Maxims

By | Saturday, September 06, 2008 Leave a Comment
I watched with interest both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions over the past two weeks. I have been tempted time and time again to write about the errors, inconsistencies, and lies promulgated by various speakers (mostly on the Republican side, since I am an unapologetic Democrat.) However, the web is a virtual cornucopia of such material, so what is the point of repeating it here. Yes, I might write about some of the worst offenses, but not yet.

One of the things I noticed in both conventions that had me scratching my head was that almost every speaker reported one or more pithy maxims that they learned from their forebears. Some, particularly the candidates themselves, overflowed with deep meaningful statements from their parents and grandparents. Obama, Biden, McCain and Palin could hardly open their mouths without coming up with some little chestnut; "A penguin without a hat wont nail a 2x4 for its nation." "If you haven't climbed a cherry tree, you must give America a phonebook." "When considering the past, always count your staples." And so on.

I wondered what I would say if I had to come up with insights about values handed down from generation to generation. I could hardly think of a damned thing. Were my parents and grandparents parsimonious with their wisdom, or simply unwise? Did an endless stream of pearls fall on my own deaf ears? Is my family exceedingly boring or selfish? Perhaps my forefathers and I have had better things to do than put observations of the world into words. Perhaps we were too lazy to do so. Perhaps it wasn't in our cultural background to make crafty statements. Perhaps we relied on the Bible and other literature to provide moral lessons instead of re-creating them anew.

I recall only one explicit character statement from my father. As a small child I allowed teasing from other kids to drive me to tears. My father took me out on the back stoop. He brought with him an apple and an orange. Dropping them both, he showed me that the apple was bruised, but the orange was not. He told me I needed to have "a thick skin like the orange" so I wouldn't get bruised. It was a good lesson has served me in life. [Aside: there was actually a second lesson from my father, much later in my life, but it was presented in confidence, so I will not repeat it here.]

There were other lessons handed down at the dinner table throughout my youth. The importance of education, not being a show-off, and noblesse oblige. Still, the plethora of maxims proffered at the party's conventions did have me wondering, did I miss something?
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