Red Vs. Blue, Circa 1972

I'm just barely old enough to remember what was, at the time, the most heated election in history. The year was 1972. At stake--tens of millions of dollars, and certain banishment for the losing candidate. As I recall, the entire campaign played out exclusively on television--the first (and only) election ever to do so. And the 18-month campaign turned negative--right out of the box.


Believe me, especially for us kids, the debate got frothier than the last dollop of whole milk from a shaken carton. You couldn't ride 5 minutes on the bus without somebody asking you: "Who are you rooting for?" We were already labeling ourselves as blue, or red, as far back as '72. (I have to admit up front, I voted "red," early, and often.)

But even then, at the ripe old age of 10, I got suspicious. Something just didn't seem right. The battle between the candidates seemed to distract me from other things--in fact, from almost everything. It got so all-encompassing that I remember switching away from "The Jetsons" in the middle of the show, trying to find... a campaign commercial! And it wasn't easy switching channels back then--no remote control, and a rotor to boot... but I digress.



We were all getting so wrapped up in committing to one side over the other that we began ostracizing those who disagreed. It didn't dawn on any of us that behind the scenes, all these candidates cared about were themselves, and the people (and ad agencies) who put them in front of those cameras. And in thinking we had only two choices--red or blue--we failed to recognize that we had many more alternatives--including "neither."

It took almost a week for the results to finally be counted after the polls closed. And supposedly it was close. My sisters and I got up early and turned on the TV around 8:00 a.m., and began scouring the 3 channels for the commercial that would finally reveal who had won.

Well, as most of you born in the late 50's and early 60's will recall, blue won. Red was defeated, as were all of us who had campaigned so hard for our man. Within a few short weeks, every remnant of the red boxes had been pulled from the stores.

Long live Quisp.

You never know when a seemingly unimportant event in your life returns with a valuable sequel. You see, Quisp and Quake were merely puppets on the strings of Quaker Oats and their agencies--and we kids took the bait. Boy, did we ever. Now, 36 years later, we're faced with a similar, but far more complex decision. And, just like 36 years ago, the medium of choice--TV--spoonfeeds us with what the candidates and their agencies want us to believe. By some accounts, our voracious appetite for carb bites has been replaced with sound bites, as we sit back in front of the plasma bowl, being spoonfed the same old sickly sweet and ultimately unsatisfying crap--just a little differently shaped.

Despite the million-dollar campaigns, bumper stickers, and labels, it's NOT new and improved. It's NOT change--on either side of the proverbial cereal aisle.

And if we don't recognize it soon--and find a medium that can unite us instead of deviously dividing us with bias--we'll find that by the time we arrive at the checkout stand, carriage overflowing with Quisp or Quake, they'll only be accepting Euros.

Or food stamps.

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