Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aiming to Please

I never write about politics in this space. Well, I suppose that is not entirely accurate. I occasionally write on subjects that touch upon political issues - such as the continuing exploits of those mouth-breeding hate mongers from the Wasteboro Bastard Cult - but I tend not to dip my ink in the well of politics per se. I have my reasons, I assure you. At least one of them is practical, by which I mean work-related. The other is personal. By that I mean it is the result of a lesson learned at my father's table when I was a child.

The rancor that infects so much of the political debate in this country grows out - in least in part and at least in my opinion - from the fact that everyone shares too much information with everyone else. We blog, we tweet, we Facebook, we text, we e-mail and we call one another with a false sense of urgency that makes the fax machine seem so last century. People share - without being prompted - everything from photographs of newborn babies to present sense impressions of recent bowel movements. At some point in time, enough not only became enough but too much altogether.

I cannot speak for my older sibs but I recall to this day one very brief and very terse conversation Dad and I had following an Election Day. Sitting at the dinner table I asked him if he had voted, which he had and then I asked him for whom he had voted. In the tone of voice reserved usually for questions such as, "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" he asked me why I believed his vote was any of my business. Before I could formulate an answer (unless, "Uhhhhhh" counts - Judges? No...) he answered his own question by assuring me that it was not. He then launched into some explanation that quickly morphed into a lecture before reaching its destination in the Land of Diatribe (Hooray for Three Feathers vermouth) about how a man's vote was his business and no one else's. If memory serves me correctly, the Election Day in question was the 1980 Presidential election. While I never confirmed it with him - if you would have had a follow-up conversation on this issue with him then mister you are a better man than I - I always suspected that he was one of the four hundred and eleven knuckleheads nationwide who voted in favor of President Carter's re-election.

Maybe it is because I am my father's son but I try - to this day - to steer clear of discussions that center on politics and the views of a particular candidate or office holder. In case you were wondering, my B.A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder has come in handy in the two-plus decades since I earned it. One can never have too many serving trays.

All kidding aside, given the zeal with which the collective jumped the track a while back and began embracing the notion that politics and governance are not issues set forth in so many shades of gray but are instead questions of black and white - and worse yet - of good and evil, I would rather not skip happily downward on this descent into madness. When two people yell over one another at the top of their respective voices, reiterating whatever their belief is on a particular issue, without ever listening to what the other person is saying about his/her belief on that same issue, that is not a political debate. It may be the wrap party for Two and a Half Men but it is most certainly not a political debate.

Having said all that, I must admit that I am equal parts fascinated and appalled by Mitt Romney. Once upon a time, Mr. Romney ran for the United States Senate against Edward Kennedy, only to find that the good people of the Commonwealth were not interested in hiring a replacement for Teddy. Thereafter, Mr. Romney hit electoral gold when those same good people elected him to govern the Commonwealth. The degree of success he had while he was the Governor is - as everything is - subject to interpretation (a/k/a "spin"). I never lived there. He never governed me. The closest I have ever come in my life to being a resident of the Bay State was having my paycheck issued from there for work I performed here during what was the longest four-month period of my life approximately two years ago. Romney was not the Governor by that time. Thus, I absolve him of all blame for the existence of them.

Romney ran for the Republican nomination for President in 2008. In January 2008, he was considered to be among the front runners for the nomination. On February 7, 2008 he withdrew from the race. Being that he still possesses both his wealth and his health, he has apparently decided to take another run at the nomination in 2012, which means of course that although the first caucuses are roughly nine months away, the Republican convention roughly fifteen months away and the 2012 election twenty months away, he is already on the campaign trail. No time like the present to start spending gobs of cash nationwide.

Personally I do not know enough about Mr. Romney to know whether I should applaud or be appalled by his not-too-subtle willingness to adopt any position on any issue as his own. I do know that I find it easier to make up my own mind about who I want to vote for when I have an opportunity to study that candidate's position on issues that are important to me and seeing whether the two of us share any common ground on them. That is an exercise that is decidedly more difficult to engage in when the candidate expresses a willingness to say anything to anyone in exchange for support. Say Anything was one of my favorite movies of my youth. Lloyd Dobler was the kind of fella I would have liked to hang out with back in the day. I would not have wanted him to be President of the United States......

...but then again maybe I am being too quick to judge. After all, Lloyd's dream was to live a life in which he did not have to sell anything. Not a bad dream. Albeit one that is certainly not universally shared.

Much in the same way that not everyone enjoys a good Garden party.


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