Since graduating college, I have realized that nothing prepared me to be a citizen of the USA more than the good ol' teenage sitcom, my personal favorite being Saved by the Bell. My addiction to the show started on Saturday mornings in the mid-1990s, when before going outside to play I would watch characters Zach Morris and A.C. Slater battle it out week after week to determine who was the King of Cool. Even though 85 percent of the show took place in a school, it wasn't about the education -- the basic premise of the show was the teenagers' continuous battle to be cool.
The American political culture seems to revolve around coolness, too. Our current crop of politicians are just a bunch of high schoolers who turn incredibly important decisions and actions into battles to persuade the American public that they are the coolest kids on the block. The "hangout" for them is not the Max, as it is in Saved by the Bell -- it's the halls of Congress and the White House.
Two weeks ago, I got to see Howard Dean speak at a Democratic fund-raiser. As a registered Indie, I value these events because I listen for answers to the prevailing questions of the day. Suffice to say, I was disappointed.
Not two seconds into Dean's speech, he was damning anything and everything Republican, and speaking in "rightisms," meaning "we are right because we are Democrats." Of course, Dean had some sound bites on immigration, the war in Iraq and the status of corruption in Washington; but nothing went deeper than the "we are cool" theme.
On television, I watched Sean Hannity espouse support for President Bush for his virtue and honor and the dignity he brings to the office, basically ignoring the hatchet job the president has done with much of our budget and the quagmire that is our defense policy.
What neither the Democrats nor the Republicans -- not to mention the media and American public -- will ever admit to is that politics is simply a reality show/sitcom hybrid. We report on news stories that accentuate the sexy, scandalous and controversial. We are fed images, not information, that in large part lead to a society making decisions based less on who has the acumen to make a decision and more on who looks best doing it.
This is much of the reason that I chose to register as an Independent: Our two dominant political parties have too much power, and they make politics about who is the coolest. In 2004, when the presidential and vice presidential candidates went on national television and played dumb when it came to national statistics on heart disease and AIDS, they all got free passes. Yet we will debate who would be best to drink a beer with, John Kerry or George Bush.
I don't want a Zach Morris in the Oval Office; I want a president. I don't want an A.C. Slater analyzing the news; I want political critics who are informed and who speak to the real issues of the day.
Decker Ngongang, a native of Charlotte, is a financial professional and committed citizen.