The first time last week that I saw the picture of Sarah Palin holding her baby, a hot fire whipsawed through the synapses of my brain. It was the incendiary quote "Obama's 'Death Panel' would kill my baby" that was repulsive, as if she had taken a page out of "Manufacturing Pathos 101" handbook.
I immediately thought about a section of an all-dialogue story I'd written for my writing group a couple of years ago, where a successful novelist who was having trouble with his latest book was getting advice from a book doctor.
"You know, Young Buck, for all the effort you put into writing these books, you’ll probably only be remembered by one random phrase. If you're real lucky, they might be able to connect one of your titles with your name without having to look it up."
"But there’s no easy way to do this. It's almost as hard to write bullshit as it is to-"
"That's where you’re wrong, Young Buck. Chopping ten cords of wood is hard. Digging a hundred yard ditch is hard. This," the grizzled old man said, sweeping his thin brown hand over the younger man’s desk, "is easy.
And don’t be going for that dead baby sympathy bullshit either,” the old man continued. "Hell, I could whip up an opening scene with a thug shooting a newborn in the head with a nine millimeter at point blank range, spraying the baby's brains all over his crib as his crack addicted momma slavers naked in the corner, and I guarantee you I’ll get more tears on the first page than the ocean’s got waves."
We watch billions of hours worth of movies a year. You would think we would be experts at deconstructing the manufacture of fake drama, that we would be tired of the way directors and producers try to pull at our heartstrings as if they were playing a violin, the same way newspaper and internet editors do, but the longer I live, the more I am slowly being convinced that the majority of us like this ham handed use of tired archetypes.
The clumsier the execution, no pun intended, the better.
But, like the old man in the excerpt above, I guarantee that there are people all over this country who are still wiping away the tears after seeing that picture, people whose need to hate all things Obama may have been waning a little, because...well, because this healthcare stuff is COMPLICATED, and who has time to read all that stuff?
I don't know where the White House has stashed the people who boiled down an entire political campaign to three words - "Yes We Can" - but they need to get them back to work immediately. Although with all the moving parts this legislation will have, it would be a tall order indeed to boil it down to a three word phrase.
The people who can understand the enormous benefits that healthcare reform offers to them, their loved cones and their community haven't read the healthcare proposal either, because its COMPLICATED, with many key passages that are tediously written by lawyers in a way that is easy for the unscrupulous to use verbatim, as people like Sandra Rose have shown, in order to frighten people into believing things that are simply not true.
For those people whose eyes lose focus when they look at that picture because a baby, that good old symbol of sugar plummed helplessness, is having their life threatened by that nasty old bogey man in the White House, Sarah Palin is a hero, regardless of the job she abandoned, or her lack of in-depth knowledge about anything.
I mean, who else could you trust to shoot straight with you about healthcare reform when a woman like Sarah Palin has a record like this?
Certainly not that fellow with the permanent tan who sits in the White House.
Me? I'd read it for myself.