Was I born cynical?

Now that the election is over, this can post. (But I’m writing it the day before. I love the “post me later” feature.)

I read over the summer about a woman at a corner store in a major US city. On the TV, the Democratic National Convention was playing, and he was watching. The woman commented, “Oh, so you’re voting for Obama?”

The man replied that it was his first year as a citizen of the US, and that he hadn’t made up his mind. “This is a very important decision,” he told her earnestly. “I want to listen to all the speeches and then make up my mind.”

Are you as shocked to hear that as I was? Did you snicker? Did you do both? Did you do what I did, which was reflexively think, “He’ll learn.”

I have no faith that either leader can or will do what he says. And on reflection, I wonder if that’s sinful. It’s a cynicism I haven’t traced back to one specific cause, although I have theories. I know that in 1980, at the age of 8, I fully and enthusiastically believed in Ronald Reagan. By 1988 and George Bush, I no longer cared.

I don’t lay my cynicism at the feet of Reagan. It’s more likely a combination of witnessing just about every authority figure of every major system standing with his hands tied whenever he or she had a terrific idea.

That’s unfair, of course: New York City turned around during my lifetime, and entirely due to its leadership. But still, over the course of time, I realized that systems exist to perpetuate systems, not because they care even one whit for the individual.

I asked my Patient Husband, “When did that happen? Was I born cynical?”

He hasn’t known me since birth, so he can’t answer. I said, “Let’s say that at birth I got whisked from my mother’s arms right into Heaven, where I was raised by saints and angels. Would I still have been cynical?”

He said, “Probably not. You’d still have been a wiseacre, and you’d still have had the same kind of wit, but it wouldn’t have embodied that same dark humor.”

I wonder if that’s true. It seems to me that dark humor has its place, even in Heaven. Clearly there’s no way to prove it, though.

Dark humor and cynicism are defense mechanisms. Here I am, defending my heart against the sense that no matter who won the vote yesterday, the government got elected.

But at the same time, I’d kind of like to be that brand new citizen, flush with the thrill of making a very important decision on who should lead the free world into the dawn of a sparkling age.


  1. Cricket

    I’m amused at the media calling it a decisive election: it’s a 51/49 split.

    Here in Canada, we don’t elect governments, we kick them out. Sounds like America is beginning to follow suit.

  2. philangelus

    Someone today exclaimed to me, “And it was a landslide!”


  3. Ivy

    They’re referring to the electoral college, and at 349-163 that was a landslide.

  4. philangelus

    Can you define landslide for me?

  5. Jason Block

    It was not even close to a landslide. He got 53% of the popular vote. That is not even close. Electorally…it isn’t either.

  6. Ivy

    “a landslide victory can be either over 55.5% of the popular vote or over 60% of the electoral vote.” http://tinyurl.com/6y9ddp

    It’s not important. In the final analysis “landslide” is irrelevant; what matters is “victory”.

  7. philangelus

    To be sure, even one electoral vote would be enough to make the victory real. But calling it a “landslide” seems to give the victory a greater authority, which is ridiculous (for the above mentioned reason.)

    The last three presidential elections have all been close, and they’ve said that each one was “a mandate from the people” and brought an eye-roll from me because, well, 51% of the popular vote isn’t exactly a “mandate from the people.”

    60% seems small, btw, but I guess landslides are going cheap these days.

  8. Jason Block

    This was no where near a landslide…when almost 60M people are against who is the president. It isn’t.

  9. kherbert

    My first political memory is Ford pardoning Nixon. I was 7. I asked Dad what pardoned meant. I knew Nixon had lied (the biggest sin in my world).

    Dad explained he wouldn’t go to jail or get in trouble for what he did. I asked, “If you were President could I do what ever I wanted and not get in trouble?”

    My Mom from the kitchen replied, “Not if your planning on still having me as your Mother”.

    I trace my cynicism to that night.

  10. Harshika

    Hello there! Been following your blog for soemtime now and am finally delurking today. I agree with what you have written ….I always agree with you for that matter 🙂

    I find myself cynical too though didnt think of myself as one…politics and politicians always leave me cold and wary…no matter how nice they seem. Coming from India where the political mchine is a spectacular failure, I can empathise with you….

    your husband is right in saying you have a great wit, i admire the way you put a perspective on issues and it always gets me thinking!
    I have added you to my blog list but am still figuring out how to let you let you know that, the technical bits I mean….