Firm But Flexible.

Vote, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.  Source: The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

Okay, kids.  This week’s magical word is relativism.  Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1973) defines relativism as 1 a : a theory that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the conditions of knowing.  And, in this essay, how Rudi Giuliani and Pat Robertson answered my prayers.

Now right off the bat I embrace the above definition. Theory.  It says it’s a theory.  Theory is an open-ended word for general conversation.  What is the difference between theory and opinion?  In my universe, stating something is an opinion suggests an open-mindedness to contrary positions. Yes, of course, we all have firm opinions about things.  We are human after all. Yet.

I have a scribbled note to myself taped above my computer that reads: firm but flexible.  I was thinking of “a” particular Congressman at the time when firm but flexible floated through my mind as an appropriate descriptor.  He had principles that were firm but flexible.  Like it?

Theories are flexible, too.  They have to be.  But evoking a theory not identified as your own suggests a degree of peer review. Others have examined “said” idea and opined “X” about it.   And then, frequently at this point, the conversation shifts to defending one’s experts, as opposed to clarifying the issues and setting priorities. Regardless, that can be fun, too.  I like it all.

Please review now (above) what Ambrose Bierce said of the word: vote.  In it is implied a theory about us.  That we’re dumber than a box of rocks and our stupidity is destroying the nation. “What is America’s current condition?”  That would be my shortest answer.  There’d be others, too.  But Mr. Bierce captured it well, too.

That’s my opinion.  But I suggest it’s a theory, too.  Who among you has the temerity to challenge my assertion? The evidence is overwhelming.  Anyone who intelligently considers is a “peer” on this one.

Ah, but Chris, what about relativism?   Some will argue that the electorate is not actually dumber than a box rocks.  But I counter that such people are proving my point admirably by demonstrating the limited nature of the mind (their minds).  I jest but only slightly.

Actually, I am more interested today in the second definition of relativism and how it applies to the sanctimonious American Right.  Relativism 1 b : a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.

Does that definition not sound familiar?  I consider myself a relativist.  I willingly practice situational ethics. And, I make no particular bones about it.  I see infinite shades of gray (and, oh, how lovely gray can be).  What was it Emerson said about the hobgoblin of little minds?  Yet, the Right has for decades made relativism an epithet, a charge of ungodliness. If not, un-Americanism.  If you are a relativist you are unclean.

What words better sum up the Right’s criticism of the Left than, “He’s a rotten SOB of a secular humanist and a relativist.”  I willingly wear the label of secular humorist and relativist. Thank you very much.

But, but, but can it be?  Can the Right be relativists, too?   No, you say, “Purity” doesn’t swim with pigs! Never!  Truth doesn’t whore itself for votes! Never!  America’s Righteous Right doesn’t truck with thrice-married, abortion supporting, gay loving, Second Amendment quislings.  Never!!

But what did I see last week? Do pig’s now fly?  Pat Robertson endorsed Rudi Giuliani for President of the United States.  Mr. Self Righteous 700 Club himself with feet of clay?  How can this be?

How can the epitome of sanctimonious Rightwing dribble so publicly prostitute himself?  Actually, the same charge could be leveled against Rudi Giuliani.  Would you vote for a man who had the endorsement of Pat Robertson?  If I were Giuliani, I’d sooner bed down with Monica Lewinski than become bunkmates with Pat Robertson.  But then again, I’m a relativist. Ha!

Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Recall the old joke that had two strangers meeting and one agreeing to have sex with the other for $100,000. Upon approving the price the man said, “We’ve determined what you are, how about doing it for $20.00?”

I am unsure in the Giuliani/Robertson transaction which participant determined the price and what act will actually be performed.  But I thought such public acts of “indecency” were once anathema to the Right.  Hmmm?

Go ahead you stalwarts of righteous certitude, vote your conscience.  It’s all relative, huh?  Ha!

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US

11.15.07