Mudcat Café message #1383694 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #62901   Message #1383694
Posted By: Amos
20-Jan-05 - 06:09 PM
Thread Name: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
Subject: RE: BS: Popular Views of the Bush Administration
In the interests of counterpoint, see this essay by Daniel Gilbert.. Excerpt:

Things do seem to turn out for the best - but studies suggest that this has less to do with the way things turn out than with our natural tendency to seek, notice, remember, generate and uncritically accept information that makes us happy.

Our ability to spin gold from the dross of our experience means that we often find ourselves flourishing in circumstances we once dreaded. We fear divorces, natural disasters and financial hardships until they happen, at which point we recognize them as opportunities to reinvent ourselves, to bond with our neighbors and to transcend the spiritual poverty of material excess. When the going gets tough, the mind gets going on a hunt for silver linings, and most linings are sufficiently variegated to reward the mind's quest.

So when President Bush puts his hand on the Bible today and begins his second term, Republicans will not be the only ones thinking about how lucky they are. Democrats will surely remind one another that the dollar is down, the deficit is up, foreign relations are in disarray and the party that presides over this looming miasma may well have elected its last president for decades to come.

At the same time, Democrats will tell themselves that they did everything they could - they wrote more checks and cast more ballots than ever before - so if the president and his party insist that Democrats now enjoy a fat tax break, then why feel guilty? And they will inevitably note that if just over half the fans at an Ohio State football game had voted for John Kerry instead of the president, a different man would be taking the oath of office today.

In short, Democrats will realize that winning isn't always such a good thing - and besides, they almost won.

Of course, not everyone will be happy today, because not everyone has this talent for reasoning his way to happiness. Throughout history, there have always been a few unfortunates who found it impossible to reframe negative events in positive ways, and these poor souls were predictably less happy than the rest of us. Lincoln, for example, was perpetually melancholic. Martin Luther King Jr. had more bad than good days. "Suffering and evil often overwhelm me," said Gandhi from the midst of a depression, "and I stew in my own juice."

Many of the heroes and redeemers we most admire were unhappy people who found it impossible to change how they felt about the world - which left them no choice but to change the world itself. Outrage, anger, fear and frustration are unpleasant emotions that most of us vanquish through artful reasoning; but unpleasant emotions can also be spurs to action - clamorous urges that we may silence at our peril.

As we watch the inauguration today, Republicans will take satisfaction in their victory and Democrats will find satisfaction in their defeat. But tomorrow it will be a nation - and not a party - that faces the dire problems of war, terrorism, poverty and intolerance. Perhaps over the next four years we would all be wise to suppress our natural talent for happiness and strive instead to be truly, deeply distressed.