Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy!

Just a quick note on cynicism.

In my world the only sane people are those that display a healthy dose of cynicism. Out of those people I reserve my deepest respect for those that are willing to channel their cynicism towards their own most deeply held beliefs.

At the same time I subscribe to the Aristotle's call for "moderation in all things." In practice I take this to mean that even things that are good for us, say diet or exercise, can ultimately be unhealthy if we allow them to consume our lives.

With this in mind the phrase "a healthy dose of cynicism" doesn't signify to me the reflexive nay-saying it's so commonly identified with in our culture. Instead, a healthy cynicism is self-reflexive, curious and not given to extremes. Most importantly "cynicism" and "hope' are not antithetical.

It's become fashionable among those on the political right to refer to those of who worked for and supported the election of president Obama as some sort of Kool-Aid drinking cult who are anxiously waiting for Obama the "Messiah" to deliver to us our unicorns and puppies. When confronted over such ideological pigeonholing these people inevitably try and hide behind "cynicism" in an attempt to claim they reached these conclusions about Obama supporters rationally, without prejudice.

Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

When I watched those crowds at the inauguration yesterday on television I didn't see a group of glassy-eyed cultists. I saw a group of my fellow citizens wanted to be part of history; to watch our own Berlin wall fall with their own eyes.

I also saw millions of people who recognized that our nation's foreign policy over the last eight years has been a disaster, that our economy has been in terrible hands and that we cannot continue to exist as a country unless we reinstitute the rule of law vis a vis our own constitution. I saw people who want leadership grounded in reason and compassion, but who understood at the same time that even great leaders are human and given to make mistakes.

I know very few Obama supporters that wouldn't agree that Barack Obama will do things over the next few years that will me and my fellow liberals off. It's inevitable. But we also recognize that he can't do things alone, that real change is going to have to come from the bottom.

The very embodiment of healthy cynicism.


Randal Graves said...

I saw a bizarre modern day emperor spectacle that creeps me out. And that's not a shot at Obama, just at how we do politics in this weird country.

I saw millions wondering how long it'll take them to embrace the next Nixon, Reagan, Bush, as they most certainly will because we're a nation of dummies.

that real change is going to have to come from the bottom.

Thus I remain a hopeless, hope-less cynic so here's a heaping bowl of salt. Hope I'm wrong, but I'd lay money on it. I think I have a couple of singles. ;-)

Don Snabulus said...

After living through President Bush who considered half of his nation as enemies and President Clinton and his DLC democrats who triangulated to GOP positions and sold out to the nearest multi-national corp., I would say my guard is up.

Doubly so after the appointment of several DLC Democrats to cabinet positions.

However, President Obama has a pretty nasty set of problems to address that transcends ideology. It is also possible that his (and our) best won't be good enough to avoid true economic pain and suffering. The guy ain't magic.

I am putting my inner cynic away for the next 100 days or so. I wish us all luck. We are heading into a time of change.

Lockwood said...

Agree, though I'm not sure "cynical" is quite the right word. Right now I'm trying to be an optimistic realist- hopeful, but aware that it's human nature to expect more from others than they can deliver. I think this incoming crew can do a lot to at least repair some of the damage from the last eight years, but it would be childish of me to expect some Emerald City utopia by March.

ThoughtCriminal said...

When confronted with something that is too good to be true, a skeptic will deny that it is true and a cynic will deny that it is good. I'm going with Skeptic-Lite.

Arkonbey said...

I was definitely not an 'Obama worshiper'. I voted for the man because he was eloquent,yet down to earth. Smarter than most, but at the same time accessible. Liberal, yet at the same time gifted with common sense. He made many promises, but most of them were followed by "now, let's make them happen together". That was why I voted for him.

Actually, I was the most impressed with his appearance on Wait Wait, Don't Tell me. More so than his DNC speech,actually. It was his stance against kindergarten graduations that really sold it for me.

@Randal: I understand the look of the 'emperor' thing. It can be a bit creepy, except for the fact that Obama never seemed to be creating it himself. It generated itself around him.

@Dean: I think you forgot some words here:

"Obama will do things over the next few years that will me and my fellow liberals off."

Between 'will' and 'me' add "piss" or "tick".

Dean Wormer said...

Ah, Randal, a bloody cynic until the very end. That must be the poet in you. Or the rocker.

I don't like spectacle either but in this case this was history so I was a little more open to pomp.

What keeps going through my head is that people like the Sunni/ Shia have been fighting for 1500 years since Mohammed croaked out his death rattle. We've had our own divisions in our young country and but in just 200 years we've come from blacks being worse than second-class citizens to a black man leading the country. Can't we accept that alone as being something to celebrate about our country?

What will it take to turn that frown upside down? ;-)


It's such an odd situation. We have thirty years of conservative policies to blame for the mess we're in and still the establishment kicks and screams bloody murder if we try and diverge from those same policies. It's surreal- sort of like watching a dying man hold his doctor away with a gun.

One of the biggest questions I have is whether the establisment media will acknowledge Obama's efforts towards bipartisanship that will most surely be swatted away by Republcians. Will progressives remain the only ones that have to sacrifice?


That's a good, rational approach towards the new administration. I don't expect an emerald city either, but I do expect them to get us back to Kansas.


That seems reasonable. "Skeptic-lite."


Thanks- I edited the heck out of that. The word was indeed "pissed."

Agree about the promises. The caveat is that he can't carry through without our help. WE have to put pressure on Washington to follow through on progressive changes.

mwb said...

In 2001 at Bush's inauguration he sped up the street without exiting the car because of protesters including some rotten eggs thrown at the car.

2009 such a nice contrast (but I sure to Bush they are just "focus groups".)

Extra special bonus in 2000, 2001 I was actively organizing and protesting the theft of the election.

Now I'm grateful for the change.

Randal Graves said...

dean, I get what you're saying, and it IS fucking impressive to have gone from slavery to this in such a short time, historically-speaking compared to the fuckery in other parts of the world. I just like complaining about the oddities of our bizarre nation.

What will it take to turn that frown upside down? ;-)

Merry bushels of cash. ;-)

okjimm said...

//What will it take to turn that frown upside down?//

Bushels of cash! Elitist snob!!!
My smile can be bought for a jimm-six pack.... jist goes to show ya, ana all, that Cleveland can not, not be trusted!!

Fran said...

Just a quick note. My husband is somewhat of a cynic and he was there covering the event for work.

He came back buoyant and going on about how well it went, how all the crowds, no matter how big or how long the wait in line, were great.

He said he thinks things could be ok but we all have to do our part.

I think he heard that from someone else, but I've never heard him say something like that before.

I wonder who that someone else was!

So no glassy eyed business - you are right, healthy cynicism.