I have been asked how in the face of all that is rotten in the world I maintain my chirpy, cheery, optimistic and generally sunny outlook on life.
People have asked me that.
I'm just as surprised as you. Frankly, I consider myself one grumpy, sour, mean and nasty son of a bitch, a misanthropic, malcontented, pessimistic, anti-social bastard and jerk. Cheerful? My guiding philosophy is Murphy's Law, intensified. I believe that it's not just that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It's that anything that can go wrong already has gone wrong, way, way, way wrong, and you won't even have begun to notice just how badly it's all gone wrong until the paramedics and the police arrive.
I'm not a the glass is half-empty-er. I'm a the glass is dirty and the milk in it has curdled and came from sick cows anway-er.
Apparently these character flaws don't always come across, and not only on this page, where it could be the case that I'm just not making myself clear, but in my analog life, where it should be obvious to anyone spending five minutes with me that there is no pleasure to be had in my company.
Personally, I'd rather spend a night on the town with Pope Benedict than with me. At least he lightens up once in a while.
But still some people insist I'm a cheerful guy with nary a care in the world and they want to know my secret.
I will tell you. It's because I have a simple faith. It has one tenet, a single golden rule.
People are no damn good.
That sounds a little harsh.
Let me put it another way.
People stink and they are stupid.
By people I mean, well, people. The whole damned human race, every one of us, except for my parents, my sisters, and my pal Gary.
I'm at the top of my list. I'm rotten and I can prove it.
You, I'm not so sure about. I hardly know you after all. You could be all right. I'll try to keep an open mind should we meet, but I'm doubtful.
People stink and they're stupid.
There are a number of questions that arise from such a philosophy, of course, the first being, if people are that Christ-awful, Lance, how come the world isn't even more of a hell than it is?
I've got an answer for that, which doesn't posit divine intervention, but I'll save it for another day.
The main point of this post is to explain how my complete lack of faith and hope in my fellow man and woman gives me what other people regard as a positive outlook on life.
You wouldn't think that anybody who thinks like I do could go about with a smile on his lips and a song in his heart. In fact you might think that somebody like me would find it hard to go about at all, that just forcing myself out the door would be too much for my fragile emotional state, that a mere glance out the window would sink me into a slough of despond.
I guess it works---if it does work---the way Ben Franklin said pessimism worked for him. If you never expect anything good to happen, you are never disappointed.
Anyway, I should define my terms. What do I mean when I say people stink and they are stupid?
Pretty much this. That when faced with any moral or ethical choice, people will almost always do what they want to do instead of what they know they should do. If doing the wrong thing will make them feel better than doing the right thing, they will do the wrong thing, and, proving just how rotten they are, will insist to the world, swear on a stack of Bibles, go into court or on TV or before Congress to declare that they in fact acted entirely from principle, that they did the right thing regardless of how it looks to you or the family of the bloody corpse they left on the floor.
And they are stupid in this way: That when contemplating doing the wrong thing and in the very act of doing it they will know that it is wrong, they will know that it won't only hurt other people but it will be a personal disaster for themselves, that they will be caught at some point and punished, and that when they try to explain and beg forgiveness or mercy nobody will believe what they did was the right thing to do so that they will show themselves up not just as villains later, but as liars and fools, and that knowing all this, they will still go ahead and do the wrong thing.
But that's only when they are thinking. Usually, they don't think, they're that stupid. I call this my Driving Only One Car Length Ahead theory, which goes like this.
Most bad drivers are bad because when they are driving they are only looking forward at the car right in front of them. They don't look right or left, they don't use their rearview or side mirrors. They fixate on the bumper of the car directly ahead, they don't look through its windows or over its roof or past it on either side, and so they don't see the car ahead of that one stalling out, the light turning red at the next corner, the kid darting out into traffic half a block up, the ambulance coming down the road, or the signs telling everyone to merge left. They see only what the car in front of them is doing at that moment and they think that as long it's still moving forward everything must be fine on the road ahead and they relax and go into a trance, absurdly secure in their expectations that the way things are right now is how they will continue indefinitely.
They can't understand why the Republicans want to change things in DC in way that will come back to haunt them when the day finally comes when the Democrats are back in power. It seems foolish. It makes no sense, unless they know that the Democrats will never be back in power.
Filling in for Atrios, Avedon writes:
One reason I don't think it's at all paranoid to suspect that the Republicans have deliberately taken over the voting system in order to cheat is that they keep doing things that don't otherwise make sense. There's a rather long list of things you just wouldn't expect them to think they could get away with unless they really thought they could control the ballot box, because otherwise they would have to expect that the public would kick enough of them out to not only end some political careers but also make impeachment - and prison - a distinct possibility.
You have to wonder why they would do this when the shoe could easily be on the other foot at any given time. You have to believe that it has always been that threat that kept previous majorities from enacting such a fundamental change to our system that could only help a party intent upon enacting its agenda unimpeded --- but which could be used by either party to do it. These last few elections have been close. The GOP majority is not solid. And while I have argued that the double standard is entrenched because of the republicans' willingness to make nonsensical arguments that confuse the press and render any accountability useless, it will not do them much good if the rules have been changed and a new Democratic majority operates as ruthlessly unconcerned with public opinion as they do.
No, you really do have to wonder how they think they can get away with such radical changes that have no constitutional or even popular support. It really does make you have to at least consider the possibility that they know they will not lose elections
(Thanks to Jack Shannon again for the links.)
Now, I agree that the Bush Leaguers stole votes the last time out. I don't know if they stole enough to steal the election, but they stole as many as they felt they could get away with stealing, and given the corruption of the American media and the ineffectiveness of the Democrats, that means they stole a lot of votes.
I know they did this because, for one thing, they made obvious moves to set out to do it and, for another, they complained all through the campaign about how the Democrats were trying to steal votes.
This is the salient psychological truth about the American Right. Whatever outrageous behavior they accuse Democrats of doing, they are doing themselves.
My main reason, though, for believing they stole votes is that stealing votes is an old and enthusiastically practiced American tradition. Anyone in the media, and especially any blogger left of Glenn Reynolds, who expresses doubts that the election could have been stolen is an ignoramous and should be sent back to high school for remedial study in American history.
They should also be forced to read from the collected works of Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin every night until they meet their final deadline or blog their last post.
So they stole votes. They'll steal votes in the next election too.
But do they plan to do this on a scale large enough and for a length of time long enough to keep themselves in power forever.? Can they do it secretly enough, competently enough, and consistently enough to manage that?
Well, they would probably try if they thought of it. But I don't think they're thinking that way.
Because they are people and people stink and they are stupid.
I believe that the Republicans are driving one car-length ahead.
These are not even particularly bright stupid people. They are for the most part thieves and thugs. They are, an amazing number of them, seriously, seriously sexually screwed-up, which makes them neurotic, paranoid, angry, and constantly on the brink of being swallowed up whole by their own weird impulses and repressed desires. (See Jim West.) The thugs and thieves among them are not only stupid, they are arrogant. They don't believe they will ever get caught. They think that the way things are going is the way they will always go.
The thieves among them don't care that all the bad policy they are making now will be unmade in the future, that things they are trying to get rid of now will come back later in spades---when the country is truly bankrupt and people are crying to the government for help, how high do you think the tax rates the Democrats will impose on the wealthy will be?
But the thieves don't care, because they are thieves, and thieves want their money now and that's all that concerns them.
The thugs aren't worried that the rules they are eliminating now might be needed later by them to protect themselves. They aren't concerned that the friends and allies they are alienating won't forgive and forget when they need their help in the future. They don't give a damn that the programs they are destroying will cost them at the ballott box and will be restored at a later date so there is hardly any point to destroying them. They don't because they are thugs and for thugs the joy is doing damage for its own sake.
Those among them who are thinking and who can see the day when they are out of power aren't preparing for that day, because they stink, just like people who cheat on their husbands and wives don't prepare for divorce court, people who steal from their employers don't prepare for the arrival of the auditors, people who want something they know they shouldn't have don't prepare for the day when that something will reveal itself to be poisoned fruit.
They are driving one car length ahead.
Bill Frist is looking forward only as far as the first Republican primary in 2008.
Tom DeLay had been looking only as far ahead as the next deal and his next payday.
Now he is looking only as far ahead as his next chance to head off an investigation that will lead to his prosecution.
And this is why I'm, marginally, not as worried as Avedon and Digby. This is why I am, marginally, more optimistic. And this is why I might appear more upbeat, cheerful, and positive. Optimistic is a relative condition.
I am not not worried. And I am not all that optimistic.
These are dishonest, dangerous, and destructive people, and I'm not relying on the Democrats or the media to put a stop to them.
But I am betting on their own stupidity and viciousness catching up with them.
I'm also expecting local prosecutors to start coming down on them. Not because I think local prosecutors are heroes and saints and don't stink, but because they do.
I'm counting not on their virtue but on their ambition and vanity.
Some hotshot Republican prosecutor is going to see that his or her best way to fame and fortune is nailing one of these guys.
But remember, I'm a people.
Which means that I stink.
And I'm stupid.
(Shameless begging to prove I stink: Welcome to all of you coming from Buzz Flash, AlterNet, Wolcott, and the other fine blogs linking to this post. I'm really glad you're here and I hope you'll come back, time and time again. I'm hoping though some of you will be kind enough to hit my Amazon or PayPal buttons in the tip jar up there at the top of the right hand column on your way out or click here. All this welcome but unexpected traffic is doing a number on my bandwidth and disk allottment and I need to upgrade. Thanks very much.)