Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Opinion: 'De-Saintising' Politics

There is a marked double standard that all Americans practice when it comes to their public figures. For a society that does not think twice before filing for divorce, isn't it strange that politicians don't have a chance to a public office if they have been divorced?

So, it is official now Obama is the winner of the democratic race. Hillary Clinton heads towards accepting the vice-president nominee slot. A historic bid for the white-house comes to an end (I know not the white-house just as yet, but as intense if not more).

The results don't surprise me. Clinton's tenacity in the last leg does - mildly. Over the frenzy of the democratic race of the past few months one thing has become quite apparent, this historic battle was not purely about race, gender and creed as it was pitched to be. It was as much about the attitudes, aspirations and prejudices that survive and thrive in what is considered by many to be one of the most progressive democracies in the world.

Lets talk of prejudices first. Extensive grass-root survey on why not him? or why not her? has yielded some interesting insight. Mind you, this is not the informed, analytical opinion that rests on the understanding of Obama's excellent speeches or Clinton's impressive track record. This is the 'tabloid fodder' opinion that usually makes or breaks a campaign.

Why Not Him: He is inexperienced. Has no clue of the travails of the white-house. You would not like to wake him up with the 3AM call. His wife is not proud to be an American. He thinks all Pennsylvanians are gun-totting red necks...
Why Not Her: She is manipulative. She is power-hungry. She is will do anything to be president. She stood by her husband despite the Lewinsky Scandal. She preferred to spend mother's day campaigning instead of spending it with her daughter (refer to power hungry). She is as superficial as Aishwarya Rai, her smile does not reach her eyes (our desis have an opinion too :))

Do you see a pattern emerge there? If Clinton was a man, would any one of those points genuinely count? Why is being power hungry considered a sin for a woman and ambition for a man? Why would you blame a woman for standing by her errant husband. Should one not praise the strength of her character? Prejudices are things that laws can only reign in, never fix. So they will remain. What emerges in this case is that in the US it is far easier to be anti-woman than be anti-black.

And that takes me to the second part of my observation on attitudes and aspirations. These attitudes might be prevalent world over, but they emerge very strongly in US politics. There is a marked double standard that all Americans practice when it comes to their public figures. For a society that does not think twice before filing for divorce, isn't it strange that politicians don't have a chance to a public office if they have been divorced?

Bill Clinton was in the dog-house for having an affair while in office. If that was a criteria for losing a job a large chunk of the population world-over would be jobless. OK, so it was not so much about having an affair, but getting caught in the act right? So you are basically impeaching him for being stupid? I am told it's not even that, it's lying under oath. Point taken, but what is more harmful a lie, Clinton declaring under oath that he did not have an affair(normal human reaction for anyone caught with their pants down) or Bush declaring with conviction 'There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq'? Should we have not impeached Bush for not only leading the country on a wild goose chase but also for murdering a country and sacrificing so many American lives in the process? Has he not failed in his job as president as opposed to Clinton whose failure was more personal in nature? To me Clinton deserved a hard knock on the knuckles (mainly for using the white-house for his pursuits, if he had done what he did outside.. none of our business) and Bush impeachment.

If you look around, Clinton was not the only one with a roving eye. JFK had an affair with Marilyn Monroe. Look at the French. They have no problems what-so-ever :). The French ofcourse never had any puritanical pretences but, closer to home in India, Nehru was a known womaniser, but our nation continued to revere him. And the less we say about 'Mahatma' Gandhi's experiments with celibacy the better. Yet, it is Clinton who has made history in this respect. The generation of Americans that turned a blind-eye to JFKs distractions has long given way to the far more demanding modern American. An American who expects his leaders to stand by all those values that he himself discarded long ago.

Which takes me to the moot point of this piece. In this era of specialisations, is it practical for us to expect our politicians and heads of state of be sarv guna samppan- impeccable human beings in all aspects?. We all have human failings. How can we expect our leader to have none? Isn't that too lofty an ideal to aspire for? A man could be a bastard in real life, yet run the country with honesty, integrity and acumen that makes a good president. On the other hand another human being could be the perfect family man, yet be corrupt, ineffectual and weak. A politician's job is to run the country. Period. And as long as he does that job well and keeps to the laws of the land shouldn't we mind our own business?

I know the halo around Obama's head as just got stronger, but now it is the time to remove that halo, to conquer the need for seeking an aura. Time has come to de-saintise politics.

An edited verision of the article resides here :

No comments:

Post a Comment