Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Golden hour

Sometime in early spring of last year, I went hiking up the western flank of Pyramid Peak in the central Sierra Nevada mountains. I had been up in that area plenty of times but this was an unusual time for me to be there, all my previous trips being in summer. And an unusual trip it certainly was! It was the time of the year when the snow from the past winter is in an advanced stage of melting; wherever you looked, you could see freshly uncovered soil still laden with last year's wildgrass, the grass still bent and flattened from the few feet of snow that it had lain buried under for four months. The soil felt different, the vegetation looked different, even the air smelt different.

It was a classic moment of transition, a rare period in the mountain's seasonal cycle. Had I been there a week later, the experience would have been completely different. As an amateur photographer, I identify such transitory chunks of time as "golden moments", with reference to those few minutes between dawn and morning, and then again between evening and dusk, when everything is golden and photographs are just perfect.

As in nature, so in politics. From the grand old mountain (the Sierra Nevada is actually quite young) to the Grand Old Party. Like the mountain, the Republican party is passing through a delightfully rare stage in its political life cycle.

I am talking about the vicious internal criticisms and disagreements among Republican commentators that have erupted ever since Soulja Boy rose handsomely as the likely nominee after Super Tuesday. These pundits, especially the far out ones like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter, are not known for holding back their words, and what has resulted is nothing short of blissful. Especially for someone like me; I came to this country a couple of months before the election that rung in GW Bush for his second term. Since that time, the only avatar of the Republican party I had seen was a homogeneous bunch of individuals who stubbornly and stupidly rallied behind their equally stubborn and stupid leader. Who needed introspection and self-criticism, when you had barn-sized targets like Nancy Pelosi and Cindy Sheehan?

In the last few days, all the cleavages that exist inside the party have been brought out for the world to peep into. It seems the renegade Soulja Boy has provoked the best of brawling between the opposite ends of the GOP's fiscal, religious, immigration and political spectrum of thought (everywhere except in the case of belligerent foreign policy, where there seems to be no cleavage - Soulja Boy comes as a boon without disguise). At no point in the past three years could you have flicked on a political talk-show on radio and found any criticism of a Republican (most of these talk-shows tend to be conservative of some denomination or the other). Now, you cannot miss it.

Of course, I keep my excitement in check. Like the melting snow, this period will quickly disappear as Republicans will eventually rally behind Soulja Boy. But enjoy it while it lasts, for these golden moments might not return another four, maybe eight, years.

NB: It is unfortunate that no clear policy distinction exists between the two Democratic candidates for the nomination; there is no golden hour on that side of the fence. Quite on the contrary, all discussion of candidates' worthiness revolves around their ability to influence connately joined groups aligned on gender and racial lines. It is a completely disgraceful, especially if you tend to agree with the Democrats most of the time, like I do.

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