Sunday, March 02, 2008

Like a Virgin

I have been reading some comments about Barak Obama having attended a church where ostensibly homophobic comments were made. I've also heard the snide comments about his not disavowing support from people that he didn't ask for support from. I'm particularly disappointed in the inability of Senator Clinton (whose intelligence and competence I otherwise admire) to rise above that level of pettiness.

I am confused about something. Just how far does a modern politician have to distance him/herself from an uncomfortable subject, to be free of its taint. It is, after all, nearly impossible not to come into contact with, or hear, or read, or see something that will offend someone ... just in the course of ordinary living.

It's odd that we have taken the old phrase "you are what you eat" to the extreme of "you are what you see/hear/read/etc.", because, of course, that just is not true. I eat bacon and digest it. My body changes it into something that I can use, modifying and absorbing the protein and nutrients letting me grow physically. I do not, by dint of eating bacon, grow a snout and trotters and become a pig. What I eat becomes me but only through the process of digestion imposed on it. There are portions that are indegestible and they are excreted.

Likewise, what I read or hear is not me. Just as meat must be digested, literature, music, even the cultural ecology is processed by the neural digestive juices of my mind disassembled to usable components. I take the nutrients I need and just as with food, excrete the rest. Unlike food, however, that which is intellectually indigestible is worthy of scrutiny. I may not stand gazing for hours into the toilet bowl, but I will return to something I've read that upset my mental stomach and try to figure out why. It is a kind of mental scatomancy. I am acting as my own allergist, trying to find out which ideas, words, attitudes are giving my brain hives.

But when I do these exercises, it is for my own being, not anyone else's. It does not always occur to me that I need to publicly announce or denounce. Maybe it is because I am a fairly private person, but it has never occurred to me to rise up in a crowded restaurant to announce the fact that "this fish is tainted". I may call the manager over and quietly complain, perhaps I won't eat there again, perhaps the manager will apologize and claim that it was an anomaly and Ill give the place another chance ... or two.

This is part of living. You meet, work with, enjoy the company of others with whom you agree, or you disagree; you taste, eat, enjoy different foods; you read, watch, hear different forms of media.

My hunter-mind makes it difficult for me to understand the pattern here. Has the fact that I have read Ezra Pound and not immediately written a position denouncing his anti-semitism make me unfit as a companion or a leader. If I attend a church service which uses the bible, a distinctly violent, legalistic document which espouses many positions with which I do not concur, is it immediately incumbent on me to write a position paper distancing myself from any passages in that tome that might offend someone.

... And to go back to the comparison with food ... just as I would have qualms about eating a meal of roast beef prepared by a lifelong vegan, I have qualms about politicians who do not know what they are talking about. Naivety is NOT a quality I want in a leader. A politician who rails against anarchy without having read Kropotkin, or against the failure of the Iraqi government to pull together without understanding that it wasn't even a nation until we forcibly stuck three separate and unwilling nations together, ... well they just make me tired. They're like a cook who puts a filet mignon in a microwave then complains that it's tough.

It's difficult enough solving the complex problems we face without being intentionally ignorant for fear that someone might say, "Oh! If you read that than you must agree with it." The only thing worse than an ignorant politician is a voter who thinks that the politician's obliviousness is a virtue.

I swear that sometimes I think people only want to vote for someone who has been kept in isolation for their entire life. They don't want to see any mistakes, any human failings.

I say to hell with that! You can't learn without making mistakes. (Of course, Mr. Bush has proven that you can make mistakes without learning.) When I see a politician with no flaws, I worry. Either he is too innocent, or too good a liar.