This morning I read over at Bent Corner that Washington Mutual failed, and was bought out by JP Morgan Chase. Of course while I was there, I also saw a clip of Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric. Take a second to go watch it, if you will – it’s interesting. But in case you don’t want to watch it: Sarah Palin believes that the $700 billion dollars that the Senate Banking Committee wants to sink into the federal bailout will help us create jobs, enable healthcare reform and reduce taxes.

Look, I don’t have a head for finance. I don’t understand most of what’s happening, and to be honest, I’m a bit like an ostrich with this: my head is firmly in the sand. I don’t want to know, because a) I don’t have any money anyway and b) I can’t do a damn thing about any of it. But I do know that Sarah Palin is supposed to know something more than me about this situation, considering that she could possibly be in a position to deal with it intimately in a few months. And it appears that she doesn’t know anything about it.

That’s in addition to her not knowing:

That’s a lot of things she doesn’t know.

Here’s what I’m thinking:
We used to love big thinkers. We used to revere men and women with superior intelligence, men and women who came from backgrounds of incredible education and passion: Socrates, Aristotle, Gandhi, Dr. King, Einstein, Ayn Rand, Howard Bloom. And now, it seems, there’s an elaborate intelligence phobia in the United States. We went from a having a Rhodes Scholar (a fucking RHODES SCHOLAR, people) in the White House to having a self-characterized “average student” of a Yale legacy. Somewhere in the past twenty years or so, we’ve adopted this idea that independent thinking is bad, and that it’s better to let the C student run the show because “he’s just like me.” We’ve been taught that intelligence = elitism, and that’s not such a good thing.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’d rather see the nerd in charge. I want the people in the White House to be insanely smart, to know way more things about the world than I do. I don’t want the woman who continually plays the role of hockey mom; I don’t want the woman who makes herself the butt of sexist jokes repeatedly. I don’t want the woman who doesn’t take an interest in the world around her.

And I certainly don’t want the man who chose her after an incredibly short period of discussion. His choice says a lot about his judgment – as does the fact that he called his wife some incredibly disgusting names.

I know a lot of this has to do with identifying with people who think like us. Part of the reason I’m now supporting Obama is because my ideals align with his in many ways. But my ideals also align with those of my friends and family – and to be honest, I don’t want any of my friends or my family running the country. In my family, there’s a streak of impetuousness (that’s putting it nicely) that gives us tempers like grease fires. And while my friends are all intelligent, resourceful and creative people, I don’t think any of them are experienced enough to run a freaking country. So it’s got to be about more than just wanting someone who is like you.

I think there’s another component, too: we want people to tell us how to think. I mentioned earlier that independent thought has begun to be labeled in a negative way. Groupthink seems to have become a standard:

(from the Wall Street Journal; emphasis mine)

“Every election I say…’This is who I’m voting for. This is who I think you should vote for,’ ” said Mr. Booth, who preaches to about 150 people each Sunday. “As pastors, we tell people who you can have sex with — only your spouse. If we can tell people what to do in the bedroom, we can certainly tell them what to do in the voting booth.

But why? Why do we want people to tell us what to do, from the bedroom to the dinner table to the voting booth? Why is it that critical thinking – something I was raised to believe is, well, critical to a wholly satisfying life – has suddenly become the thing no one wants to do?

When I was growing up, my dad used a tired expression all the time to reinforce the value of independent thought: “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it to?” He asked me on a regular basis (as I was a slightly troublesome teenager), “Do you want to be a leader or a follower?” I used to roll my eyes and laugh it off, but at almost 30 years old now, I realize that my parents taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life: how to think for myself.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure most Americans have either never learned, or else forgotten, that lesson. I only hope they can pick it up again before November 4.