reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Month: November 2005

Drinks with Che

In Salt Lake City where I’m visiting for the weekend, drinking is something of a more rebellious activity than elsewhere, due to the more restrictive state and local liquor laws. To have a drink in a bar, for example, one must pay dues and become a “member”, or else come as the guest of a paid-up member — a regulation whose practical utility in curbing irresponsible drinking I must admit I’m skeptical of.

The amusing upside of this is that it lends the bars that do operate here that certain special “je ne sais quoi” that goes with all things forbidden. And if you’re decorating a den of quasi-forbidden libations in this town, what more perfect icon of fashionable rebelliousness to grace its walls than the omnipresent Che? Such is the fare at the “defiantly hip” Red Door downtown, where I ducked in for a couple of drinks with friends tonight. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought I was back home in left-wing San Francisco.

It continues to bewilder me how people manage to associate this fellow with rebelliousness. Is there any more certain road to capricious, illiberal totalitarian rule than that which Guevarra and his ideological comrades represent?

“Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué”


Stranger in a strange land

I may be getting better at this. A little at a time, anyway. In the recent past when finding myself in mixed political company, I’ve found it more than a bit challenging to keep my blood pressure down when the remarks disparaging our president, or taking a derisively defeatist stance on the Iraq war, or mocking American expressions of animosity toward France, etc. begin to circulate (with the usual seeming expectation that all present must naturally agree). Today for some reason though, I managed to keep my calm through two such episodes with much less difficulty than usual. I don’t honestly know what was different this time. Perhaps it helped that so little of what gets said in such episodes of group commiseration is shocking or surprising to me anymore, and in these particular cases the talk didn’t go too far over the top. Somehow though I felt as if I’d been able to step outside myself for those moments, putting aside my frustration for a change to look at things in the way that a calm and curious observer from a faraway place might — listening to what people said in an emotionally detached way, and trying to see how all the pieces fit together consistently in their (in some ways very foreign to me) worldviews.

Perhaps today was a fluke, but I’d certainly like to think it’s a possible sign of progress. Maybe I’ve started to reach some kind of stage of acceptance, in having understood what it means to have taken a substantially different path in ideas. I don’t expect those around me to share my feelings of disillusionment with contemporary liberalism, much less share my confidence in our country, our culture, or our present course. Sometimes the price of following one’s inner voice is being different, and there’s not much one can do but accept the consequences of that and keep on moving.

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