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.