It was the comic Eddie Izzard who coined the phrase “babies on spikes”: “In America,” he said, “I felt there was a spirit of ‘can be done.’ What do you want to do? I want to put babies on spikes. Go, then! Go, what a wonderful idea. It’s the American Dream!”
But when election rhetoric starts to heat up, I like to dust the phrase off and add “I’m against it!”
Babies on spikes? I’m against it!
This, for me, perfectly illustrates a diversionary tactic that has proven valuable in the past to polarize voters by inflaming passions and forming camps around something that was not even an issue just the day before.
Just saying I’m against something means I have taken a stand on the (non) issue that is obviously counter to that of my evil opponent. Being the first to even raise the (non) issue by taking my stand indicts my opponent who, obviously, disagrees with me.
Abortion is, of course, the go-to topic of (non) issue heated discussion. Fun to notice how this same topic rarely, if ever, is discussed, except on the campaign trail.
How often do we good citizens happen upon a rip-roaring flag-burning?
I’m going to go with “never” here, based on my personal experience of more than half a century.
Yet, this (non) issue has been used with such success over the years that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it brought back like a Broadway revival.
Babies on spikes? I’m against it!
It’s actually kind of fun to watch from a safe distance.
Some (non) issues are floated but don’t really take off.
Recent but temporary eruptions included pretend offense at the notions of fooling around outside of marriage and of being too rich. These (non) issues blew over, probably because the pot-calling-the-kettle carried an inherent risk. Plus, rich equals winning in America, and Americans value winning maybe more than anything else.
“Gay in the military,” went out with a yawn and can no longer be called into service as a divisive (non) issue and — brace yourself — we even gave women the vote.
That dreaded “sucking sound” of America’s industries headed south played pretty well once but, turns out, the jobs went east instead and — yes — it did suck, but Detroit recently announced new jobs at an average $29 an hour, so we seem to have lived to learn this same lesson again another day.
Unfortunately for voters, this political shell game hides the real issues.
Is it time to redefine our military role in world affairs? If we can be honest and admit our intention as “Team America — World Police!” we might go ahead and ask those South Park writers if we can borrow the design and get busy.
Or maybe we want to pull our troops out of everywhere and in tight and mind our own business. We would likely come down somewhere in the middle of these extremes, but polarizing rhetoric prevents much legitimate discussion.
Are we really a democratic free enterprise system? Really? Then why did we shore up failing banks and the auto industry and let loose “stimulus” packages? Maybe we are a closet socialist society. Works for the military pretty well from paycheck to medical care to housing. We are likely best served, again, by policies somewhere straight down the middle.
Somewhere — between prohibiting abortion and mandating criminal executions, between tax burdens carried disproportionally by any segment instead of everyone carrying a fair share, between Gandhi and Rambo — is sanity.
But it’s way more fun to host a tea party or organize an occupation — to stand behind opposite facing podiums and decare, “Babies on spikes? I’m against it!” — than to solve problems.
Take a front row seat with this perspective and the nomination process for the Republican Party becomes a stand-up comedy routine. Every time a (non) issue gets whipped out as a talking point (Pipeline!) replace it (Babies on spikes!) and have a good laugh.
And, even better, remember all this is just the warm-up act for the real show later this fall.
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