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23 January 2011

The Symbolic Importance of Musical Chairs

For the State of the Union Address this year, Republicans and Democrats will be co-mingling, sitting among each other instead of divided literally and figuratively by the aisle as has been the longstanding tradition. Many--mostly Republicans--have been dismissing and deriding the effort as either political theatre or, worse, political ploy. So, here is my sociological take. Will this game of musical chairs have any direct effect on the rhetoric of the Congress? It's unlikely. Republicans will still give ovations to tax-cutting, and Democrats will still rise to healthcare. But, importantly, it will look radically different. Instead of seeing a monolithic block of support from one half of the floor and then monolithic opposition from the other half, observers will see mixed support and opposition throughout the hall, mirroring the lived experiences of us normal Americans. After all, we don't partition ourselves with conservatives living on the north side of Main St. and progressives on the south; we are neighbors with both folks we agree with and disagree with. It would do us good to remember this. Symbolism matters.

And, maybe, just maybe, some of the congresspersons will be moved by this symbolism as well. Wouldn't that be nice?

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