Monday, May 05, 2008

Making Choices

It embarrasses me to admit this, but back in 1982, I took the infamous est training, the Werner Erhard-created sicko, confrontational human-potential workshop that cost several hundred dollars and wasted numerous hours over a couple of weekends. My excuse is that I was living with a man who was an “est graduate” and, as you may recall, those estians were relentless about getting everyone they knew to “take the training.” Doing so was one of those stupid things most appropriately filed under “what I did for love.”

I was supposed to come out “transformed.” But apparently I didn’t “get it.” In truth, I got it perfectly; it was a lot of double-talking, manipulative garbage aimed at uptight middle-class people who had trouble expressing themselves and communicating with others. This was never my problem. It was created from a smorgasbord of extant philosophical ideas by a Philadelphia man who had one evening told his wife and children he was going out for a newspaper and never went back. He then showed up in California a couple of years later as a self-invented guru promoting the idea that nobody “does” anything to anybody else, we do it to ourselves; whatever we feel (abandonment? betrayal?) comes from us; nobody is responsible for how anybody else feels. It was self-justifying crapola of the highest order.

However, one of the more interesting estian concepts was that we choose the things we choose because we choose them, that’s it, there’s no particular reason, there’s nothing that makes them good or bad choices, right or wrong choices, we just choose because we choose. I remember frightened-looking people trying to explain why they preferred chocolate ice cream to vanilla, and whatever reason they came up with was dismissed until they conceded that their preference meant nothing except that it was their preference. I think this is bullshit, but it’s interesting to contemplate – especially now.

I’ve thought a lot about this concept while watching each painful, slow-motion moment of the Presidential Campaign Without End unfold day by nitpicking day. People who support Clinton vs Obama or Obama vs Clinton justify their choice with numerous reasons that they get very worked-up about: she lied about such and such, he’s a closet Muslim, she carries the baggage of Bill, he doesn’t have a clearly-defined plan, she’s a closet hawk, he’s an elitist, blah, blah, blah. Why are we still bothering with all this? What does it mean and where does it get us at this point in the game?

All politicians lie about something at some point or another. Whether or not they have game plans, it’s always a whole new ballgame once they get into the Oval office. They’re all for peace until they feel they’re driven to war; they’re all just regular folks whose personal fortunes are of no consequence; they all drop their ending g’s when talking to actual regular folks. It’s politics.

But if we Democrats, Independents (and even a few Republicans) are, in the end, supposed to vote for whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be (and we better, lest we set ourselves up for four more years with someone with whom there are enormous, very real differences), why are we still trying so fiercely to perceive madly important differences between Clinton and Obama? Is it so wrong to say “I like Clinton because I like Clinton”? I can give you reasons for why I choose Clinton over Obama, but in the end, what difference does it make if I’m going to vote for Obama anyway, should he become the official Democratic alternative to McCain?

For the record, I like chocolate better than vanilla – but what’s most important is that I like ice cream. May the winning flavor win.

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