Failure of the suspension of disbelief and critical distance

I don’t care for horror movies. I never have. I actually find the experience of watching physically painful. I theorize that the difficulty arises from 2 factors: my inability to suspend disbelief and an overabundance of empathy. I feel absolutely terrified as the music swells while the next victim is walking through the empty hallway/cornfield/other place with lots of doors, blind turns, or reflective surfaces. For whatever reason I cannot take enough distance to make viewing such films (or reading the books) tolerable.

This evening the results for the mid-term elections are trickling in. Jason is in his element – live blogging over at He consumes politics like he consumes sports and, in my mind, the way that some folks my dad’s age who were too young to serve followed WWII –  making predictions and enjoying the complexity, the strategy, the personalities and the drama of it all. I am keeping him company in the postmodern manner (sitting next to him on the sofa as we each work on our laptops, reading each others posts and chatting on facebook), but I would rather be in bed with a book because watching the election coverage is also a physically painful experience – waiting with bated breath for the inevitable outcome. In a horror movie in any given suspenseful scene you wait with the potential victim to see where the killer will come from but you don’t believe even for a minute that the victim will escape. The only thing that is not certain is the manner of their death.

In my mid-term nightmare the certain victim is the dream of a better United States where fundamental rights, protections and responsibilities are extended to all citizens even if they are Muslim, atheist, gay, poor or Mexican. Dying tonight is the dream of an America characterized by civil and democratic debate (contrary to popular belief this is not the kind of conversation that only democrats have) guided by founding principles and empirical evidence. Falling under the axe tonight is the hope for an open economic system that prioritizes the well-being of the nation instead of corporate interest and a health care system that provides quality care to everyone regardless of their income. I am sitting here with Jason awaiting the inevitable – confirmation of the fact that, not only do I feel like I do not belong here (except Vermont), I live in a country where a great many people hold my education, occupation, lifestyle and world view in significant disdain. Beyond that, according to some of the Americans voting liberals out of Washington tonight, these characteristics don’t just make me wrong, they make me evil.

I agree that Washington is dysfunctional. But let’s take a lesson from Star Wars, Episode 1. Padme seeks immediate relief for the people of Naboo. The Senate needs to discuss the issue in a committee. Padme says something like, “I see that the Senate can no longer function. I call for a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Senator [whomever].” And the next thing you know, Senator Palpatine becomes Emperor Palpatine. I would call that “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

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