When I was in East Asia for a summer, I spent a lot of time on the toilet, riding the D-Train, as we liked to call it. Fortunately, Andrew brought this book, a history of the United States from like 1930 to 1960? 1970? Something like that. It was a huge book, thousands of pages long, but really good. And I finished it. Mostly on the toilet. So you can imagine how my summer was. And my sphincter.
It was a really good book, well written, in an interesting style, that covered a lot of things about the era. Not just the politics. Although politics understandably was the main subject.
Anyway, some parts were really fascinating and I think I learned some important things. Here’s one of them: it’s always important to hear opposing veiws.
So, my memory of this is shaky, but this is what I remember. So, I dunno about you but I think FDR was a pretty good President. Pretty shrewd and good at the political game. He made his share of mistakes, but he was a good man to be President during WWII, I think, from my limited knowledge of him.
So, what I didn’t really realize before reading the book was that even though he made all these truly radical decisions and pushed the scope of presidential power, it wasn’t unopposed, and not everyone agreed with everything he did, even during the war. The opposition Republicans fought with him every step of the way, led by Senator Taft.
Side note. I used to think, not too long ago, I dunno, maybe I should be liberal. Just, if you look at American history, a lot of the advances that we recognize as being good now were brought about by the party that was considered liberal at the time, and fought by the party that was considered conservative. Stuff like slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, all that stuff. So my thinking was, if the light of history shows the liberals to be right, why wouldn’t that continue? So, won’t the liberals now be revealed years from now as being right? So that was my thinking.
That was, of course, wrong. Not that liberals aren’t frequently “right”. I think history validates a lot of things that were considered liberal. But, I mean, they’ve made mistakes also. I guess this thought entered my mind when I was reading this Newsweek that dealt with education. I dunno, I think a lot of liberal minds pushed education towards something more different than the fundamentals and that had a detrimental effect, and they’re slowly moving back to how things used to be.
Of course I know nothing about education and this is the only example I thought of off the top of my head, but I think there are others. The point is, sometimes liberals go too far. It’s not that liberals are always right. Like most things in life, the right way is probably something in the middle. At least that’s what I think. Anyway.
So, the Republicans fought with FDR all the time. And, you know, you might think that’s a bad thing. There was a freaking depression and then a war going on – the last thing the country needed was opposition to everything the President did, especially when he was doing a good job. It would have been more efficient had they not been so insistent in their opposition. It just strikes one as being opposition for the sake of being opposition.
But the author didn’t take that stance. His basic idea was that the opposition was always good, because opposition sharpens ideas and helps get rid of the bad ones. When there’s no opposition and someone is given free reign, they inevitably fail to distinguish between their bad ideas and good ones, to the detriment of everyone.
I dunno, I’ve thought about it a lot and I think it’s true. Like, in sports, sometimes you’ll see a coach who is very successful somewhere. Like a Pat Riley or a Mike Holmgren. But they get tired of having to deal with like an uncooperative owner or a general manager who doesn’t always agree. So what they want is power. So they go somewhere where they receive complete control.
And you think, you know, these coaches were clearly the ones that were the brains behind their teams winning championships. So you think, if you free them from being held back by other people, naturally, they’ll do better, right?
But that’s not what happens. From Holmgren to Riley to Pitino to whoever, when you give a coach complete control of the team, they almost never rise to the success they had previously. You could argue that it’s because they’re overworked. But I think a big factor is that when they’re given complete control, they’re allowed to indulge in every bad idea they have. I think you can empirically show how this has happened and how it’s been bad.
I read that it’s the same thing with George Lucas and Star Wars. You know, the original trilogy was pretty good. And there were a lot of people involved, but it’s pretty clear the the main force behind everything was George Lucas. I read somewhere a while back about why he wanted to do everything with Episodes 1-3 himself: write it, direct it, and whatever. And it was partly because he wanted complete control and didn’t want to compromise his vision or anything. After all, he was the reason Star Wars was so good.
But this article was pretty interesting in saying how the original trilogy was good because of this give and take of ideas that occurred with everyone he was working with, including his wife Marcia, who edited the trilogy (also Taxi Driver), cowriter Lawrence Kasdan, and the directors. He divorced Marcia, which maybe has something to do with it also.
Anyway, yeah, now Lucas can do whatever he want, and I think that’s going to be detrimental. So, I don’t really have high expectations for Episode II. Sorry. Although, it is cowritten by someone else, so, that’s good.
Anyway, yeah, I used to dislike how our political system causes each party to automatically challenge anything the other party does. It just struck me as being counterproductive. I don’t feel that (so much) anymore. I appreciate it. Just, challenging ideas is important, especially in the political process, and ultimately good. There are other messed up things about the process, but the challenging of ideas is a good thing.
So yeah, I hope I never get in a position where everyone agrees with me or I can do whatever I want. Keep the slams coming. I beat him once – I beat him again.