Since I was a kid, I’ve loved magic, learned and performed tricks with cards, coins, magnets, (foam rubber) rabbits, large silvery clanging rings, false bottom boxes, ropes, and guillotine-like finger “slicers.” I found Harry Houdini mesmerizing, and I still love going to a good old fashioned magic show – as I did the other day to watch a self-described “Hogwarts graduate,” Michael Barron, who does “magic tricks for a living.”
We know that magic is an illusion, that the finger sliced off when the blade falls will be restored, yet we scream, for our collective mind suspends its disbelief, wanting to believe we’ve observed a magical singularity defying all past experience and common sense.
We play the fool, indeed we crave to be deceived, so we may puzzle, “how do you suppose he fooled us?”
How is this like politics?
It’s similar but not so harmless.
In politics, we often have the oleaginous con, the pol who does not perform as well as a tyro carney magician, he may even appear to be a clumsy oaf, stumbling to speak, having nary an original thought, a slender resume to fill the elective post he seeks, but he searches cleverly, like a political dowser might, to find the wellspring of our hope or fear that he promises to satisfy – while our jimminy cricket whispers, “you know, he can’t possibly do that.”
You’ve heard it this silly season.
One says – Walls will go up I tell you.
Another – Opportunity will rise – beyond your wildest dreams.
There’s a high price we pay for being suckered by such political misdirection.
One political hat trick in American politics is to invoke our pride, that Americans are just so “exceptional,” members of a nation like no other on earth, “the greatest,” but, unlike Muhammad Ali, we are not told that we have to train or sweat to succeed.
How does it improve our lives if America conquers the known world with weapons or dollars, and the blood of our young, making those dissenting nations, busily objecting to our interference, do what we want?
Do we think we can innovate because (somehow) that’s our genetic legacy while short-changing education we’ve made too costly for our children to afford?
Can we enjoy Camelot weather, safe in the resolve that this much ballyhooed climate change “fad” we are supposedly causing will pass without us lifting a finger?
To choose one challenge alone, our environment, and how we are compromising our quality of life, health, and our survival, we fail to emulate other nation states that are recycling heat from industry, creating centralized cooling and heating systems, running public transport on biogas and renewables, encouraging cycling, and re-cycling, conserving, doing more with less, incentivizing more efficient cars, smaller cars, favoring electric cars with free plugs in the public square, encouraging urban gardening, also countless green roofs that slow down flooding by absorbing rain water, underwriting photovoltaic solar panels on public and private buildings, opening private spaces to share space responsibly, and installing metric systems that measure the progress (or failure) to shrink our carbon footprint, individually and publicly.
Our efforts to sustain ourselves are token by comparison to our “inferiors” across the seas.
It’s past time for the thought to take hold we have to get going.
It appears our national slogan is, “Carpe mañana.”
We may be “exceptional” principally for how strongly we hold fast with pride and fail to do what’s right and necessary.
We must pull back the political green curtain that obscures the hard work required, cultivate our disbelief of easy transitions, and create change that is real and substantial.
Now, that would be just like magic! Abracadabra!