Today I let myself get upset about something that I don’t care about. I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and saw his expose of John McCain’s flagrant flip-flop on the medieval Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that is now being debated in Congress (by the way, for a great synopsis of McCain’s “opinion” on the matter, go to PoliFact).
I’m not sure if it is the pressure from his upcoming primary challenge from local blowhard and intellectual broccoli J.D. Hayworth, or if he truly despises gay people, but McCain’s reversal of opinion on the draconian military policy — in the face of every leader of the Armed Forces asking that the ban be lifted — is at best inexplicable, and at worst inexcusable.
There’s only one problem. As a person whose political and economic philosophy is somewhere between Ludwig Von Mises and Emma Goldman, I am completely opposed to the very existence of an organized coercive force like the military. I shouldn’t be offended by a ridiculous opinion about a military that I don’t really even think should exist. Yet somehow I am. Sure, I could wrap it all up in a bow of justification by saying that I see the change in the policy as a reflection of a general change in society to be more accepting of gay people. This is precisely how I found myself so unhappy with the results of gay marriage propositions in several states like Arizona and California, and happy with the results in places like Iowa. In my deep philosophical core, I don’t believe that a coercive state should have the ability to place its imprimatur on any relationship, gay or straight, but I still see these decisions as a reflection of society’s acceptance (or lack of acceptance) of gay people.
This has turned so-called gay issues into a guilty pleasure. Not a guilty pleasure like listening to Lady Gaga with the sunroof open, but a sort of philosophical guilty pleasure — a chance to feel like I am part of a play that is taking place on a stage that I don’t even believe should exist.
I do the same intellectual tap dance every time I ride public transit. I absolutely love the convenience of getting on the train and taking it where I need to go. But, I can’t help but think that every time I get on the train, I am actually pulling a couple of dollars out of the public till in the form of subsidies from the government that are required to keep the trains running. If it were up to me in my mad Austrian world, John Galt and I would form a private company to provide fast, clean transportation through the city at a market rate. Alas, that isn’t the world I live in. Instead, I live in a world in which I get on a train that is paid for by the tax dollars of a family in Missouri trying to make a house payment on one income because a family member lost a good-paying job at a factory. Now that is an odd ethical dilemma for a single, financially OK, city-dwelling guy like me.
Call it cognitive dissonance or just the ravings of a madman, but I have somehow figured out how to live out a few guilty intellectual pleasures while maintaining my sanity, and getting to Downtown without the need to drive through the First Friday hullabaloo.