Politicians’ manipulation of our emotions is nothing less than criminal

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Bernie Sanders (left), Hillary Clinton (center) and Martin O’Malley (right) at the Nov. 15 Democratic primary debate.
Photo courtesy of cnn.com.

Josh Hart

Staff Writer

During the Nov. 15 Democratic presidential debate, noted talk-show dance-off champion and occasionally effective presidential candidate Hillary Clinton argued that she could both take a hard stance on Wall Street glut while still taking millions in donations from Wall Street entities.

When questioned about this, Clinton maintained that the main reason bankers have flocked to her cause is because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

“So I — I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” she said. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

The hubris of this statement goes beyond its surface-level ridiculousness; it’s emblematic of the continued manipulation of the feelings Americans have towards a 14-year-old tragedy.

This manipulation is almost a trope of American presidential politics, something that every prospective candidate needs to at least touch upon, with some less than stellar results.

But it’s 2015. The shadow of fear cast by 9/11 should no longer exist at the forefront of American politics or culture.

We cannot allow ourselves to become a nation that defines itself by its greatest tragedy. We just can’t. That’s not America.

For years, I’ve been seeing T-shirts, bumper stickers and what-have-you with the slogan “Never Forget!” on them. As if anyone could. No one is ever going to forget.

The only people who want to relive that day are people who get a certain enjoyment out of righteous anger. And I get that – righteous anger can feel really good for a while. But anger, righteous or not, does things to a person. Anger wears you out. So does fear, and so does hate.

Allowing politicians to excuse practices that essentially sell the political autonomy of American citizens, which is what Clinton is essentially doing, is criminal. Allowing politicians to move towards war based on intense jingoism and the muddied association of a perceived enemy with an event more than a decade old is criminal.

The backlash against Clinton’s comments shows a new intolerance for criminal behavior, and I hope this intolerance, or at least a political culture based on scrutiny of manipulation, continues throughout this presidential race.