Friday, March 26, 2010

Telling tactic

A reader observed that pointing out the former Mayor of Wasilla's use of crosshairs might have been, let's say, a bit hyper-sensitive of me. I'll explain my perspective -- and I'm going to take the scenic route, so bear with me.

The first rule of survival, I believe, is this:

Know where you are.
Fixing our position, even generally, is essential to choosing tactics in a survival situation. Conversely, being oblivious to location and surroundings can reduce our chances of getting out alive.

It's a principle with parallels. During the American Revolution, for example, the British made a famously bad tactical choice. Retreating from the Battle of Lexington and Concord, their red coats made them easy marks for the upstart colonists, who picked them off from the cover of walls and hedges, hillocks and houses.

The British failed to recognize where they were -- and in that time and place, the nature of warfare had changed. They ignored their surroundings. They didn't survive. They lost the battle and the war.

While we must use observation and discretion to choose our tactics, our objectives need not change -- to survive in unfamiliar woods, win a war, stay married, impress the preacher, get a raise, buy a car. Achieving those objectives, however, absolutely depends on our ability to adjust our approach as circumstances change.

In everyday life it's easy to spot folks who can't or won't adapt -- the guy who jabbers about old girlfriends on a first date, the woman who wears a low-cut blouse to an executive job interview, the kid who doesn't grasp the connection between a messy room and privileges curtailed. Obviously, those are poor choices.

More than that, they speak to the person's judgment (or lack thereof). They are, to use a term of tactical art, tells.

So now, finally, we come to Caribou Barbie's crosshairs.

Her objective, presumably, is to attract and keep followers. Her political surroundings won't allow her to achieve that objective by relying on rabid conservatives alone -- if she's to become more than a novelty, she must choose tactics that appeal to independents.

The current climate among anti-Obama right-wingers -- her immediate surroundings -- is one of anger, some of it now expressed in the form of death threats, destruction of property and yes, there are allegations that some lunatic discharged a deadly weapon into a campaign office.

In that context, the tactical choice to use rifle crosshairs to highlight vulnerable incumbents is, in my opinion, a reflection of lousy judgment. It may not alienate ideologues and entrenched partisans but for independents, those of us who actually think about such things, it's a tell.

It doesn't make a bit of practical difference, by the way, whether this PAC-rat doesn't know where she is or simply doesn't care. And really, considering her dubious track record it could be either. In terms of judgment, it's the same tell.

Some say that politics, sports and life are full of metaphors like target, reload, bomb, blast, fire and shoot from the hip -- and I say that's
beside the point. If it weren't, we wouldn't wince when we hear someone say "ground zero" flippantly in reference to anything but a sacred place in New York City.

Words matter. Symbols matter. I don't insist on manifest political correctness but I do demand sound judgment and critical thought.

The former Mayor of Wasilla has shown me neither. Those crosshairs are just the most recent tell.