way of leading his subjects by virtue of being in a position of authority. He wants to rule.

The other wants to persuade people to follow him by virtue of his ideas and proposed solutions to complex problems. He wants to govern.

The former smacks of a monarchy. The latter is the way of a democracy.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper

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