Monday, December 7, 2009


Ah, Pearl Harbor. Those were the days. No White House dithering, no talking heads dissecting every strategy, real or potential.

I'd even fast forward a bit to my youth, when every choice seemed black or white, right or wrong. Today what keeps me up at night is my ambivalence, even about issues everyone around me seems to have already decided. Here are just a few.

Afghanistan. I'd say pull out tomorrow were it not for the fact that the only people I know who've spent any time there believe with all their hearts that the Taliban make the Nazis look like Eagle Scouts. I know the history; I remember when we backed the side that we now are fighting. I've also read bin Laden's son's book and am fairly convinced that al Qaeda's work in the U.S. isn't finished.

Marcellus Shale. We leased gas rights on a small part of our property back before anyone in CNY had heard the word "frack." We did a fair bit of research at the time, but of course back then, you didn't have self-declared experts crawling out of the woodwork to talk about radiation poisoning, earthquakes, and faucets bursting into flames. Not long ago, I would have stood firm against anything an oil or gas company wanted to do, even if it were to build magnet schools for impoverished orphans in the Southern Tier. But there's a part of me that believes that anything beats reliance on oil and that farmers deserve to profit from land that no longer benefits them in any other way. Of course, the only way I can ever retire is if I win the lottery or a well comes in, so greed enters the equation, too, as does the fact that our progressive county is woefully NIMBY when it comes to alternative energy in less invasive forms. I've heard all the arguments. I haven't signed any petitions, pro or con. I can honestly say that when our lease comes up next year, I don't know what we'll do.

House Health Care Is any health care bill better than no health care bill? I would have said yes six months ago; now, I'm not so sure. It seems possible that the current bills will increase rather than decrease health care costs, and they will almost certainly dial back abortion rights. Do we just let this die? Do we fight to the bitter end no matter what we get?

Clearly, I myself am dithering. The good news is that I can now run for state or federal office, since I've proved I don't stand for anything or have any real opinions.


Mary Ann said...

Long ago I heard "liberal" described as "someone who sees both sides of the issue so clearly he can't makeup his mind." I'm definitely liberal. Life is harder when you're not endowed with all the answers. Still, I choose that every time over leaping to conclusions with virtually no facts or logic.

KAZ said...

Nice definition! Yes, I suppose dithering is less dangerous than leaping before looking. . . . It's a little like being stuck at a crosswalk with lanes of traffic in front and in back, and you just keep looking both ways. Forever.

mlutwak said...

I'll spare you my usual; however, I think this points up the prescience of Tony Kushner's observations on the death of ideology. (Angels in America part 2, monologue by The Oldest Living Bolshevik). If you've done the work, and are willing to revisit your thinking, ideology can be a very helpful tool.

KAZ said...

M--Maybe it's that I've shed my skin before a new skin was ready. Or I'm overthinking instead of just reacting viscerally. It is certainly as uncomfortable as the OLB suggested it would be.

Anonymous said...

I like Mary Ann's definition a lot. The other point missing from these thoughts is that progress, if it happens at all, is almost always incremental. Giant changes (e.g., New Deal) are once a century type events. Mostly it is bit by bit, painful and ugly compromises that one hopes edge things slightly forward (hence, crappy health reform is better than no health reform, as it can lead to more health reform down the line, with luck and hard work). Back and forth, two baby steps forward and one back, and maybe just maybe you end up with the equivalent of an African American president one day...