I’m scanning the news and blogsites for others’ opinions on what happened last night. And it seems that CNN poll numbers give the debate to Obama, despite the topic being considered McCain’s home turf. And though I have to say, watching the show with Republicans around may have affected my opinions, I really don’t feel that Obama had a very strong win.
Some people go on about how respectful Obama was towards McCain, making eye contact and ceding the floor on occasion. Of course, the Republicans in the room took affront to Obama’s use of McCain’s first name instead of title, to which McCain pointedly stuck. I didn’t have a problem with that, since the two are colleagues, and rather than disrespect it could project a warmth towards McCain that the latter’s repeated “Senator Obama” didn’t likewise convey. And when fired up towards the end of the debate, I think Obama was able to use “Senator McCain” to much better rhetorical advantage, indicating a distance on the policies he was emphasizing.
My lukewarm response to the debate, however, isn’t related to his mannerisms and rhetoric. I really do feel like he handled it with poise and intelligence. And it wasn’t that he let McCain, who came across as a floundering bully, score some shots off of him without responding adequately. I think the point at which Obama lost me in the debate, though others consider it the “winning jab”, was when the issue of soldier bracelets came up.
That whole sideshow debacle cheapened it all for me. We all know about McCain’s bracelet, he pulls it out on the trail all the time. But to have Obama stick out his wrist and say what felt like to me, “Nyah nyah, I’ve got one too!” It was discouraging. It was stooping. And while I think he made an excellent point– no soldier dies in vain, and adding more deaths just to prove the first one wasn’t in vain is irresponsible– I still wish he had done it without having to tag along with the “Ooh, let me just say, I’ve collected all 4000!”
And I guess I don’t necessarily agree that soldiers aren’t dying in vain, or at least for very bad reasons. I just get choked up at the idea because of my friends and family in the military, and the worry I live with for them even when they’re stateside and safe. I want no death to be in vain, but I’m also opposed to war on the whole. I’m a conflicted pacifist, like all the others.
But using dead kids to your political advantage should be something we chastise, not something we cheer. And yes, I do say kids, because of the 4,173 soldiers killed in Iraq… well, fuck. I was going to go through and count all the people who were my age or younger. But I only made it through the Bs before I had to stop, because in those two letters, 223 people between the ages of 18 and 22 have been killed in Iraq. I’ll go through and find the full numbers later, to find the average age of a soldier killed in Iraq, and so on. I’m just too… hurt to do it now, seeing all those faces. CNN has a graphic breakdown of this, which states that 1,205 of the soldiers killed were under 22. Another 995 were between the ages of 22 and 24. More than a quarter of the dead were younger than me, let alone my age. These kids are hardly old enough to buy themselves a fucking drink, and they’re dead. They could be in college, or recent graduates, just like me, but they’re dead. They could be voting in this election.
So please, politicians, don’t use them to score points off one another. Bloggers, don’t crow about how Obama one-upped McCain. That’s bullshit, and disrespectful. These people are my brothers, my boyfriends, my best friends, my high school classmates and drinking buddies. They’re not your politically helpful fashion accessories.
Let’s just leave it with what Senator Obama said last night, after that disgraceful display of jewelry, and remember the responsibility that comes with the office:
No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they’ve provided. Our troops have performed brilliantly. The question is for the next president, are we making good judgments about how to keep America safe precisely because sending our military into battle is such an enormous step.