The roll out and marketing of Sarah Palin as a "new and exciting" product for our Vice Presidential shopping pleasure should seem familiar to us, not as citizens but as consumers.
We are constantly bombarded by the media with hype about a hot new actress, pop singer, model, or reality show "star". Consider how often they turn out to be nothing more than marginally (or at best averagely) talented people who are better equipped for being marketed than performing. I don't know about you but I've got the complete Criterion collection of all the Lindsay Lohan classics.
Whether it is a celebrity or any other kind of consumer product, the same manipulative dynamics apply when aggressively selling an item to the public and it is opposed to the critical thinking process required to successfully make important choices. It is the difference between the impulse buying of a candy bar while waiting in line at the supermarket and the thoughtful purchase of one's first house, making a decision on the superficiality of immediate gratification versus taking the time to fully consider and reason out all of the critical factors of a huge decision and the related impact on one's life.
As a new consumer product, Sarah Palin's candidacy appears to have a bit in common with those miraculous new prescription drugs that will cure us of all of our troublesome afflictions, "That's why there's Sarah Palin. Taken as prescribed, Sarah Palin will cure earmarks, Washington corruption, economic downturns and acid reflux. (Spoken too rapidly to be comprehended.) Side effects may include extreme religious policies, abuse of power, dishonesty, severe partisanship and incompetence in foreign affairs. Ask your mainstream media if Sarah Palin is right for you."
The problem with "products" that have more invested in their marketing than in their research and development is that they too frequently are discovered after the fact to have critical flaws and/or prove hazardous to our health. They can be recalled but by that point, many lives have already been negatively affected.
I am not saying capitalism is a bad thing, it's not, any more than eating a hamburger is a bad thing. However, anyone who has seen the documentary "Supersize Me" can appreciate the potential for destruction and deterioration of a body's healthy organs when a diet consists solely of an excess of one gratifying thing.
We can have our capitalism and a healthy democracy if it is part of a "balanced meal". We can't have capitalism as the basis for all of our decisions all of the time, sometimes we need our fruits, like those handed down to us by the sacrifices of generations that came before us. I doubt the Founding Fathers or this country's brave soldiers who fought and died in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan intended for us to turn around and casually hand over our democracy to the best corporately-financed political marketing team.
A little nostalgia, remember President Bush's exhortation to the country right after 9/11? That we should come together as citizens of America and through our unity and sacrifice, put an end to our dependence of foreign oil to undermine the financing of terrorism in the Middle East?
He told us to go out and buy things (including Hummers that would devour gasoline and increase the financing of terrorism). It was a sobering admission that our corporately entrenched government no longer sees us as citizens first but as consumers first.
It is our responsibility to reject such a disenfranchising designation, not to think and act as consumers first but as citizens first. And that requires us to ignore the superficial marketing of candidates and the distractions of trivial outrages so we can instead make decisions as to who we hand power to over this country through the thoughtful consideration of the policies, issues, facts and future we want for ourselves and this nation.
When we act as consumers first, we are ceding decision-making power over our government to those from whom we are consuming. When we act as citizens first, we retain power...over our democracy, the course of our country and our own lives.