I often think I’m deficient in opinions. True, I spout off in response to the nightly news, and I’m pretty judgmental on anything I see as grotesquely cruel and stupid. But I don’t feel the need to wave the flag or claim an identity. I only find “identity” in my writing, and that’s a long search. The older kids in Scouts would send the tenderfeet out on a “snipe hunt,” not really telling us how to recognize the snipe, and I think I’m still searching for it.
There’s a distance between “What’s your favorite color?” and “Where do you stand on tax reform?” but the function is often the same: to identify with a specific team, tribe, or army of the night. We expect our political figures to have firm, potent opinions, impervious to change. You can’t be elected to public office if you’ve ever changed your mind about your breakfast cereal, let alone the great issues of life on Earth. The exception being, of course, that rare soul who’s changed his mind faster than diapers but evolved the reputation that “he says what he thinks” and consequently will “shake things up.”
In our new show Survival, Lou says, “Lots of opinions at Smoky’s last Friday night. Everybody’s got answers, but the question is, what’s the question?” And I know that from 57 years of non-lethal marital squabbles: after three hours sharing space in the Cuisinart, we glim the fact that we’ve been fighting about what the fight is about.
I could certainly express myself on the issues of tax reform, sexual harassment, or nuclear war, but it’d likely end in a battle of me against me, both sides heavily armed. When a conviction does grab me, it tends to form antibodies against itself. I veer instinctively into the role of critic of that belief, like an implacable dentist probing out the cavities beneath his own smile. I guess that’s known as self-examination, and it’s served me okay.
Seems to me that’s a valid way to do science or art or marriage, but in a culture of merciless warfare it doesn’t quite fit. You don’t want a friendly front-line sniper firing at his own troops to improve their performance. I’d like to think there’s a useful spot—maybe over in the corner by the cat pan—for the court fool who pokes the Cause in the belly and says, “Getting a little chubby there, buddy?” But most court fools these days are doing stand-up for drunks, so I confine myself mainly to haggles with my fictional characters.
In the last election, some of my friends, said, “Vote your conscience,” meaning, “Not Hillary.” But I warned them that would mean voting for someone like me, which would be a terrible idea. Two days in public office, they’d fall down the stairs. I’m great at synthesis, compromise, finding an unseen path through the brambles—which might indeed be where the snipe hangs out—but that’s not a skill that’s in high demand these days.
Fact is, there’s nothing much I can get behind one hundred percent, no reservations, all cylinders firing. The only exceptions might be Love thy Neighbor and Free the Slaves. We’ve got a start on both of those, but there’s a helluva long way to go.
(Note: with our expanded blogsite, we’re going to an alternation in our weekly posts: Rather than both posting each week, CB will post alternately with EF.)