by Kit-Bacon Gressitt
The human race abounds with bad habits. It’s human nature, right? We consume things that initially feel good and then haunt us with health-threatening pounds, high cholesterol, cancerously prolific cells. We do things that that give us a momentary sense of exhilaration, power, fulfilled lust or relief and then, if we have any conscience, dash us to the cold, hard ground of guilt, sorrow, remorse and pain we’ve imposed on others.
Oh, yeah, we certainly have some redeeming virtues, but we also suck — and we know it, which is, perhaps, the reason for New Year’s resolutions. We seek self-improvement, atonement or reconciliation via an annual declaration of good intent. And then, more often than not, we repeat the behaviors we had hoped to abandon. Of course, there are those who intentionally persist in misbehaving, despite popular condemnation, perhaps because they don’t believe they are misbehaving. Take, for instance, President George W. Bush.
Like presidents before him in their eleventh hours, Bush is repeating the traditional imposition of unilateral decisions unlikely to receive Congress’ warm embrace: He has recently expanded healthcare providers’ ability to treat patients as to the personal convictions of the healthcare provider in lieu of reproductive health information and services — even birth control; he has offered up fragile public lands to be sucked dry of their natural resources; and the like. He’ll next be tossing pardons like Mardi Gras beads to the parade of evil doers in his own administration who bared their greedy breasts, although many of their dastardly deeds are buried in the poop pile of executive privilege and blatant disregard of demands for revelation. Such naughty behaviors are the habits of presidents of both parties, irresistible as such power is in its kingly qualities.
Regardless of the practices’ abdication of what we common folk think of as our democratic process, we anticipate it like an oft-told joke. Yet, for all the cynical expectation that our presidents will take advantage of this benefit of the office, wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t? Wouldn’t President-elect Barack Obama be walking the “change we can believe in” walk if he opted out of this particular perk?
Sadly, bad habits of individuals and institutions are tough to break, however self-destructive.
In some exotic lands where innate wisdom has yet to be replaced by mass-marketed family values and dogma cum politics, the local folk use a bamboo trap to catch monkeys. The trap is in its simplicity a work of art; in its design, its intent, an exquisite rendering of one of the more poignant foibles of animal nature.
The trap is baited and laid to await its hungry prey. The soon-to-be-supper primate reaches through the opening of the trap to fetch the bait, wraps its cute little fingers and opposable thumb around the tasty treat, and is caught, its fist now too big to pass back through the hole. In the monkey’s rigid refusal to let go the tempting morsel, it is held there, captive to its inability to respond any differently.
One might think that had the monkey the human ability of rational thought, it would simply release the bait and free itself from the stewpot, but then one would be assuming an awful lot about the human inclination for change. From our leaders to our voters, we have a whole lot of fists snared in bamboo tubes.
Nonetheless, hope abounds, or at least it pokes a puny head out of the muck of current conditions, and I continue to look for something better than monkey business from our leaders — as I hope such persistent hope is not just another bad habit.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay Self-Reliance, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
I’d like my new president to break with tradition at the end of his term — and throughout it — to forego the foolish consistency of his forebears, to drop the tempting treat, unball his fist and be a large statesman, a philosopher of the people, a divine inspiration for progress. I’d like him to be misunderstood as “Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
In lieu of that, I’ll settle for someone who does not provide fodder for collections of verbal idiocy. And I resolve to continue to hope, however foolish that consistency.
(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)
(Political graphic © copyright DarkBlack and used with permission. For more material like this, please see DarkBlack's blog.)
New Year’s Resolutions
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by Kit-Bacon Gressitt