Now that the election is over, this can post. (But I’m writing it the day before. I love the “post me later” feature.)
I read over the summer about a woman at a corner store in a major US city. On the TV, the Democratic National Convention was playing, and he was watching. The woman commented, “Oh, so you’re voting for Obama?”
The man replied that it was his first year as a citizen of the US, and that he hadn’t made up his mind. “This is a very important decision,” he told her earnestly. “I want to listen to all the speeches and then make up my mind.”
Are you as shocked to hear that as I was? Did you snicker? Did you do both? Did you do what I did, which was reflexively think, “He’ll learn.”
I have no faith that either leader can or will do what he says. And on reflection, I wonder if that’s sinful. It’s a cynicism I haven’t traced back to one specific cause, although I have theories. I know that in 1980, at the age of 8, I fully and enthusiastically believed in Ronald Reagan. By 1988 and George Bush, I no longer cared.
I don’t lay my cynicism at the feet of Reagan. It’s more likely a combination of witnessing just about every authority figure of every major system standing with his hands tied whenever he or she had a terrific idea.
That’s unfair, of course: New York City turned around during my lifetime, and entirely due to its leadership. But still, over the course of time, I realized that systems exist to perpetuate systems, not because they care even one whit for the individual.
I asked my Patient Husband, “When did that happen? Was I born cynical?”
He hasn’t known me since birth, so he can’t answer. I said, “Let’s say that at birth I got whisked from my mother’s arms right into Heaven, where I was raised by saints and angels. Would I still have been cynical?”
He said, “Probably not. You’d still have been a wiseacre, and you’d still have had the same kind of wit, but it wouldn’t have embodied that same dark humor.”
I wonder if that’s true. It seems to me that dark humor has its place, even in Heaven. Clearly there’s no way to prove it, though.
Dark humor and cynicism are defense mechanisms. Here I am, defending my heart against the sense that no matter who won the vote yesterday, the government got elected.
But at the same time, I’d kind of like to be that brand new citizen, flush with the thrill of making a very important decision on who should lead the free world into the dawn of a sparkling age.