The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

October 21

I've received a lot of email about last Friday's letter in which I noted that Obama was planning an outdoor rally in downtown Chicago on election night and warned Republican operatives that, if it looked like there were polling shenanigans on election night, Obama supporters would be in position to burn the city down. This one, from Stephen in New York, was typical:
Do you think a man who's economic plan is designed to make the rich richer will care if the Second City would burn? The rich will be fine, and the people who mistakenly believe they're included when McCain says "my friends" will be collateral damage, cleared out, and McCain's real friends, the wealthy, will buy it all up. McCain's election--God forbid; and, I believe, not going to happen, but who knows?--will be a declaration of class warfare. Despite Republicans' protestations to the contrary.
For the record, I wasn't (to use a favorite word of Joe Biden's) literally threatening the Republican party with the incineration of the nation's third-largest city. I was actually trying to use irony to suggest that maybe election night Obamapalooza in Grant Park is not such a good idea. For one, it reeks of the kind of overconfidence Obama has been warning against. For another, this is going to be an incredibly emotional night, no matter the outcome. I'm not sure that any good can come from cramming tens of thousands of Obama supporters (as well as cranks) into Grant Park unless the event is a secret bailout for the local t-shirt and falafel industries. I don't even want two people in my living room when the results come in, which is why my wife and I will be watching on separate televisions after we've sent our children and the keys to the gun cabinet over to my mom's. You and I have been friends for ten years, and by my count we have had the most conversations about the following topics: Politics, Baseball, Britney Spears, Literature, Irony. I don't know if that's normal or not, but we've spent (yes, literally) hundreds of hours talking about irony (frequently in the context of literature, baseball, politics, and Britney Spears). Irony served us well when we were generally a population of critical thinkers and problem solvers. But as our critical thinking skills have been apparently left behind by our schools, we're left with irony alone, and that has been very bad for us. As a culture we have spent so much time not meaning what we say that we don't believe in anything anymore. It's not just cynicism, which has been around forever. It is a chronic avoidance of truth pervading our media and our culture and it enabled the last eight years of George W. Bush. It has allowed Karl Rove to mock Joe Biden for actually knowing the names of foreign leaders. As Colin Powell repeated on Sunday the only qualification for Vice President is that the person be prepared at any time to be president. Yet John McCain chose a running mate who is not only unprepared, but grossly unprepared and he was called a genius in many quarters for doing it. Part of America responded to Sarah Palin because we love solutions that are counterintuitive. That which is the opposite of obvious must be the real truth. But seriously, ask any parent: 99.99% of life is actually intuitive. We don't always need to burn trees to save the forest, or shoot antelope to save the herd. It's a good thing that your candidate for vice president knows a lot about foreign policy and if you want to save an antelope don't shoot it, in general. It's too late for me. Irony is the only language this old body understands. When I see you in a few months when you come back to Chicago for the holidays I will call you "My Bitch" just like I always do, even though you are the opposite of bitch-like. But I'm hopeful that at least part of the support Obama is feeling these days is a response to his sincerity, as contrasted with the right's obvious sense of entitlement. That would make me feel good. Secretly, on the inside. On the outside, I'll still call it all sentimental hogwash.
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