One of my more annoying qualities is my utter lack of opinion on pretty much anything. I know this is wrong. I know it makes me not very Strong and Independent. I know it makes me annoying to have any sort of debate with. I know I ought to be giving everyone out there the what for every which way, and I don’t. I nod and go “Huh” and “I never thought about it that way,” and if I have an dissenting point of view, I will wimp out with something like, “But you can probably imagine a situation where…” and if the person from whose opinion I am dissenting shoots me down with some sharply pointed verbiage, I will lower my eyes and mutter something like, “Dude, whatever” and then when the person goes “I beg your pardon?” I’ll say something like “Well, that’s a lot to think about!” with a sort of fakey smile and a demeanor which says, clearly and yet passive-aggressively, “I’m done with this conversation now.”
It’s not exactly that I don’t have opinions, because sure I do. I have lots. Kind of. I tend to have them immediately, without much to back them up. I would have sucked at debate team, let me tell you. This was me in February and March:
You: Yeah, man, we totally have to go to war against Iraq.
Me: Nuh uh!
You: Oh? And why not?
Me: Um. Because I heard on NPR that…um, I just do, okay?
You: [all the reasons that you think we should go to war, whatever those are]
Me: [fakey smile] Well, that’s a lot of information there. It’s a difficult issue, isn’t it?
Actually, that’s a lie. I wasn’t having those discussions about the war a couple of months ago because I have carefully implanted myself in a specialized microclimate of people who think…almost exactly like me on every point! Which means that I am an expert at preaching to the choir….especially about politics. I read The Nation, I listen to NPR, I am a registered Democrat and I voted for Howard Dean in that MoveOn thing. I guess I must have some sort of opinion if I do all that, right? It’s hard to say though because it feels like everyone I know has those same opinions. Conversations around Carl’s house with his housemates go like this:
Deane: Bush is bad.
Chiara: Very, very bad.
Carl: Bad to an order of magnitude previously unexplored in the last hundred years of the American presidency.
Deane: Hey, did you see that part in This Modern World where…
Carl and Chiara: Yes.
Chiara: I saw in The Stranger that…
Carl and Deane: Us too.
Chiara: Okay then. Damn the man! Who wants cake?
You see what I mean? It’s sort of pathetic. I find politics incredibly personal, yet they’re something about which I know, oh, approximately nothing, so it’s understandably difficult to sound coherent when you actually have to defend your beliefs to people who don’t think similarly to you. I blame a very liberal college campus and then a very liberal social work program, personally. I think those types of schools tend to cater to the liberal elitists you hear so much about, and elitists, I guess, don’t bother much with being “on message.” They just figure they’re right about everything, and so what’s the point of trying to prove it. It’s obvious, right? I confess I sort of feel that way…like, hello, Tim Eyman, if you cut taxes? Then there’s going to be a lot of stuff? Like ferry service and road repair and ambulances and, oh, I don’t know, social services? And they’re going to disappear. That is because…follow me closely…taxes pay for all those things that you seem to believe are free. See? Easy, right? We have a public school system because don’t want a nation of uneducated dolts…even if they’re too poor to pay for a private education. We give people food stamps so they don’t starve. It seems just very straightforward to me. It feels like arguing that the sky is blue. There it is, blue, right up above my head. See?
What I have to remember is that my opinions aren’t obvious to people who don’t hold them, and that some people with whom I might disagree maybe actually feel as though their opinions are the obvious ones. That’s why I can’t argue very well. It only takes a couple of minutes before I begin to think about their point of view and wonder why they might think the way they do (that bad evil wrong way that isn’t my way…or my way for the moment, my un-for-the-most-part-examined way), and then arguing about a point doesn’t seem to make much sense. Of course there’s also the whole Love Me! thing too. I don’t like to disagree with people and I don’t like to make a fuss, for the most part. (Those of you who know me will understand, I’m sure, that the not-making-a-fuss part refers only to people I don’t know well.)
All this is just to say that I feel wimpy sometimes. I think there are probably times when you have to take a stand, as they say in the movies, and too bad for other peoples’ feelings. Maybe I should be out there educating everyone as to my opinions about everything, for their good or my good or whatever. Maybe it would do me good to get in an argument I couldn’t win. So this is a chance for my four or five readers to email me with extremely provocative statements with which you are certain I would not agree…and just watch what I’ll do:
Subject: re: Bush is not, in fact, bad, but rather, good.Dear Friend: Thanks for your email. You know, you may have a point there.