Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"The Luxury of Non-Nipotence"

Which is probably not a word, but is the opposite of omnipotence.

I have of late been in sporadic contact with (now two-term) Senator Al Franken, whose specific job description I am not entirely sure of.  I believe it has something to do with tackling the country’s thorniest problems though it might actually be something else as they are doing little of that nature that I am aware of. 

Maybe it’s a harder job than I think.

Which brings me – earlier than is normal for this venue – to my actual point:

The luxury of non-nipotence.

Having no authority, effective power or insider clout to affect anything, I am therefore – and herein lies the “luxury” component – free – to argue any position I want to, and, being a recognized nonentity, if that’s not an oxymoron, fear no consequences whatsoever for doing so.

In the absence of meaningful repercussions, I can say whatever I want to and, unlike the “Dixie Chicks” whose lead singer once told an audience she was ashamed she was from Texas when the sitting president at the time was from Texas, my records will not be banned from country music radio stations for doing so.

Ah, the freedom of having nothing to lose.  (At the price of having no ability to change anything.  Of course, there is always a down-side.)

I am the luckiest of lucky men.  And I thank internet technology for the arrangement.  Imagine if there were no blogs to write on.  I would be relegated to saying things that cannot possibly change anything to myself.  I still do that, of course.  But now, I can write down everything that cannot possibly change anything, and I can turn it into a blog post.

I ask generally unasked questions, I acknowledge, not because I am more discerning than the general population, but because there are legitimate reasons those unasked questions are generally unasked. 

Recently, with the overall agreement that we handled the “American Indian Situation” the wrong way, I composed a post in which I pondered what exactly – or even approximately – the right way might have been?  (Since Senator Al sits on the Indian Affairs Committee, I passed a copy of my intellectual meanderings along to him.)

Hearing a question concerning an alternative approach towards dealing with the Indians, a reasonable and practical person might well ask,

“Why?  Are we planning a “Mayflower Landing” do-over?”

They’re right.  It happened, and we messed up.  What exactly is the purpose of that question now?

I don’t know.  But I have a feeling it has something to do with getting past blame, shame and responsibility, and trying to honestly figure out – at the very least, just for practice – what, as opposed to what we did, would have been the reasonable, compassionate and pragmatically possible thing to do.

I could be wrong about that, trying to justify my penchant for asking perennially overlooked and inevitably annoying unasked questions.

And while I’m at it, what about these bothersome queries:

I am against the adversarial system that is at the heart of American courtroom interactions.  Why, I wonder, is it believed that two sides, distorting the evidence to the benefit of their arguments, would lead to a just and truthful resolution of the case?

“Hey, it’s the way we do it.”

And they’re not going to change it.  Although maybe, by asking this unaskable question, the legal system might be encouraged to revisit this curious arrangement and institute minor adjustments that will make things a little less “May the best arguer win.”

You have to say something, don’t you?  Otherwise, they believe you’re on board.

“Mr. Simpson, you are free to go.”

A glittering moment in adversarial history. 

And don’t tell me, “I’d rather see ten guilty men go free to keep one innocent man from going to prison.”  How exactly did that verdict keep innocent men from going to prison?

“Move on, Earlo.”

Okay, my last example for today:

“Who’re you gonna vote for for president?”

Hold your horses!  (“Before they run away from you”, as my grandmother used to say.) 

Before preceding to an answer, how about these generally unasked questions:

One:  With all the poll-tested packaging of the candidates’ images, how do we know who these candidates actually are?            – in contrast to who they are telling us they are, or who the opposition is telling us they are.  (The only thing I know about Hillary Clinton is she’s a woman.  And I figured that out with my eyes.)

Two:  Since candidates now require billions of dollars to run for president and only billionaires can afford to bankroll them, why should we care which billionaire they are ultimately beholden to?  (This question is sometimes asked, but then people get caught up in the partisanship and just forget about it.)

Three:  Since it is standard procedure for candidates to campaign in support of their party’s policies during the primary and then “tack to the middle” during the General Election, how do we know what these candidates actually believe?  (Other than believing that they are really desperate to get elected?)

The answer to those questions .. Wait!  I just though to another one.  And it may be the most significant question of all:

If the Congress and the Supreme Court are controlled by the opposition party, how much power does the occupier of the Oval Office actually have?

The answer to all of those questions is the same:

"Very cynical.”

No.  And thank you for dismissing my inquiries with an ad hominem eliminator.  Now, about the questions.

“All right.  Your questions are interesting and provocative.  But all three of those trains have long since departed the station.”

Making my questions – and others along similar lines – functionally irrelevant.

But are they not still worth asking?

I don’t know, maybe they’re not.

The thing for me  is,

If the only acceptable questions are the readily answerable ones,

It takes a whole lot of the fun out of thinking them up.

And a lot of the pleasure out of being non-nipotent.

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