Saturday, September 27, 2008


Last night’s debate was bang up with no clear winner. In my estimation both Obama and McCain held their ground solidly, each appealing to his or her own side. I don’t think the debate made any difference in anyone’s mind, including those supposedly undecided voters. I seriously doubt most voters who claim such a moniker are actually undecided, but that’s another issue.

One comment that most pundits seemed to miss was Obama’s retort to McCain’s excellent anecdote about the mother who asked him to wear a bracelet and to not let her son’s death be in vain. Obama calmly said, “I have a bracelet, too.” He proceeded to bring forward the host of military families who are not in lock-step with the war in Iraq.

I think these stories illustrate the division of the American public on the issue of Iraq. Besides illustrating that difference, I think there is some serious philosophical issues going on, issues that affect our outlook on life, politics and religion. Try this:

  1. Please do not let my son’s death be in vain.
  2. Please do not any other family go through what our family is enduring.

(Here is a hint. The powerful implications are in bold.)

If the not-so-subtle nuances of these two statements are lost on you, then you likely haven’t given enough though to why you believe what you believe, regardless of which statement you choose to align with.


Complaint Department Manager said...

I agree.

McCain's body language and lack of acknowledging eye contact really showed up his temperament. It was condescending at best.

When I heard Obama's response, to me it was like, "You aren't going to own this 'I support the troops more than you' side." I still wish Obama would have stuck it to him more than he did, it's not like he didn't have the ammo.

Jackie Melton said...

Let's cut to the chase, "Jack." Are you honestly suggesting, for partisan reasons, that the grieving mother who lost a son in the Iraq war and supports McCain is selfish but the grieving mother who lost a son in the Iraq war but supports Obama is selfless?

Is that what you are implying???

Jack said...


The brass tacks answer: No. I AM saying that there is a fundamental difference in how people view the same event.

There is a significant philisophical debate going on, something that is higher than war or no war. I am talking about global perception more than one individual person and her terrible, unthinkable grief.

I am talking about the reasons why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do, why, why, why.

Take the post and see it as a jumping on point to discuss the big picture and not as a commentary on the war itself.

Does that make sense or is my answer too aloof and political to make sense?

Jackie Melton said...


I'm not sure how a "big picture discussion" on this topic could do anything other than be a commentary on the war, itself. How can the the "big picture discussion be removed from a discussion of the war in Iraq, and the perceptions of people in that regard, considering those perceptions, in this case, were tied wholly and completely to the loss of a son in the Iraq war and personal reactions to that loss?

I must be one of those shallow thinkers you alluded to, because if you didn't mean to focus on selfishness or selflessness then I don't understand your point at all.

I like it much better when people just go ahead and say exactly what they mean and I'll tell you why. I have learned, as I have gained more and more experience as a reporter and interviewer of people, that often what I think are very common sense interpretations of someone else's comments are completely off base when I interview a person and they tell me their true motive and meaning for a certain comment. I've learned not to assume, or if I do so, (at my blog) to carefully present it as an opinion and note that I have not asked the person for clarification. That has been one of those "learn as you go" things and I'm sure if someone went back in the archives of my blog they'd find exceptions, many of them, because it's a learning and growing process for me (that's just in case someone wants to call me a hypocrite based on long ago entries, it's also why the "flip flop" issue of partisan politics is so ignorant. We are all learning, we are all growing intellectually every day).

It'd be nice if you would clarify what you were driving at because, clearly, you had something distinctive in mind that you thought any thinking person would understand, but I won't ask you directly. I'll just leave it up to you if you want to clarify your thoughts on that and consider myself a shallow thinker. :)

Jack said...


I have several points to make regarding your questions. I’m glad you are discussing this. I think it is important. I pictured you with a big fat grin on your face as you wrote your comments. I hope that’s the case. After all, I love debate and discussion. Here we go:

1. I never stated anyone was simple-minded. I refer you to your own comment about “understanding” being a life-long pursuit. Just because a person has not contemplated a subject, topic, issue or perspective, does not make one simple-minded. I did suggest that if the nuances were lost, then – perhaps – one had not given enough thought to what they believe or why. Based on your comments, that is part of our journey to truth and understanding. By the way, I agree whole-heartedly that we should strive to be life-long learners, constantly redefining and reevaluating our schema. Many times that means we are “flip-floppers”, which is also a good thing in my estimation, assuming it is not done simply to get votes. So let’s move that “simple-minded” garbage off the table this instant. Besides, one cannot read Fat Jack’s Erratic Rants and be simple-minded. [wink]

2. I am not suggesting that these statements are not related to the war, but I only meant to suggest that it may be a philosophical debate that is bigger than just the war. You are absolutely correct that these two statements are inextricably linked to the War in Iraq.

3. I was intentionally vague. Great teachers (and I hope to be one someday by following in the footsteps of the greats who came ahead of me) do not just give students the answers and ask them to blindly follow or accept them. Rather, the great teachers pose problems and issues to the students and allow those students to explore the topic and come to their own well-crafted, thoughtful and logical conclusions. It’s a very Socratic approach. Probe, shake and question what students believe (and why they believe it) in order to get them to think deeply.

Giving students the answers can deflate the brain. That is not to say that my readers are my students; however, I was attempting the same technique here. Rather than just giving my readers exactly what I thought, I wanted them – you – to explore your own thoughts and come to your own conclusions. If I were to give you my interpretation of these two statements, the discussion would likely turn to a partisan debate, rather than a deep, philosophical discussion. I am more interested in the latter. For instance: What are the implications of such statements? Is one selfish and one selfless? Which is which? Does the answer change depending on your perspective? How do these statements, which are core beliefs, affect other beliefs? Is it possible for both statements to be selfish? Is it possible that both statements are destructive to America?

4. I am going to be vague again, and probe. I presented statements that the candidates threw out during the debate. Actually, these are the statements from some victims of the War in Iraq – mothers who have lost children. I highlighted the differences in their statements, but made no assertions or interpretations as to what that might mean.

What is interesting, (and this was my intention) is that you came to a conclusion on your own. You drew conclusions about what the statements meant and then assumed your interpretations were mine. So my question to you, Jackie, is that do you believe deep down in your heart that the mothers who want to keep fighting are selfish and the mothers who do not want anyone else to die and feel what they’ve felt are selfless? Now I do not want you to answer that on my blog, unless you really want to. I pose the question because you are the one to come up with that interpretation.

5. As I have set this up as a discussion for others, then I cannot very well start asserting my thoughts now. You all can. However, if you want to talk “after class” (read that as a lunch discussion) then we can do that.

This is fun. Thanks for the challenges, Jackie. It keeps me on my toes, keeps me thinking and learning and growing.

Jackie Melton said...

Jack, this statement:

"You drew conclusions about what the statements meant and then assumed your interpretations were mine."

Well, I was being careful to ASK you if it was your intention to imply that. You gave the clues by emphasizing words, by emboldening and then identifying those emboldened words as a hint, as "the powerful implications."

So, yes, in some ways I did make a conclusion considering that hint and those words you identified as "the powerful implications." One might conclude you were drawing a comparison to one who thought of HER, individual son and the other who thought of OTHERS who might face the loss of an individual son, as she had. The selfishness or unselfishness factor, in my opinion, was definitely hinted at by your choice of emboldened words, and I naturally DID assume, that being the topic for discussion, that you, being an Obama supporter, would lean in a certain direction. So, there we go with assumptions. They really are difficult not to make, aren't they?

The other issues you brought up are good issues for deep thought. Maybe as I have time they could be explored. Right now isn't an especially good time.

I do hope others might weigh in on the discussion too, though.

...and, I don't think either mother is selfish, for the record, both are simply thinking in terms of their own core beliefs, as you mentioned, but, I do believe you had something particular in mind, whether you choose to share it or not because you implied it.

Actually, an alternative argument could be made that the Obama mother was more selfish than the McCain mother because she was thinking in terms of her own pain not being passed along to others while the McCain mother was thinking of others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for a specific goal: that goal being American interests and security, a goal beyond personal, individual pain and a pain that exceeds personal pain and considers the best interest of the nation.

So, it is as you wrote, it all depends on one's personal perspective, but, it seems to me the issue you are alluding to is definitely a question of selfishness versus selflessness.

Jack said...

Bingo, Melton. You just proved my point. All I did was produce the statements and let you fill in the blanks. I gave hints, but as you pointed out, there are two (and probably more) inferences that could be made.

I knew you would make them, with enough probing. The truth is, I anticipated them both when I wrote it. Honestly, I think they both hold some water, depending on one's perspective. I do think; however, we could really explore this in a deep way and really learn a lot about ourselves and our thoughts. We might find that we flip-flop.

New subject, but just as important:

Did you notice that we had a civil discussion? (and we are both from different perspectives.) How about that? Too many of our blogger friends take the questions, probes, and friendly jabs too seriously, getting all bent out of shape, making accusations.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Thanks for the fantastic questions and challenges you sent my way. And the little jab about the whole simple-minded piece too. I thought that was funny.

Jeremy D. Young said...

What happens when someone that doesn't support either candidate questions whether either of them will bring the troops home?

I think the one thing in common is that the candidates of the major parties are using and abusing the loss of someone to make political gains.

Both bracelet statements probably caused some people to swell emotionally, but neither was likely to be genuine. These are politicians vying for the highest office in the country. Do you think that they fail to have the rhetorical prowess to move the masses?