Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Not Caring Much For Arrogance

I don’t know about you, but I don’t care much for arrogant people.  I’ll put up with nutcakes, nuisances and even the occasional incurable idiot, but arrogance is not something that goes down easily for me, even though I’ve caught myself at it from time to time. 


That’s one of the reasons I’ve so little empathy for George Steinbrenner as the Yankees fold yet again.  There’s a certain yeah! response from me.  When an incredibly rich guy buys himself a roster and then heaps blame on his players and coaches when the investment doesn’t guarantee to buy him a pennant and a series, I can’t help but feel a certain satisfaction that he got what he deserved.  Some people combine arrogance with temper tantrums and it makes them doubly nasty to be around.


George Bush seems to suffer from the arrogance backlash.  I think he’s probably a nice, clueless man, but he’s arrogant and those he’s surrounded himself with are arrogant as well.  That self-important condescension kept him from a stroll down his own driveway, that he could have turned into a Clinton-moment with just the flash of a smile, a hunkering down on his heels and nine dollars and ninety-eight cents worth of empathy.  He’s a charmer, I’m told.  But he just couldn’t do it, couldn’t bring himself to do in forced circumstances what he finds it natural and easy and second-nature to do in private.


The troubles Bush is in right now with the American people have more to do with arrogance than bad luck.  A man who agonized a little, as we all of us agonize over the terrible problems and choices we face, would bring the country along with him through these very tough times.  An old hound-man friend of mine told me a kennel story, saying that his sixty foxhounds were amenable enough in the kennel unless you had the misfortune to slip and fall.  Then they’d be on you in a pack, he said and they could kill you.  Instinct. Maybe George has slipped and we can only cross our fingers he doesn’t fall.


Trent Lott and Tom DeLay, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter all fall into the unattractive category of terminally arrogant.  It makes them hard to be around, what with all that screaming and ill will.


Unsurprisingly, at least to me, the most loved and oft-quoted conservative of all was Ronald Reagan and he was the very model of down-home courtesy.  That characteristic, as much as any other, won him the absurd title of “greatest American” according to AOL’s Discovery Channel.  Absurd choice or not, the man accomplished a huge swing back toward the conservative right because he was a master of the aw-shucks grin and an intriguing storyteller.  We liked him.  Even if we didn't like his politics, we liked him. We gave Reagan extra leaway, separating him from those within his administration who drew a record number of indictments and prison terms, because we knew he was the best of what we were.  Bill Clinton was similarly down to earth and it likely saved his presidency.


I don’t know what has so deprived us of civility among the powerful these days, but it’s a cause for concern.  There are huge and fundamental differences between us that will not be settled by bad-tempered shouting-matches, but might well be alleviated by a stroll down our collective driveway.  Small-mindedness won’t serve any longer.  We badly need to hunker down on our heels, suck on a blade of grass, squint up into the sun that warms us rich and poor, powerful and helpless, those who have enjoyed the best of times and those who have endured the worst.


I can’t take too many more sore losers.  It’s not the way my old daddy raised me.  I want my country to come back and meet me half way, want the dialog to take place on the front porch instead of the Supreme Court, want to believe again in government of and by and for the people. 


It’s a lot to ask, I know, but this used to be a country that asked a lot.
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.