Copyright © by Len Holman, 1/25/11
There is a Latin phrase often used as an excuse for doing what one pleases: de gustibus non est disputandum—there is no disputing about tastes. Of course, there IS disputing about tastes in the land—and lots of it—in the guise of “what’s good for the country” or the “moral decay of America” or some policy decision about immigration or health care or those insensitive Muslims building mosques in the same block as betting parlors and strip joints. But since it is thought that no argument can be adduced to support taste, there can be no disputing. I like raspberry sherbet and that’s the name of that tune. No one can say I shouldn’t like it because it’s MY personal taste. It’s not like choosing bean sprouts and lettuce to nosh on—you can make a good, reasonable case for eating that stuff. So far, so good. But it IS disputing taste that drives our nation’s invective-laden dialogue. It’s disputing personalities, language, political stances, hair-dos, every single misspoken word, every single thing the opponents of all those whom they don’t like. No reasons need be given: I like “X” and you don’t, therefore you are an idiot or a scoundrel or unpatriotic. I will make up any fact I think will play to the choir of my converts and they will believe it. They, also, do not like you or your policies—and that is taste. And so it goes—and will go—with Sarah Palin, for her good or ill.
We have now a culture which has no desire or need to present argumentation, to support a claim with valid premises, to listen to what the Other Side says and take stock of it, in the anticipation there might be something worthwhile being said over there. We are in the Age of Raspberry Sherbet and Sarah Palin is the Ben & Jerry of politics. Some can mock Sarah for her nasal whine, immature grasp of...well, everything, her disorganized behavior, the crib notes on her palm, her ignoring of the media (except Fox News), and her obvious lack of readiness to lead the U.S. in anything but fashionable eyeglass frames, but she has it exactly right so far: she appeals to taste and if—like green olives—she is an acquired taste, then millions of people have acquired it. She instinctively knows that Reason is on holiday in this country and all she has to do to get the 2012 Republican nomination is try to convince other Republicans that raspberry sherbet is a very good bet. This seems a long shot, but that’s because taste is exactly what she brings and what she serves up, and which has never been so blatantly exhibited as Reason before. The recent New Hampshire straw poll shows she has limited appeal (coming in a distant fourth) outside her small and ferocious followers. So, will the Republican Establishment go with the flow? Well, that “blood libel” comment Palin made was a bad move. She tried (actually, it’s not believable she wrote that herself, but she DID leave it in her remarks, so she owns it) to sound a more rational, mature tone in her response to the criticism of her rhetoric and those rifle-sight symbols after Rep. Giffords was shot, but it didn’t work because that’s not what she and her supporters are about. For her, and them, it’s about taste. It is opinion masquerading as thought; it is “my belief is what everyone else should believe.” It’s about turning an is into an ought. When that happens, then you have taste, solely opinion without reasons, a demand that others like what you like, think as you think, BE as you are—otherwise, you are automatically east of Eden, with the flaming swords of the cherubim whirling behind you and a life of pain and sin and unremitting toil before you. If she gets the nomination, she will have overturned the basic requirements of a potential leader we all have the rudiments of in our minds, and will have destroyed any GOP attempts to claim legitimacy as a party of reasoned ideas.
But if she DOES get the nomination (which would be a bigger upset than Al Davis selling the Raiders to Wal-Mart), and if Obama is the Dem’s man for 2012, you will see something really special: Taste vs. Reason; Passion vs. Coolness—and the voters will get to decide which way the country heads. And they will have to live, if they can, with the result. Speaking of the voters…where are they? As long as they do not demand reasons, ideas, discussion with substance, they (we all) will get taste; we will get a campaign that will make the 2010 election seem a canoe ride on a country lake; we will get more fireworks than a New Year’s celebration in Singapore, and we will see every conceivable (and some not conceivable, except to people who KNOW the Mafia killed JFK) conspiracy theory ever produced, and we’ll hear plenty of Christian scripture misquoted and misinterpreted, and enough talk about what Jesus would do to make you look over your shoulder to see if he’s behind you in the express line at Von’s. You will see the formation of such a polarized nation that the War Between the States will be a pillow fight in comparison. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Disputing about taste can only lead to nonsensical non-discussions of the “am, too—am not” variety. To say—as some Constitutional poseurs in the body politic do—that we are a nation of laws, not men, is really to say we are a nation of reason, not tastes. This next election will be for the soul of America, and no, I’m not trying to channel Newt Gingrich or Michelle Bachman. Either we go with what we just like, what we just want—with no argument to support our choice, no reasoning to decide which candidate is best, or we take our time, use our minds, be real patriots for a change, and decide—based on the best available evidence. No one needs a reason to like raspberry sherbet, but they DO need reasons for choosing one person over another to be a congressman or a senator. Or they SHOULD. If Sarah gets that far, will it be taster’s choice or will reason prevail and the voters decide to leave the dessert behind and go with the salad?
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