Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cynicism and secret hope

I just figured out why I don't post about politics and politicians directly (though, of course, the personal is political....). It's because I grew up in the lap of the US government, surrounded by politics and politicians and nothing they do, no matter how dishonest, two-faced, self-serving, or powerhungry, surprises me. Functioning as part of a large organization of almost any sort - but especially one that gnaws and fights over the bones of power - depersonalizes and dehumanizes. It's not complete, but it's enough. I once listened to my own father talk to a reporter for fifteen minutes without saying anything. It was stunning and almost admirable to watch him seeming so friendly and forthright, while being so entirely evasive. Many of my friends fathers were spies who had lied successfully and endlessly to their families till congress outed them. Then suddenly it all crumbled and my shell-shocked friends were unmoored, adrift in a sea of lies. Just doing my job, dear.

So when the husband rants about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Larry Craig, I just give him my Diplomatic-corps-bred world-weary sigh, and ask, "Really? You're surprised by this?" Me, short of murder or genocide, I'm never surprised by anything the powerful or the power seekers do. Disgusted, yes, surprised, no.

Oddly enough, or maybe it's just what I do to maintain my sanity, I'm entirely optimistic to the point of being Pollyanna-ish, about individuals. I really do believe that each of us always has the capacity for change, for goodness, that it's never to late, or at the very least, that trying is better than the alternative. And somewhere in me I hope that if each of us is as true and brave and kind as we can be, if each of us takes our little inch of the world and, within it, fights against racism, homophobia, lying, greed - all those soul-deforming behaviors - then our inches will meet and our transformations will become social change. Oh dear, I've exposed the soft spot in my armour. Be kind.

Ok. What the hell. Since I'm exposing my ill-advised lapses in cynicism, I'll let it all hang out. There is one living human in a position of power that, I hope, is as good and he appears to be. The Dali Lama. I will be so bummed if Kitty Kelly writes a tell-all book about how he parties with hookers, does drugs, doesn't wear underpants, and needs to go to celebrity rehab.

But then, I guess, I'd just have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and weed on my own little garden again.


Katie said...

Although this has nothing to do with your latest post on cynicism, I just wanted to tell you that I finally received my LEFTY MUNCHLER lunch box. I love it! It is so cute. Tell your brother in law thanks for creating them. It is through researching how to order one that I happened on your blog and now I am hooked! I check it daily...Thanks for blogging. I aspire to blog myself sometime.

Elizabeth said...

Wow! Thanks for leaving the comment. I'm so glad you like reading my (usually) late-night musings. And I'll pass your lunchbox happiness on to Stephen.
All best, E

more cowbell said...

Oh good -- so I'm not the only jaded Pollyanna! I think there are lots of folks who are cynical about the media, politics, our country's institutions (health, education, transportation...) and the like. I know I am. But when it comes to individuals, that's when that blasted little Pollyanna comes in. Sometimes I can practically feel her braids slapping against my shoulders.

Doralong said...

I always hope for the best, but am never surprised when it fails to happen..

I fear the older I get, the more cynical I'm becoming.

Elizabeth said...

cowbell: Yes, there they go, Slap, slap. Or is that reality slapping me in the face.... Sometimes it's a twofer.

Doralong: Some would say you're getting more realistic as you get older.

There's a Mel Brooks song that says:
Hope for the best,
Expect the worst.
Life is a play,
We're unrehearsed.

but lately my favorite quote is:
"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?" (will Rogers)
I think I'm gonna get me a t-shirt with that on it.

Ms. Place said...

I think you might have alighted on the one individual who we can admire and respect without fearing he will expose feet of clay.

Elizabeth said...

Ms.Place: I hope so. it would be nice to keep one. Though he'd probably say something like, 'You don't need me. You only need the idea of me within you.' Still, I like having the actual him, who loves China even as they decimate his country, out there somewhere in the world.

Red7Eric said...

Elizabeth, I totally agree. And yet, I want to believe in something so badly that I have a tendency to turn all the Democrats that I agree with most often into heroes, and it really hurts when they come crashing back down to earth, because -- they're human, just like everyone else. I still support their policies, but I want to also like and respect them.

When scandals a la David Vitter and Larry Craig happen, I enjoy the schadenfreude of the moment, but am always a little wary of getting too excited, knowing that it could be a Democrat-who-did-something-stupid the next time 'round.

Elizabeth said...

red7eric: They will, they will. But it's still better than what we have now. I remember so fondly, now, Clinton's "betrayal" of liberal values with his welfare reform package. such an innocent time.... Little did we know how the greater American values could be subverted.

BigAssBelle said...

great post. i see your point, though i must, for my sanity, retain my capacity for surprise and shock over the behavior and actions taken by our public servants.

i think it's the reverse of your view, though yours, by virtue of your experience, is far better informed than mine and thus more accurate.

sigh. i think i'm moving to costa rica.

Elizabeth said...

Costa Rica! Oooh. They have rainforest eco resorts which are actually saving a lot of rainforest. sounds good to me. Especially as winter moves in here.