After I stopped exercising
I worked out today, not while writing my blog on the elliptical machine, but while listening to the elliptical debate of the Republican presidential candidates.
Two of the meanings of “elliptic” according to the Free Dictionary (okay, not the most authoritative source but good enough) are:
“a. Of or relating to extreme economy of oral or written expression.
b. Marked by deliberate obscurity of style or expression.”
These two meanings seem at first contradictory. As someone whose tends both to run on and muddle, I would normally characterize ‘economic’ expression as clear/precise.
And yet, as I listened to the Republican debaters, the two meanings of elliptic meshed. Almost every candidate tried to pepper his or her answers with catch phrases–lines that were short and memorable–but hopefully not clear enough to alienate. (Economic ideas, that is, solutions for the economy–other than “fix it,” “grow it,” “trust in Amex,” and forget about anything green, except for cash, seemed especially obscure.)
A few odd juxtapositions: Governor Perry, when attacked for his executive order requiring young girls to get vaccinated against HPV, claimed that he will always err on the side of life. Later, Perry said, however, in a voice that grew more gun-smokey as his answer went on, that his sleep was never troubled by the high number of executions in Texas. v Romney talking about poorer non-taxpaying Americans as not supporting the troops. (Ahem, Mitt, who makes up most of the troops?) Bachmann inviting Ronald Reagan into the no-raising taxes pledge group.
Those juxtapositions could probably be labeled as trivial. But one, which was particular to me, seemed more serious. This arose not from what the Republican candidates said, but from my particular day. With all the emphasis on 9/11 here in NYC, a friend had me listen to a very sad clip about Welles Crowther (the “man with the red bandana”), a young Boston College grad, fledgling securities trader, who led two groups of people down from the 79th floor of the South Tower through the only usable staircase to the safety of ascending firefighters on the 62nd floor. On his third time up to see whom else he could help, Crowther was caught in the Tower’s collapse.
Catastrophe–disaster–emergency often seems to bring out the best in people. In contrast longer-term hardship, a state of emergency that becomes the norm, seems sometimes to wear down those generous instincts–that desire to help others, to step into the brink. (Perhaps not in extraordinary people like Welles Crowther but certainly in many others. )
In the end, it was a kind of brittleness, a worn-down hardness, that I found most troubling in some of the candidates–a hardness towards the Ponzi-profiting elderly, FEMA-depleting disaster victims, uneducated children, and even towards that old conspiracy-promoting inconveniently-warming Planet Earth.
(PS – in interests of disclosure, I missed beginning half of debate in which I understand there were a lot of very odd juxtapositions–Perry/Hilarycare/jobs under Dukakis, etc. etc.)