In the Seinfeld episode “The Opposite,” George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, decides that because his instincts in life have served him wrong for so long, he will live his life under the paradigm of doing the opposite of what naturally comes to him. This way of life is launched, for that episode, when while sitting in a coffee shop George declares, after placing his typical lunch order:
“No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, un-toasted, with a side of potato salad…and a cup of tea!”
Observing politics lately makes me wonder whether a collective decision of doing the opposite has been made. There appears to be some kind of opposite-logic being applied nationwide to the most basic analyses of political issues. Let’s look at some examples:
Two of President Obama’s cabinet nominations, Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, are both decorated military veterans. Unlike George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, outspoken pro-war conservative Ted Nugent, and many others, Kerry and Hagel actually served in the military, and between them were awarded a number of combat medals, Purple Hearts, and other commendations. However, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who has never served in the military, argued that Senators Kerry and Hagel may not have been good choices for their respective positions of Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense because, as Cruz put it, they aren’t “ardent fans of the military.” Cruz, a rookie politician who has never served in the military, believes himself to be more qualified on who’s a good choice for matters involving war, peace, defense, and diplomacy then senior individuals who have actually participated in these processes at the highest level. However, there is another layer to the hypocrisy. The idea that to be a good Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, one must be a “fan” of the military is amateurish and misguided – the Secretaries must be logical, calculating, incisive, and not swayed by personal “fandom” one way or the other. This is Seinfeldian opposite day in the real world.
Let’s look at another example: Missouri has a huge problem with teen sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and unwanted teen pregnancy. Missouri also has extremely limited sex education classes as part of their school curriculum, and the limited sex education that ever does take place is the “abstinence-only” type, known to be ineffective in reducing unwanted pregnancies or disease transmission. Logic would dictate that exploring how to solve this problem would be a top priority – not so. Instead, Missouri is considering a bill that would create a mandatory gun safety course for 1st graders – who are 6-7 years old – sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the biggest gun lobby in the country. 800 words is nowhere near enough space to explain all the reasons why this idea couldn’t be more absurd. For those arguing that it isn’t a bad idea to talk to 1st graders about gun safety, I’ll agree – in part. Teachers could teach and reinforce, along the same lines that they teach “don’t get into a stranger’s car” and “wash your hands when you are done in the bathroom,” they could add “if you ever see a gun, don’t touch it and tell an adult.”
Bringing in a group whose sole priority is to increase gun sales at any cost to teach a course about guns, clearly set up to begin a gun culture indoctrination, makes no sense. When coupled with continuing to ignore the huge sex education, STI, and teen pregnancy problem of Missouri is Seinfeldian opposite logic, particularly when sensible sex education would reduce the number of abortions that Republicans claim is something they absolutely want to address.
As I continue to talk through these and more examples daily on The David Pakman Show, I’m reminded of what came later in that Seinfeld episode. After living “the opposite” for a little while, things get confusing. George is asked whether an offensive comment he made was his natural instinct, or part of him doing “the opposite” and it isn’t really clear. Maybe the normal rules of logic and reason no longer (did they ever?) apply to day-to-day decisions made about a whole range of life issues in the US, and what seems to be the “opposite” thought process has truly become the natural instinct, the status quo, and the establishment which is a challenge to reverse. As difficult as it was for George Costanza, maybe the new mantra of American political decisions when dealing with outdated conservative ideas and modes of thinking should be:
“Whatever our natural instinct is here – let’s do the opposite – for the good of the country.”
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at www.davidpakman.com.