Thursday, September 13, 2012

Politics and Good Taste

One of my favorite professors once informed me that I lacked sophistication because I did not particularly appreciate John Updike's description of semen infused scrambled eggs or the wife swapping in the book we were reading. I told him that lack of sophistication had nothing to do with one's gag reflex. Just this week I have been reminded again that good taste and intelligence/and/or education do not necessarily go hand in hand. Around a table with several other women, the prevalent opinion concerned the "wonderful" speech given by former president Clinton. One woman enthused that even though she had never given her former husbands a blow job, she would be happy to give one to Bill Clinton. Somehow I kept eating.

Political discussions among those of like mind can be difficult for those who do not agree with the viewpoints expressed, but thankfully most folks have sense enough to know that not everyone will have the same perspective. One of the major benefits of a democracy is the right to express one's differences in politics or even one's opinion about Fords and Chevrolets. And most of us can be downright respectful of those differences. And for the most part, our differences are based on honest opinions rather than prejudices. At least, we hope that opinions are based on honesty. Sometimes we don't recognize our own prejudices.

Generally speaking, prejudice is opinion based on lack of knowledge or facts that are irrefutable. In at least one aspect of American life, our so-called knowledge is quite often based on what we read on the internet--whether or not what is written or spoken is based on anything even slightly resembling the truth. And I have been as guilty as the next person--maybe more so--about believing things that have been sent to me by e-mail. After several embarrassments, I have learned to look at or to see if some of the "facts" are indeed facts or pure garbage. And some of the opinions expressed by respectable journalists are not exempt from stupidities, either. Just because I admire someone's work does not mean that person's opinions are free from prejudice or even perjury!

I can remember a time when politics was not quite such a dirty term as it is now. Back when I was a little girl, the politicians still held up little children and kissed their cheeks to the admiring glances of their grandmothers. And a dime in the hand of a little child was as good as a vote for a good Democrat. Tony Fenoglio got many a good vote out of a trip through North Central Texas just because he knew how to talk to farmers and knew how to admire small children. But those were different times. My own parents and grandparents were Democrats because they felt that the Republicans did not care about the common man or his financial circumstances. In truth, I have no idea if the Republicans were much different from the Democrats back in that time. And I am reminded by a friend whose son-in-law was also in Texas politics that most of the time the politicians were simply show horses--willing to be seen in certain circles and neigh or yay for the one's who could pay their way. Politicians don't do much, but when they do, we all have to pay for it.

But more to the point of how I feel about opinions expressed: When did good taste go out the door? Yes, I might be the first to say that a certain politician is an idiot, but I would be happy to support his right to do his job the best he knows how--especially if criticism leveled is unfair or extreme and personal rather than measured objectively and intelligently. If anything has convinced me that political parties, clubs, groups, and other social gatherings have value, it will be for the good that they can DO for others in this world. I have enough grounds for my own opinions without the need for socialized gossip. Good taste obviously does not depend on becoming a vegan, a Buddhist, or an "enlightened" reader. For me, good taste means going about doing good quietly and with compassion with the least amount of offense given. I can't change the political system to one of unselfish concern for others, but I can at least keep a civil tongue in my mouth and refrain from insulting the intelligence of others with a different perspective.