I hate, loathe, despise making decisions. Whether it’s a major life event or the choice of using an Oxford comma, the moment has all the appeal of the electric chair. In creative work, all is relative, yet there are countless decisions before lights go up on opening night or I ship the book to the printer or I speak the first line. Always, there’s that dwarf troll who sits on my left shoulder and at every scribble on my director’s notepad or flurry of typing or thumb-wiggle in the modeling clay, he’s muttering, “Well, consider . . .”
That may be why, in realms outside my expertise, I bridle at others’ expressions of absolute certainty. Most notably now in politics, where the fur will fly for another eleven months till we’re all as bald as billiard balls. Of course I have my own preferences and loathings, but my greatest irritation is with those whom I’m in basic agreement. I want to ask them, “Where’s your dwarf troll? Have you locked him in the basement? Listen to him!”
My Facebook feed is almost entirely comprised of fellow progressives, so my posts tend to be “Let’s make our case more effectively,” which translates, for some, into “gradualism,” “fogeyism,” or “treason.” The dilemma: to be an activist, i.e., to get people off their asses and into action, you have to sound Dead Certain, utterly convinced of your own rhetoric, and consequently you’re enormously vulnerable to self-deception. You’re acutely observant of the other guy’s flaws, but your own immune system is on hold.
So I’m hereby running through a catalog of what to me are false shibboleths wherewith progressives seem to delight in carving up one another like Thanksgiving turkeys. Then I’ll shut up. Just need to get it out of my system.
- The DNC: These are people who want to elect Democrats. They’ll do whatever they can to do that. If they’re not gung-ho for your candidate, it doesn’t mean they’re corrupt. It means, right or wrong, that they want to win.
- Medicare for All: It’s an unfortunate phrase. If designed on the present Medicare system, it doesn’t involve dissolving the insurance industry. In any case, the President won’t decree it: it’ll be a huge fight even in a Democratic Congress, and predicating a vote on whose proposal is ideal is like trying to drive a hard bargain with the Tooth Fairy.
- Socialism: Why do I read tirades against “capitalism” in posts about the election, when all the candidates, including Bernie, are assuming a capitalist—though regulated—economy?
- Youth: To what extent does Youth equal fresh ideas, health, idealism, commitment, purity and wisdom, and to what extent does Age equal corruption and senility? The most radical seem to be given a pass on ageism—which, IMHO, holds the same pitfalls as racism and sexism.
- * Change: Barring cataclysmic events (World War II, 9/11, Trump’s election), change comes slowly. We may be primed for radical change, or the right-wing earthquake of the past two years may have engendered an intense desire for stability. My only point is that no one knows, and whoever professes certainty is just blowing out gas from both ends.
- Money out of politics: A great idea, which will only happen via a progressive Congress and Supreme Court appointments. Which will only happen by people getting elected. Which will only happen with tons of money. Sanders managed the primaries with small-donor money, but could he have won the election that way? Candidates who accept big money aren’t necessarily corrupt: they want to finance the staffing, the ads, the events, the voter bussing that will get them elected. They’re serious, in the current atmosphere, about getting elected, and they’re not all “bought and paid for.”
- Stupidity: One gets a certain satisfaction in calling Trump voters stupid, and there’s some reason to do so. But you don’t change anyone’s vote that way. Imagine you’re the new kid on the playground and you want to make friends: don’t start out by shouting, “Hey, assholes!”
- Certainty: I’ve always been chary of people claiming that “God says to . . .” But now we have millions of folks on the Web claiming the wide-angle vision of Yahweh and his claims of omniscience, day in, day out. So we come back to the conundrum, how to be effective if you’re constantly questioning yourself? I’d say the same way I write a play or a novel: throw yourself into the first draft, read it critically, do the second draft, etc. etc. etc., at least to the eighth.
Feel free to call me naive or Old White Man or to post screeds in rebuttal. I’ll probably agree.