Saturday, September 27, 2008

Can we afford to elect a short-fused president?

Last night, after watching the presidential debate, I couldn't help noticing McCain's festering rage. You could see him struggling to keep from boiling over as he gritted his teeth behind that bizarre mask of makeup he wore. I'm sure he had been coached to "keep his cool" because his temper is something that's well known, and he has an exceedingly sort fuse.

As Obama brought up rebuttals to McCain's claim to "understanding" the world, and particularly his expertise about the Iraq war, by recounting all of the times that McCain was wrong about the war, McCain seemed ready to burst a blood vessel.

Then again, when McCain spoke to what he perceived as Obama's naivete about potentially meeting with Ahmadinejad, he was so incensed that he could barely spit out Ahmadinejad's name, and actually stumbled over its pronunciation.

While McCain so freely slung barbs and lies at his opponent, he was incapable of even looking Obama in the eye. Obama, on the other hand, remained presidential and calm, trying on numerous occasions to make eye contact with the old curmudgeon.

McCain is a relic of the past cold war mentality. He's still angry, 40 years after his capture, that the U.S. gave up on the spectacular mess in Vietnam that took 58,000 U.S. soldiers' lives, and maimed another 350,000--to say nothing of the civilian deaths.

McCain is living in the past and he's dangerous because of that short fuse. He has been known to rebuke his advisors on numerous occasions, and as far as being a "maverick" goes, he's an angry maverick with his hand too close to that red button. And don't even get me started about that "maverick" choice of Sarah Palin. How much real love of country does a man have to make that kind of choice for someone who could very well take his place? After seeing her interviews with Gibson and Kouric, she makes Bush look brilliant.

"A mountain I couldn't climb"

Teaching foreign students has been one of the highlights of my life, for many reasons. Sometimes I hear things I don't understand at all, other times I hear everyday things put into a different perspective, and occasionally I am treated to some delightful insight about another culture. For example, last week my students were given an assignment to go out and find someone who looked like a native English speaker and ask him or her a few questions.

Now, beyond the normal difficulties of being shy or self-conscious about their speaking abilities, most students also have to overcome the major hurdles of communicating with people who speak very fast English and who don't understand foreign accents.

One tall and handsome Asian student came back to tell about his attempt to make a conversation in a Las Vegas jazz club with what he described as "one of the most beautiful women" he had even seen. He said the beautiful woman was sitting with a "not-so-beautiful" woman and he had to make a decision about his chances for starting a conversation with either one of them. After some careful thought, he decided to try to speak with the "not-so-beautiful" woman. Here was his reason:

"The beautiful woman was a mountain I couldn't climb."

I, along with the entire class, burst out laughing because we all understood exactly what he meant.