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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Political cliches

Political arguments quickly prove tiresome because original thought is so rare. Why invite people to bash you over the head with a bag of cliches? After hearing "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" the first 238 times, I ran out of fresh responses -- and that was back in 1987. Hell, I'm even annoyed by my own bag of cliches, by the phrases which express my deepest political convictions.

As some French dude -- or was it some Russian dude? -- once put it: Astonish me!

(Or has that phrase itself become inexcusably familiar? Well, I'm not surprised.)

In everyday English parlance, most cliches butt up against an equal and opposite cliche: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" meets "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." This page contains numerous examples of contradictory cliches.

In the political realm, these contradictions are both common and unnoticed. Take, for example, this USA Today story about the rising number of independent voters. Scan the reader comments -- which, inevitably, are filled with cliches. I draw your attention to two.

Cliche 1: (Concerning the two major parties) "To obtain a majority, each must appeal to their respective extremes. From the extremes there is no way to compromise... In the middle, there is the possibility of compromise. 'Left' and 'right' cannot compromise."

Cliche 2: "The R's and D's are the fundraising wings of the same vulture. They have shared power for 150 years and are equally responsible for arriving at this point in governmental history."

Am I the first person to notice that these two oft-heard sentiments are in direct opposition? Either the two parties are extreme and irreconcilable, or they are as alike as makes no difference. You can't have it both ways.

(Yes, I know that "you can't have it both ways" is a cliche. I don't care.)

What bothers me is not that people resort to familiar thoughts and phrases. Human beings do that. We're not as astonishing as we like to think.

What bothers me is that the same person can nod his head in agreement when he hears cliche 1 and cliche 2.

Political concepts are not Schroedinger's cat. You can't say X and then say not-X. If people can think two contradictory thoughts at the same time, then when Adam and Eve (or Adam and Steve) stand before the Justice of the Peace, what do they really mean when they say "I do"?
Was there ever a time in American history when politicians were looked at with respect?

The above clich├ęs are alike in one respect, they are both negative. Perhaps that's why they can be entertained without a cerebral melt-down.

I think the next hero of the revolution will be the person who instead of fighting Wall Street and Washington figures way to make them irrelevant to the lives of Joe and Jane Sixpack. I suggest we start with the print and broadcast media and work our way up. Tune out, turn off, drop the pundits.
At the risk of adding cliches to the melting pot, I must note that, like pictures, a good cliche is worth a thousand words because it expresses a history (usually forgotten or misunderstood).

Contradictory thoughts held in the same noggin, we're told, are a sign of genius; therefore, agreeing with two contradictory cliches must make one a bright bulb indeed.

Former Edwards supporters often suffer from cliche abuse so we are apt to be a bit more sensitive to the dilemma.
I think both cliches can be correct. It's only that one concerns appearances while the other reflects the reality of political outcomes.

Challenge yourself. Google First Scandal.
Obama did his best to merge the "opposites" a few days ago, when he inferentially announced, as 52 Iraqis were slain in Baghdad, that he had been wrong in calling Iraq a "dumb war" which was now, in his estimation, a success which had implanted a stable "democracy."

It must have worked because I heard of no outcry from the longstanding "antiwar" prog left to primary the bum.
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