Thursday, July 9, 2015

Taking the Risk and Choosing Candidates

It's that time again...time for the part of any election this web site would prefer to do without: the infighting among members of the same party who all claim to want the same job. This is the point during the election cycle when this web site finds it easiest to like Democratic Party candidates, because they tend to assume that we'll all vote for Republicans and therefore don't bother telling us not to vote for their fellow Democrats.

Will this web site support Governor Gilmore? We liked him; we would like to support him.

Will this web site support Senator Cruz? We've heard many good things about Senator Cruz; we've heard that he doesn't meet one of the two absolute requirements for U.S. presidential candidates--that they have been born in the U.S., and that they be over age thirty-five--but he's done some good work in the Senate. We would like to support him, too.

Will this web site support anyone whose family name is Bush? Well...past Presidents Bush were competent Commanders-in-Chief during wars with countries where people believe in vengeance. This web site regrets all past wars, would like to avoid all future wars, and therefore recommends that the rest of the Bush family dedicate their considerable talents to public service outside of Washington, D.C. This web site would have to be convinced that the Democrats were backing a candidate as consistently opposed to our benefit as President Obama has been, before any of us would vote for another President Bush. Which in no way implies that readers in the appropriate states shouldn't vote for governors or senators named Bush.

Will this web site support Senator Paul? We like him; we would like to support him.

Will this web site support Dr. Carson? We like him; we would like to support him.

In an ideal world, these gentlemen would get together and campaign for a plan that would work for all of them and for the people they want to serve...preferably letting the eldest who's willing to be President (which would not rule out Adayahi's favorite Republican, John McCain) be in that slot on the ticket first, leaving time for the younger ones to serve in other positions from which they can go on to be President later.

Last night I mused to a friend that my dream Republican ticket would be Carson/Paul, based on the age factor. At fifty instincts and hormones play an endless loop of "No Time to Kill" in the back of our minds; at seventy there really is no time to "kill"--Ronald Reagan hid it well, but during his second term he became old. But then I reconsidered the experience factor. A doctor gets plenty of administrative experience, but lacks the "insider" experience that a U.S. Senator gets, which a U.S. President may need. Maybe Paul/Carson would be better for the country.

I've been reading Take the Risk, a motivational book written before Dr. Carson admitted any political ambitions, with his current campaign in mind. It's an enjoyable book, especially for those who, like me, naturally like to avoid the kind of risky behaviors that are merely stupid, but refuse to be intimidated out of doing things we consider worth the risk.

I like the "best/worst analysis" Carson explains in Take the Risk. It's not new, although his abbreviation, "B/WA," may be new. Basically, when making a risky decision, people who use this method consider the best outcome of doing (whatever it is), the worst outcome of doing it, the best outcome of not doing it, and the worst outcome of not doing it. This usually makes the best decision easy to pick out.

For example: What would be the best outcome that's reasonably likely to happen if Carson is nominated for President? We get a strong, mature male leader, a real patriarchal figure as distinct from a patriarchal social system, in the White House; something many of us have missed since the Reagan Administration. We get the sort of "outsider" representation, the sort of "keeping it real," that some of us hoped to get with the Carter Administration. We get representation of ethnic minorities, fiscal conservatives, conservative Christians, and the working class, all of whom have been underrepresented and misrepresented for decades, all at once. We get a levelheaded, principled, deeply ethical--though fallible and vulnerable--administration.

Worst? We get another "outsider" President whom Congress, the media, and the unofficial plutocracy disrespect, the way they did President Carter. Maybe more so, maybe not, because Carson was not born rich or White. People who want to distract attention from real prejudice against the non-wealthy can make themselves more annoying about the possibility that it's because Carson is Black.

Best outcome if Carson withdraws from the presidential race and isn't even nominated for vice-president? If Maryland doesn't have enough sense to draft him for the Senate, Michigan does. We get a good Senator, of which we can always use more. And, very likely, some more good books.

Worst? We have to listen to more garbage about how Republicans don't recognize the talent of anyone who's not White, male, rich, and an "insider." Republicans feel goaded beyond endurance and (joke alert!) draft Erykah Badu for Congress, where she embarrasses everybody by claiming that a lobbyist slipped her a mickey, and is promptly replaced by a rich White male Democrat. Well, it's not as if all people who happen to be rich and/or White and/or male and/or Democrats are altogether bad, even in Congress...

Basically, when we stumble across somebody who's a great surgeon, a good writer, a good speaker, a good thinker, and so far as can be determined a decent human being, it's hard to lose. Nevertheless. All of us fallible mortals always have room for improvement. Taking the Risk gave me food for some thought about Dr. Carson's second career in politics.

I had already read his books on current issues and knew that Dr. Carson's proposed improvement on Obamacare doesn't work for me. I knew, too, that Obamacare is not the only issue in these United States, nor is the President solely responsible for cleaning up that mess...and if the Republicans--or the Democrats for that matter--actually nominated Dr. Carson for President next year, I'd vote for him. I'm not sending him money. I don't expect either party would have the nerve to nominate him; I merely think we'd be a better country if one of them did. But we could do much worse than have Carson as President, or, for that matter, representing the saner people of Maryland in Congress.

Too long have Seventh-Day Adventists had to admit, when asked whether anyone famous belongs to the church, that their twentieth-century obsession with "reforming" introverts has driven many talented people to become celebrity ex-Adventists (Ozzy Osbourne, e.g.). Writers, especially, have been bullied into publishing either denominational-ghetto books or non-Adventist books, like Richard Wright's or Paul Harvey's.

But now the discovery that, unlike most books by either doctors or politicians or Seventh-Day Adventists, Carson's books are actually enjoyable to read, has popped the good doctor right to the top of the bestseller lists. Repeatedly.

One thing I like about the author who may become our first Black Republican President is that he neither denies his religious perspective nor pushes it on people. No twenty-seven points of doctrine here; no preaching that readers need to be Christians. He, personally, happens to have Christian doctrines to thank for some of his adventures. He does not have that need some Christian writers feel to beat everybody over the head with "...but, thanks to my personal relationship with Jesus, I just said a prayer and everything went well." In fact, in Take the Risk he describes how, after having become famous by separating the Binder twins, he helped a multinational team of expert surgeons separate another pair of twins joined at the head, and both of them died. (Telling that story would be an example of the Christian virtue of humility.)

Nevertheless...I have my own experience with Seventh-Day Adventists, so I approach even Ben Carson's books braced. I'm not a hater; I have learned to expect these people to express what amounts to hate of me. Based on an hereditary, permanent, physical trait, less obvious but more important than color.

In Take the Risk, Carson reveals himself to be a classic LBS introvert who's learned to "pass" for an extrovert. I don't really blame him. I'm sorry, for him and about him. But I want to keep the analogy between introversion and other healthy hereditary physical traits in mind here.

In The Black Notebooks, Toi Derricotte wrote movingly about how easily Americans of European descent accepted her as "French," then displayed various degrees of racism when they met her immediate family. Some people of Derricotte's complexion have chosen to disown their families and "pass for White," in U.S. history. Derricotte chose to call attention to her Blackness, to avoid embarrassing her family by accepting the wrong kind of White friends. It was a brave decision, at the time.

It's unlikely that Ben Carson could ever "pass for White." Based on his observed behavior, I don't imagine he would if he could. So why would he want to "pass" for something equally false to his nature?

I say "equally." Maybe it's because I'm both LBS and HSP that I actually think introversion is a much more important part of people's identities than color is. I've lived under the same roofs with people who belonged to all of the "five races" defined by color, and enjoyed it. I don't think I could live with an extrovert.

Then again, that may be an effect of prejudice. I've learned from experience that I can trust people of any ethnic type to be friends worth having, if they become friends. I've learned that I can not trust extroverts to be friends worth having. Even the ones who are less conspicuously extroverts and aren't bad company for a few hours have not been taught to respect introverts, so at any minute they're likely to turn into hate-spewing enemies.

In Take the Risk, Carson discusses some of the statistical reasons why our current actuarial approach to life, our mania for marketing "trike helmets" to toddlers riding tricycles across the playroom rug, is silly. He's tastefully succinct about the benefit of not taking the kind of risks that don't stand up to the B/WA analysis--things like driving under the influence, or pointing deadly weapons at people. He's adorable about the benefit of taking the risk of telling a good woman he liked her (they are still married).

And then he unleashes one of those nasty old Seventh-Day Adventist nags that bash introverts. What's the B/WA on chattering with a stranger, or crowd of strangers, in an elevator? SDAs think there's no "worst" outcome of doing this. I disagree.

Best outcome of chattering at a stranger in an elevator? Well, in theory, the person might become a friend. I can't say I've ever seen it happen. In real life, the best outcome I've seen is that, if the person happens to have something s/he needs to communicate and is too shy to say, as it might be because s/he is several steps below you in the workplace hierarchy, your chatter might empower the person to say whatever it is. (Bear in mind, as we walk through this analysis, that it's usually easy to tell when people want to be chattered at; in my experience--in Washington, where most employees take their jobs seriously--most people don't.)

Worst outcome of chattering at a stranger in an elevator? If the person happens to be an introvert, the person might not want you as a friend, because the person thinks you're just another obnoxious extrovert. (Actually in the twentieth century introverts had been bullied into expressing this as "another confident, happy person who won't really like me when s/he sees what a neurotic mess I am," but we should have been saying it loud and proud: "another annoying extrovert pest who, due to parental neglect or brain damage or both, never has anything to say because s/he keeps yapping like a dog instead of ever finishing a thought.") Also, if the person happens to be an extrovert, the person thinks you like him/her, and you're stuck with a useless extrovert "friend," which is probably an even worse outcome, given that this "friend" will spew hate at you whenever s/he notices who you really are. And also, even if you're not an introvert and don't consciously notice this, you've drained your own physical resources, by chattering uselessly, and become just a little bit less willing--and less able--to do your job well, to empathize with people you actually care about, or to help people who actually need your help. (Washingtonians who don't express "friendliness" by chattering seemed to me to be the ones more likely to express good will by giving strangers a dollar for Metro fare, walking with lost visitors to their destinations, even learning visitors' languages.)

Best outcome of not chattering at a stranger in an elevator? If the person happens to be an introvert, and notices you at all, s/he thinks you're a nice, quiet, respectful person whom s/he might actually like.

Worst outcome of not chattering at a stranger in an elevator? If the person happens to be an extrovert, the person hates you for being quiet. But sooner or later this person would hate you for being the way God made you, in any case, and sooner is probably better than later.

Once the B/WA is informed by a modern understanding of the nature of introversion, we see that there is no good reason for ever chattering in an elevator. At least, not being the first to do it. For saying something that really needs to be said, like "Going up" when the light above the elevator door has burned out, there are good reasons. For trying to help a compulsive chatterer, there might be good reasons. For chattering, the only real reason would be that you have whatever horrible problem it is that makes people want to chatter when they don't have anything to say, in which case you should pray for healing and try to get counselling.

But even Ben Carson has been brainwashed into repeating the anti-introvert line. "Smile and say hello! It makes you seem friendly! It's nice!"

Hello? To me, idle, presumptuous chatter does not seem friendly. It makes you seem like an enemy. It's nasty.

I mentioned this to Grandma Bonnie Peters, who is HSP but has some mild extrovert tendencies. I said something like, "I wish Carson would start a movement to correct this misunderstanding. If people don't have anything to say, smiling and saying hello is annoying. We need to teach children to control the urge, if they do feel an urge, to annoy all the nice people in America."

She said, "You don't think I'm nice?"

And I said, "You see how it feels when it's coming from the other direction?"

Actually I think she is nice. I could be biased, because I have no memory of meeting her as a stranger and remember very few times when there's not been something for her and me to talk about...I don't think GBP is one of those horrible, pushy, obnoxious extroverts who demand that people participate in their mindless chatter. I think it's regrettable if she feels an urge to chatter at strangers but I imagine, without having ever been able to observe her alone with a stranger, that GBP is able to keep her mouth shut when people aren't talking to her or looking at her. (Real extroverts often shove their sick, antisocial attention craving into the middle of an ongoing conversation between two strangers.)

I think we all need to reverse a trend that's been harmful to all of us. Nice people, even if they feel an urge to babble, control themselves. Nice people speak only when they have something to say, and when others want to listen.

Nice people are, as Scott Peck observed in Further Along the Road Less Traveled, slightly shy. Oh, of course we're not afraid to yell at the people whom we most want to leave us alone; if we feel any compunctions about shouting "Take your hands off me!" or "Stop thief!" we do need to work on that as a problem. But we respect other people enough to be careful that, when we speak, they're willing to listen. We think carefully about when to tell a prospective mate that we like him or her, and how to say it, and what to do about any response that person makes. We pay very close attention to the reactions, especially of subordinates, children, and animals, and make sure that what we're telling anyone we may be in a position to lead or teach is something they can follow or learn. Nice people don't yap. Nice people choose the right thing to say--and, before they encourage extroverts to start yapping, they double-check that they're willing to bear the burden of being perceived as an extrovert's friend.

And it would be very nice if twentieth-century Americans hadn't turned the White House into a big public viewing cage for people who can't bear being alone for a single minute--if it were conceivable that nice people could enjoy being President. Or, worse, First Lady. Or, worst of all, First Child. But that's the way the system has evolved. Reading that Ben Carson naturally tends to be quiet, learns best through reading, likes to be alone, makes me wonder whether he'd actually like being in the White House.

I mean to say...Carson has a conscience. In theory we want our President to have a healthy conscience; in practice, though, we've set up the job in such a way that selecting only conscience-impaired extrovert candidates probably does improve the probabilities that our Presidents will survive their terms.

I'd still vote for Carson for President...but I'm beginning to wonder whether he'd be happier, and more effective, as U.S. Senator from Maryland. At least U.S. Senators are still allowed to use the toilet without a guard standing outside and listening.

But that's my introvert conscience talking, mind you. Selfishly, how would I feel about the ability of a Christian introvert who's male, African-American, and almost old enough to be my father, to represent me--in any situation? A lot more confident than I'd feel about the ability of a non-Christian extrovert of my age, sex, and color, that's how. After reading this early book of his, I like Ben Carson. At worst, I wish he were in a position to let himself be, openly, as nice--meaning quiet, thoughtful, considerate, respectful of other people's right to pay attention to what interests them--as he really is.

"People will put up with a surgeon being a diva," I ruminated to Grandma Bonnie Peters, "and they were probably relieved when Dr. Carson made a show of not being one. So he's been rewarded for trying to pass for an extrovert, likely, more than punished for having a fully developed brain. So he's probably writing his truth. Still, he wouldn't really like having to be surrounded by guards all the time."

"Oh, I'd say he could 'grin and bear it' if he gets the chance," GBP said.

What can you do? Well...I can post these ruminations on the Internet. Maybe, just maybe, the Republicans will back away from the Walking Target Clan (the Bush family), and actually nominate Paul/Carson. Or Carson/Paul. Maybe they'll even revert to that balance-the-ticket strategy and nominate McCain/Paul or Paul/McCain, or Paul/Cruz, or Gilmore/Paul, with an understanding that Dr. Carson will be Surgeon General if not drafted to be U.S. Senator for Maryland.

Whatever they do, if this post motivates even a few of the likable Republican candidates to shift from mudslinging to coalition-building, I'll be grateful.