Tuesday, August 03, 2004

"People Poll"

Every week, the newspaper runs a multiple choice survey question on the editorial page. It's hardly a scientific poll -- one person with an agenda and no life can sit there and dial in the same answer over and over and there's no way to detect the ballot-stuffing. But sometimes the way you ask a question reveals more than the answers.

Recently I was copy-editing an editorial page with that week's question. The gist of it was, "what is the most important issue in the upcoming election." Choices were: economy, health care, foreign policy, environment, education.

Usually I just keep my mouth shut and say nothing. Usually I know it's only going to earn me uncomprehending stares and suspicious whispering. But this time I couldn't help myself from writing in the margin, "what about 'war on terror'?"

After I handed it back to the editorial page editor, and he read it, he approached me and said, "well, I figure that's included under 'foreign policy.' "

There it is again: the two Americas. Not the two John Edwards talks about, but the one that thinks we're in a dangerous war against a deadly enemy, and the one that thinks the attack on New York and the success or failure of Iraq are to be lumped in with peanut subsidies for Malawi.