Ever accidentally mispronounce a word? I imagine we all have. My son, Thomas, when he was quite young, mentioned taking a pet to the “aminal hobbisal,” and “hobbisal” has remained in our family’s vocabulary ever since.
Tommy did it again last Friday during family game night. We were playing Apples to Apples and in the excitement of the moment he mispronounced “philosophical” as “philoso-fickle” with a strong accent on the first syllable of “fickle.” It was an honest mistake, but we couldn’t help but burst into laughter. Tommy was a good sport, laughed too.
It’s a wonder, though, that “philosofickle” isn’t already in use. It obviously means someone who is fickle in implementing his avowed philosophy – someone who “talks the talk” but doesn’t “walk the walk.”
The Supreme Court is currently deciding if lying is protected under the First Amendment. The case itself involves lying about military honors, but the court – ever mindful of political realities – appears concerned that if lying about one’s military service can be criminalized, lying in politics can be too.
Politicians, of course, never lie – just ask them! But most politicians realize that to be effective one has to be philosofickle now and again.
Take president Obama. He’s managed to alienate a large portion of his own party by not closing Gitmo, not going far enough with healthcare reform, extending the Bush-era tax cuts, and seeking compromise with uncompromising Republicans in Congress. All these actions seem philosofickle to many on the Left.
Most recently Obama’s “philosofickle-ness” has gotten him in trouble with both the Left and the Right. After initially requiring religiously-affiliated organizations to pay for women’s contraceptives in their health insurance plans, he bowed to religious pressure and let them opt out. To those on the Left this is allowing organized religion to use government to impose its particular brand of morality on others. Those on the Right, though, are still up in arms that the government could even consider interfering in church affairs (even though conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has written that the court has never exempted anyone from obeying “an otherwise valid law” because of their religious beliefs).
Philosofickleness is very much a mainstay of politics. One of the cornerstones of Republicanism, for example, is limiting the reach of government. Yet Republicans inVirginia recently tried to force women seeking legal abortions to undergo a physically invasive ultrasound procedure. An avalanche of public outrage doomed the bill, but it’s a perfect example of philosofickleness when those wanting less intrusive government also want government to physically intrude into women’s bodies.
Republicans, though, appear to be trying hard to avoid philosofickleness, deliberately forgetting in the process that compromise is sometimes the only way government can function. The ideological reluctance of the Tea Partiers to raise the debt ceiling in August – which caused a downgrade ofAmerica’s credit rating – is a good example of how avoiding philosofickleness can harm the nation. For though a good compromise may leave both sides unhappy, refusal to compromise can cause real harm.
It’s a shame that one must be philosofickle to succeed in politics, but that’s the nature of the beast. Not that being principled is wrong, but one must not let the perfect become the enemy of the possible. And maybe, if we as a people could be honest enough to admit that compromise is necessary where differing ideologies must coexist, we could begin to reduce the partisan intransigence that is slowly but surely strangling our nation.