2D thinkers in a 3D world

Last chance!
Voting for Best of Chico, Best of Oroville and Best on the Ridge ends Friday (Sept. 5) at 5 p.m. Log your faves at www.newsreview.com/chicobest. We’ll announce the winners Sept. 25.

Times are tough. The economy is tanking, gas prices are bouncing around, water levels are low, safety risks are high. Government leaders want to tax us more and provide us less. Meanwhile, the national debt is so high that our stockpile of nukes may be all that’s keeping the country out of foreclosure. (It’s certainly not our armed forces—formidable as they are, they’re stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, that may be all that’s keeping us out of Iran.)

Great time to be alive, eh?

Well, we don’t get to choose our era of existence. We’re here, this year; get used to it.

We do have a say in the direction the nation takes, even if the choice of navigators isn’t broad enough for everyone. Neither Obama nor McCain is on the fringe, so change won’t be radical … but, then, it’s impossible for a bipolar system to radically reshape a multidimensional world.

Don’t just blame the Republican and Democratic parties for embracing hegemony. It’s in our nature to see the world as either/or. Humans have the “fight or flight” instinct. We give ourselves kinship affiliations that are by definition exclusionary. Our debates come in point-counterpoint; compare and contrast implies a pair of alternatives.

Cold War thinking.

The 20th century was all about mutual exclusivity. Axis powers, Allied powers. USSR, NATO. Communist, patriot. Roe, Wade. Segregation, integration. And yes: Republicans, Democrats.

Never mind that the Soviet bear was actually a surly cub and black lists, not “reds,” were the real menace. Perception worked like a toggle switch: on target or off base.

Now it’s more like a multi-track mixing board, and it’s hard to fine-tune the balance with so much intertwining of allies, adversaries, ideals and interests.

Talk radio and too many news outlets thrive on labels that spur divisiveness. This mentality has got to change if the world is going to change. There’s no Us and Them anymore (apart from the killer Pink Floyd song). There’s You and Me and Him and Her and Them and These and Those.

Times are as complex as they are tough. That’s why—regardless if you like Obama, loathe Obama, or just think he doesn’t go far enough—at least give him credit for acknowledging a broken paradigm.

• “We cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.”

• “One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character…. The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook.”

• “At defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.”

Since he’s not a total outsider, and his running mate is an insider, it should be obvious even to his most loyal partisans that Obama represents a shift, not outright change. He’s a left-centrist who compromises. He’s a rallier of the masses. He’s alt-pop, not indie rock.

Those craving a major overhaul may wish someone like Ralph Nader were a viable candidate. He’s not, nor is Dennis Kucinich, nor Ron Paul. For now, we have a two-dimensional system—come Jan. 20, 2009, either a Democrat or Republican will be president. Until that changes (2012? 2018?), make sure to make your vote count, for we know from 2000 and 2004 that who gets elected really matters.