Saturday, March 8, 2008

Benchley's Law of Distinction

"There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people and those who don't."
Robert Benchley (1889 -1945)
US Actor, Author and Humorist

Believe it or not, I don't believe there are just two kinds of people in the world. I do, however, believe that it is human nature to take sides and that there is nothing inherently wrong in that. I believe there are many "two kinds of people" in the world, and that we each take sides a hundred times a day. The richness, complexity and texture of our lives derive not from the myriad black and white choices we make every day, but from the mosaic of colors that results from those choices.

The hitch with taking sides is what I call the "Bush Syndrome." In theory, I suppose there is something about which the current President Bush and I agree. (I will not waste our time trying to think of it now.) The problem I have with the man and the President is his "you're either fer me or agin' me" attitude.

If President Bush has one lasting legacy, I fear it will be that the "Bush Syndrome" (BS for short) will continue to dominate our lives and culture for decades to come. Since BS has become policy, it seems we may no longer agree about some things, yet disagree about others. In a world full of BS, it's all or nothing.

This election year, BS is most evident in the ubiquitous blue and red political map. Just imagine what we could create if this aesthetically-challenged graphic was enhanced with a little Green Party here, a smattering of Libertarian yellow there. I'm no artist, but I know enough about the color wheel to understand that by mixing these four colors alone, we could create a true rainbow of representation.

I believe in making choices. When presented with chocolate or strawberry, I'll take chocolate every time. If it's Michigan vs. Notre Dame, I say "Go Blue." But, I don't hate you if you prefer strawberry. I try not to take it personally if you are a Fighting Irish fan (although this takes some effort). It's true that some of our choices are vitally important — life or death, even — but most are not. Most of our choices are simply preferences with no intrinsic value. So go ahead, pick your side, root for it, defend it, but be sure to inoculate yourself against BS first.

"I am the decider, and I decide what is best." 
— George W. Bush

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Art by:  2KoP


Anonymous said...

No Mr. Bush you are not the decider to decide what's best. That's a dictator. That's why you've got a cabinet. I like the map you chose, it's very pretty. I choose Moose Tracks icecream. :)

There may be a third answer, but then the world becomes a multiple choice problem, and I prefer either a, or b.

Julia Buckley said...

This is very wry; thank you for a fun essay. And I love the Benchley quote!

EJinSF said...

How dare you post those awful words in a public forum? I'm referring, of course, to 'that place in Indiana' whose name shall never be uttered.

I'm with Molly on the Moose Tracks, though you really haven't lived until you've tasted Mitchell's tropical flavors here in beautiful SF.

Just 7 more months until he's gone...

Susan Bearman said...

I believe my true colors (maize and blue) come shining through in this essay, although perhaps I could have identified the offensive party by location, rather than directly by name.