Driving with the windows up
Not learning a lesson
George Bush famously said, “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, won’t get fooled again.”
Of course, that’s not what he meant to say but he got a little lost after “Fool me twice”.
I thought about that Sunday after Senator Joe Manchin went on Fox to announce that he wouldn’t be supporting the Build Back Better bill.
It was a telling choice of platforms from which to make the announcement and I was both surprised and not surprised.
Not surprised because Manchin has been moving the goal line like Bugs Bunny saying ok, “I dare you to step over this line” and drawing another line in the dirt that Yosemite Sam steps over.
Over and over and over again until Sam steps over the final line and plunges over a cliff.
So, not surprised. Manchin’s lines were the total price, a bipartisan agreement, energy, child care, family leave, and inflation.
The president and progressives kept negotiating with him. Bernie Sanders said that he could have blown up the deal when huge planks that were important to him were removed from the deal but that he stayed an negotiated in good faith to get all that they could of the items that were important to him.
Perhaps the progressives should have held the line on advancing both the infrastructure and BBB bills together but they thought they had a deal and so they passed the infrastructure bill even though they knew it had given them leverage to get the bigger bill passed.
So, not surprised that Manchin felt the way he felt - surprised that he was not a man of his word. Surprised that he went on Fox to make the announcement rather than going to see the president and his caucus to let them know that he wouldn’t be supporting the bill.
At breakfast this morning, Jonathan admonished me for being surprised by anything.
“Perhaps you’re right,” I said, “maybe I don’t mean surprised - maybe I mean disappointed.”
Is Charlie Brown truly surprised when Lucy yanks away the football?
Is Yosemite Sam really surprised when he crosses that last line and falls off a cliff?
No, dagnabbit. He’s not surprised, he was just lulled into crossing one line after another until he forgot who was drawing and moving the line.
“Daniel,” you say, “did you really write ‘dagnabbit’ in this week’s essay?”
Not only did I write it, but I paused afterwards to look it up to make sure I’d spelled it correctly.
For the record, I’d hyphenated it. I also saw it as two words with one or two b’s. In any case, I spelled it incorrectly and made it right. Dagnabbit, won’t get fooled again.
In driving back from breakfast I waited for a long traffic light to turn green. When it did, I pulled forward signaling left. A guy ran his red light and cut me off to make a left turn. I slammed on the brakes and nearly avoided hitting him and leaned on my horn. He turned and waved at me as if thanking me for letting him go and turned left.
I was a little shaken but drove on.
In the old days I would have called him a name. I would have wondered what the f’ was wrong with him.
Actually, that’s not true.
I would have said, “what the f’ is wrong with him” but I would not have been saying it out of concern for his well being. It would have been shorthand for “What a f’ing
You can probably supply better words than I, but let me stipulate I was not channeling Yosemite Sam so my words would have been saltier than, “What in tarnation is wrong with that varmint.”
Also - I just looked up “varmint” - until a moment ago I thought that Sam was mispronouncing “varmit”. You can see the research that goes into this week after week.
So where was I?
Oh yeah, I was driving home from breakfast when a guy cut me off.
There’s nothing wrong with getting mad and swearing or calling a guy a name if it makes you feel better.
As long as your windows are up.
Sometimes we forget that our windows are down and that he can hear us.
We forget that he might react to what we say and that things can get much worse for us.
That’s kind of what the internet is like.
We’re all sitting at our computers or looking at our phones scrolling around various sites as alone as I was today in my car.
And then we see something that we take umbrage at. It could be something umbrageworthy it could be something that isn’t.
By the way, don’t look it up. “umbrageworthy” is not a word with or without a hyphen.
It still surprises me what upsets people to a level that they feel it is important to respond.
My friend Paul tweeted that someone had gone to the trouble to email him to tell him how much they dislike the clothes that Paul wears in his YouTube videos.
Surprised? OK, you’re right, perhaps not. Disappointed? Yes.
So being on the internet is like us driving around in our cars shouting at things that bother us.
And somehow we forget that our windows are down.
The other people can hear us.
But sometimes, if our windows are up, there’s nothing wrong with getting mad and swearing or calling a guy a name if it makes us feel better.
And if then, we let it go.
You know when that guy cuts you off in traffic and you’re angry and you stay mad so you follow them a little too close?
Of you get a phone call, message, or email while you are safely parked and it sets you off. And you take that anger with you while you drive and you don’t notice the nice person safely signaling to change lanes ahead of you.
The thing you’re angry about has happened already.
I know we want to prove to the person that cut us off that we can make it to the next light quicker - but why?
Let them win this one.
Think of all the good things in your life that aren’t worth being risked just for this contest that’s mainly in our heads.
“But Daniel,” you ask, “why should they be rewarded for being a jerk?”
They shouldn’t be. But it’s done.
That moment has passed.
All we can do is live in this moment to hopefully prepare the next moment to be better than it would otherwise be.
If we drive aggressively because we’ve been aggrieved, we risk so much for no real gain.
If we push Joe Manchin out of the Democratic Party, Mitch McConnell controls the Senate’s agenda.
I’m absolutely as mad as the next person that a single person acting in bad faith enriched himself and brought down this bill. But now that it has happened, what’s the best way to prepare for the future?
Perhaps, take a breath. We’re so busy focusing on the losses that we forget about the gains that have been made this year. Though they may feel small, they aren’t small to the people who benefit and they are small gains in a year where there would have otherwise been losses.
It’s exhausting, but what must we do in this moment to prepare for a better result in the next moment.
The White House took a moment this weekend to call Manchin a name this weekend after first rolling their windows down to do so.
It made me feel better.
But before they had rolled the window back up, they had sent various staffers off to come up with plans to make the next attempt better.
And they also sent a signal that next time there will be some lines they won’t step over.
Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 91. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe