Monday, April 2, 2012

"Maturity" *

* Of which I admit minimal expertise.

So I will speak on the matter theoretically, and in the narrowest of contexts.

I hear people say – usually people who voted for him –

“I am disappointed in the president.”

Or, if they feel strongly about it,

“I am very disappointed with the president.”

(“In the president”, “with the president” – I have heard both. Either way, they are disappointed. Or very disappointed.)

The reason for these feelings invariably relates to the president’s having let these people down, because of the discrepancy between what he promised as a candidate and what he ended up delivering. (Ignoring the fact that sometimes, the candidate, as they say, “campaigns in poetry, but must govern in prose”, and the fact that, the president may want to do something, but is prevented by the Constitution from unilaterally bringing it about – a personal rebuttal, which, since it is not the topic under consideration, I incarcerate in brackets.)

The (very) “Disappointeds” may have been let down on a single issue, like, say, the president’s not “going the distance” on health care, or a number of issues – not closing Guantanamo, not ending the war in Afghanistan, not sufficiently punishing Wall Street for nearly sinking the economy.

(The (very) “Disappointeds” often sweep aside the President’s accomplishment, not the least of which was his own election despite a suspicious-sounding middle name, and a skin color different from the majority of the electorate.)

Still. He didn’t keep all his promises.

“You took me to the circus. But you didn’t buy me a clown wig.”

This, to my admittedly far from expert ear, sounds a lot like…


But let’s say it isn’t. Or let’s say it is, but there’s a justifiable reason for it, which people who behave immaturely inevitably claim there is, but this time they may actually have a point.

All right. Let’s see what’s going on here.

You go to a supermarket. And you see – down one aisle, from the front of the store where the checkout counters are to the freezer section in the back where they keep the milk – three store-spanning shelves of…

Just cereal.

There is wheat cereal, corn cereal, oat cereal, flax cereal, Flakes, Puffs, Chex – forget the list; you know what I’m talking about.

It’s the same, at a nearby aisle, with chips – everything from jalapeno nachos that’ll burn your mouth off to rice chips with seaweed salt, a personal favorite.

And speaking of milk, which I did thirty-seven words ago – once again, there is a plethora of options – whole milk, skim milk, two percent milk, one percent milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk (okay, I’m, talking about Whole Foods here), each of them with brand-name alternatives – “Healthy Choice”, “Nature’s Choice”, “Yak Herders’ Choice” – and those are just the “Choice” choices.

Unlimited possibilities! You roll your shopping cart down the aisles, selecting the option that suits their needs, tastes and predilections. Everyone can get exactly what they want – a cereal/chip/milk product meeting in all ways their exact specifications. (Except, perhaps, for me, who assiduously scans the shelves for a cereal with no sugar in it, either added or “all natural”, and winds up with a cereal whose flavor almost identically matches that of the box that it comes in.)

People are accustomed to getting what they want. But their presidents – or prior to their election, presidential candidates – in one way or another, inevitably fail to meet their specifications. The problem?

There are only two choices.

Think about it. The most important decision a country gets to make, way more important than what kind of chip to buy, and we’re presented with two alternatives. Can you imagine if there were only two choices of cereal? Would we really put up with that?

“This one contains stuff I’m allergic to, and this one tastes like sawdust. What else have you got?”


“Well, get something!”

With only two available options, what is the likelihood of anyone being fully happy with either of them? I bet, though they could never admit it out loud, the presidents are less than entirely satisfied with themselves.

“I cannot abolish capital punishment, or even say that I want to. Man! I am not the guy I thought I was.”

There is no law in America that says there can only be two candidates for president. And “third party” candidates do occasionally crop up. (The most recent candidate of consequence was billionaire Ross Perot in 1992, and he was hardly a “party”; he simply bankrolled himself.)

The reality is, that, due to practical contingencies, involving, among other things, fundraising, bucking the historically entrenched two-party system and state-by-state organization, the chances of outside challenger are “Don’t even bother.” Even former president Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t pull it off. And the electorate knew who he was.

This is where the maturity hits the fan. Two choices – that’s all you get. And as long as those conditions continue to prevail, because it is impossible he will do otherwise, this not being a “cereal-type” situation, the candidate, and even more so, the elected president held to the candidate’s promises,

Will continue to disappoint.

Get over it. Choose the candidate who will disappoint you the least. Then, judge his performance by realistic standards.

Is that the mature approach?

It sounds like it.

But, as I said,

I am far from an expert on the matter.


Thomas said...

Currently in the UK, we are suffering from outright lying candidates. The current Prime Minister promised that the National Health Service's funding would not be cut, and it would not have any more top-down reorganisation. It has had its budget cut, and the biggest reorganisation since it began.

To an extent I agree that you can't expect much from politicians - but I do find it offensive to see them literally lie in their campaigns.

bilge said...

It's mature to not hold your choice of candidate to what he promises? To not hold him accountable to what he promised was the bedrock of his political being and the reason we should elect him. His presidency a litany of all that he ran against, but the mature thing to do is to overlook that fact. I don't think so.