Full Deck by Barbara Shulgasser-Parker

September 22, 2007

low expectations

Filed under: looking on the bleak side — bshulg @ 10:04 pm

  Pessimism gets a bum rap. Optimism is nice, but the unchecked variety leads to bad government (“Mission accomplished!”); divorce (“Love conquers all.”); and dental problems (“One more little caramel won’t hurt you.”).  

  I am a child of Holocaust survivors, so pessimism comes naturally to me. You could call it an inherited trait. I still view my parents’ experiences in the Lithuanian ghetto with a child’s incomplete comprehension of horror, but I’m adult now and everywhere I look the irrational lives on. Why detest every Frenchman? Why trust Dick Cheney? Why did Hitler hate the Jews? Who knows. The irrationality is best summed up in a scene from the film “Ship of Fools.”

  A Jewish passenger politely listens to a hate-spewing German.    

  “The Jews are to blame for all society’s ills,” the German pronounces.  

  “Yes,” the Jew agrees. “The Jews and the bicycle riders.”  

  The German’s face goes blank.  

  “Why the bicycle riders?” he asks.  

  The Jew shrugs.

  “Why the Jews?”    

  So, I am never surprised by betrayal, by dishonesty, by selfishness, by greed, by corruption. As a pessimist, I expect the worst and I feel kind of sorry for anyone who doesn’t.  

  Pessimism prepared me perfectly for the election of George W. Bush in 2000. I believed that he was capable of stealing the election. I believed that he would bring his energy industry cronies to power and let them design self-serving policies. I believed that as a privileged frat boy he would care nothing for the poor, the disenfranchised and the weak. I believed that he would lie about his past (his military service), his intentions in Iraq (where does one begin?), that he would sanction dirty politics (the Swift Boaters, unethical Justice Department firings, sanctioning of torture, illegal wiretapping) and try to prove he was a better man than his father by sacrificing American lives to bring down his father’s bete noir Saddam Hussein.

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