Standing around with a dachshund in arms, I got to see Meet The Press for the first time in my life. My first impulse is to say "they were talking with some people about the oil spill," but actually they weren't and that's the point of this post. They were talking about the various responses to the oil spill - Obama (seldom mentioned by name, just referred to as the administration by the Democrats and this administration by Republicans), BP, the various state governments, the British press.
It irritated me that everyone was clearly slanting their comments to how this was all going to play out politically, rather than practically. It was as if the oil spill was only a virtual crisis, a test or video game to see what kind of score the various big names were going to get, and how that would translate into political power and electoral success.
Here's the scary part: they're right. And the journalists who infuriate us by focusing mostly on that aspect are right, too. People on the Gulf Coast will be actually affected - some greatly, some only indirectly. As the economy of that area will be affected, the rest of the country and the even the world will be slightly affected. But few of us outside the area will be able to identify exactly how we've been affected. People who don't have jobs created in Nebraska won't be able to tie it directly back to Louisiana, they'll just know that they are unemployed, and are more likely to attribute that to themselves and to general political causes than to the oil.
How the players in Washington play their Call of Duty characters will have more lasting effect than what happens with the spill. That may be insane, but it's also true. The elected officials, and all the unelected people who derive from them, play video games called "Afghanistan," and "Cap-and-Trade," and "Healthcare Policy" as well. Deciding who has the right to play those videos affects all of us. Even if the people playing don't realise we are actual human beings. Even if it doesn't matter to them what happens to all us CGI figures on the screen. Even if they make bad scores and accidentally blow up Rhode Island and don't care.
Convincing us that they really truly do believe we are real, and they do care about us, counts for more than actually fixing anything. Anyone who can succeed in getting someone else blamed gets points. Anyone who can look like they are doing something for you gets points. Actual blame and actual accomplishment are important only as energy packs and weapons for your character.
Let me change the game analogy slightly to describe what is happening. This video is played interactively. The gross number of points that you score on any level is unimportant, only the net points more than other players. You can leave a town, or fortress, or racetrack in ruins, but if you got more points in that destruction than your opponent, you win. Every fifth level they tally up the points and decide who gets to keep playing.
It doesn't matter to Obama whether he fixes an oil spill or an economy. All that matters is that he gets more "he tried to fix it" points, and fewer "you broke it" points than his opponents. Washington is all that exists. The rest of us truly are flyover country, mere settings and backgrounds for the competition.