The 2008 Presidential Election as Greek Tragedy

This being the first and only write-up on last night's presidential debate that I've read so far, I'm coming from a distinctly uninformed standpoint here. But never mind that. There are only three points which I wish to call attention to, and I don't think any of them requires a higher degree of credibility than I have:

1) I can pretty much guarantee that Senator McCain's almost-decision to "suspend campaigning" in light of the current financial crisis was a purely political move, likely cooked up by advisers to make the Senator appear sympathetic to the crisis and more concerned with his country's plights than his own campaign. But it's a catch-22: if he had suspended his campaign, he would STILL be campaigning. The very act of suspension would have been an act of campaigning. Once you enter the presidential race, you don't leave until someone's been declared victor. EVERYTHING that you do is part of the act.

2) From the Post article:

"Later, McCain's voice dripped with derision as he questioned Obama's statement that he would meet with the leaders of rogue foreign countries, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"So let me get this right: We sit down with Ahmadinejad, and he says, 'We're going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,' and we say, 'No, you're not'?" the senator from Arizona said."

Oh, I know what'll help the USA interact with the world at large: cutting ourselves off from it! No, Mr. McCain. I think it takes a lot of guts for Obama to say something like that on national television (in this era of frighteningly instinctive, "gut-based" electoral politics, Obama now runs the risk of being unhelpfully associated with the Iranian President). I also think that he's absolutely on the right track. Forging relationships--however tremulous--is something we clearly haven't tried to do as a country for the last eight years; and I fail to see how a simple willingness to meet with other leaders--however terrible they might be--can be detrimental to us now.

But I think it all stems from a fundamental difference in worldview that was highlighted later on in the debate...

3) Also from the Post: "The two candidates had an emotional exchange over the bracelets they each wear in memory of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq, underscoring the deep divide created by the war." I think staff writers Michael D. Shear and Shailagh Murray are wrong here: this is not a divide created by the war. This is a divide that always was. See here:

McCain wears the bracelet of a 22 year old soldier killed outside of Baghdad. McCain recounts the plea of the soldier's mother: "But Senator McCain, I want you to do everything -- promise me one thing, that you'll do everything in your power to make sure that my son's death was not in vain."

Obama wears the bracelet of another young soldier. He says of this soldier's mother: "She asked me, 'Can you please make sure another mother is not going through what I'm going through?'"

I couldn't help, in my circuitious mind, to think of Euripedes' play The Trojan Women, which might be the most powerful anti-war narrative ever told. It's not about the soldiering, or even the war itself; it's about how it effects the women left behind, and it's painful. McCain wears a bracelet that symbolises finding meaning in war--a defeatist attitude, as if the act of war is inevitable and all we can do is not seek to prevent it, but merely make sure that it is "not in vain". Obama wears a bracelet that symbolises the possibility that future generations of mothers and sons, of human beings, will not have to suffer the rigors of battle and its gutting aftermath.

"I have left the gates of darkness where the dead are hidden and Hades dwells apart from the gods, and come to this place," says Polydorus, son of Hecuba and Priam, appearing as a ghost, opening Euripedes' play. The candidates are in the "this place" of the play; a place not where the dead are hidden but where the living roam, where "future" and "possibility" exist, where the human mind may still be swayed, or opened. Let us hope that we move towards light, and not closer to the gates of darkness.