Archive for February 6th, 2012

Halftime in America

One of the greatest receptions ever

Last night the boys (ages 8 and 6) declined to root for the Patriots to win, a team almost everyone in Maine supports.    Defiantly they said they liked the Giants.   They watched the Giants go ahead 9-0 and then they had to start getting ready for bed.   As a Viking fan, I didn’t mind their desire to root for the New York team (though that may cause them trouble with their peers if it continues), it shows a good independent streak.

The game itself was superb.  I actually was pulling for the Pats, but found the second half immensely entertaining — a great catch, the reluctant touchdown.    One of the better super bowls.    Of course, the ads were interesting as well.   The Audi ad where the headlights kill off vampires was clever, bu tthe best ad last that aired last night was Clint Eastwood’s Halftime in America ad for Chrysler.    It was clever, emotive, and well produced.

The ad reminds me of the post 9-11 ads about America after the terror attacks.   It was cheesy at times — we don’t get knocked out, we stand up, we fight back, etc. — but also touched on something too many people in this politicized era forget: we’re in this economic crisis together.

The ability of Detroit to bounce back shows both the power of the US free enterprise system, and the necessity of government support in times of trouble.   It’s true for companies and it’s true for individuals.

Some want to make it seem that “taxpayer” money should never be spent on a “bailout” or assistance to those in need.   Even those who might agree that the very poor, as Mitt Romney calls them, need a safety net, often balk at the idea of helping companies who arguably made poor decisions in the market place.

Yet it’s not just individual companies or individuals that make up a society.    The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.   We all benefit when the auto industry is saved, when America produces stuff both Americans and other countries want.   We need to get industry producing again, leaving it up to the market to somehow make it happen isn’t going to work — markets are not magic, and if caught in a downward spiral can simply stay flat.

What some call a “government bailout” (as if some ‘other’ entity called ‘government’ was taking money and doling it out for its own nefarious purposes) is really Americans coming together to try to right the economy and get things moving again.    It’s unfortunate that political ideology hides the most basic truth — working together we can accomplish more than each person simply trying to maximize his or her own interests.

This common sense and quintessentially American ideal gets warped by those who want to see all taxes as somehow the “government” taking from people who “earned” all they have.    But our ability to earn money comes from the connections between us and how our country operates.    We all share a stake in making sure the country remains productive, stable and free.    No wealthy person has made it on his or her own, or is purely responsible for success — it’s part of a larger interdependent social context.   It’s too complex to break it down to individual choices, the unintended and often unrecognized consequences of choices ripple through society and touch us all.

It also isn’t socialism to have the government involved — socialism is a whole different kettle of fish, a desire for governmental control of the economy in good times and bad, with a distrust of markets.   Eastwood’s ad is one that supports free markets and free people.    It’s just that sometimes there are national crises and sometimes government has to play a role to help right the ship.   That’s something that deep down Republicans and Democrats know and accept.

The US economy seems to be picking up steam, even as some are reluctant to admit that much of what the President has done has worked.   It reminds of another play in the Superbowl, when Ahmad Bradshaw tried to resist scoring the winning touchdown, hoping to run out the clock.    Some in the US may hope the recovery slows so that they can run out the clock on Obama and make his re-election less likely.   I doubt that will happen.

Ahmad Bradshaw stopped at the goal line, but he could not resist falling in for the winning score, a 'reluctant touchdown.'

One might note the similarity of Eastwood’s “It’s halftime in America” to the famous 1984 Reagan commerical “It’s morning in America.”    Something else reminded me of 1984: the appeal of Madonna, whose half time performance captured the energy, sexiness and dramatic flair that made her a superstar in the early 80s.

People from my generation can still rock!

In a country that takes its Super Bowl seriously, the ads, show and style of last night’s game seems to reflect the mood of the country.    Things have been tough, but we can make it better.   Congrats, Giants!