To the Editor:
Daniel Nichanian offers a useful perspective on political organizing in the Obama campaign (“Cult-like chant does not translate into real change” 2/18). Mass movements guided by fanaticism have indeed been the causes of political strife, contributing to social, racial and economic regression in the United States. American citizens should be vigilant against zealotry.
It seems remiss, however, to wholly categorize Obama’s support as fanaticism as the word “cult” suggests. This reduces grassroots support for Obama to a brain-washing phenomenon, a view popular media encourages. As news stories curiously analyze black women or latinos, wondering whether race will trump gender, whether interracial conflicts will inform people’s voting strategies — this argument similarly uses a well-known trope, that of a ‘blind-American-sheep-people,’ as a way to reduce the complexity of this election.
To participate in a political community, it seems useful to think about one another’s choices as more than displays of (ir)rationality. Perhaps they signify our state of affairs? Perhaps they point to a shifting political era for the American people in which Hillary and Barack are just symptoms rather than agents? Finding answers to questions like these foster a conversation about ourselves as political beings beyond innocents who are moved by demagogues. The tenor of American life informs the election, and this is the more inspirational part of elections. Not celebrity endorsements or cheers, however fun.
So let’s give the American people more respect in their decisions.
Elizabeth St. Victor
The writer is a senior in Silliman College.