Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Debate Winner Announced: To The Smug Goes the Victory

Smug (adjective) 1. contentedly confident of one's ability, superiority, or correctness                              --Dictionary.com

A heads up, before you take the time to read the following opinion piece today. I’m right. The ideas expressed by me in the aforementioned essay are correct, spot on, exact, true and even guaranteed.  You may think you have a legitimate rebuttal or alternative to the rhetorical argument I will weave in the next 750 words or so but…think again.  You see, I alone have the answer, the solution and the remedy, to whatever we might be discussing. Trust me. I got this.  Don’t even bother telling me what you think.

I’M JUST KIDDING!  REALLY!! Please keep reading.

I hope I’m never that smug, in my writing or preaching or living. I pray that if I ever got that way a loved one would give me a swift kick, to bring me back down to earth. Not that smugness isn’t sometimes tempting.  To be convinced you are the smartest guy or gal in the room.  Feeling superior to others.  Offering an opinion about any issue with the surety that only the convicted muster.  Smug: ultimately being so self satisfied as to zoom right past confidence and veer into downright arrogance.

Smug. I’ve got smug on the brain lately, because I made the mistake of actually watching “highlights” from a Presidential candidates’ debate the other night.  I’ve tried my best to avoid these red hot rhetorical wrestling matches, not wanting to witness oversized egos battle mano e mano, egged on by raucous acolytes who want so much red meat and the media who covets a perfect sound bite, with which to later bury a candidate.  It may be democracy in action but at times the debates feel vapid, empty of any real substance or humility, instead filled with enough self righteousness to inflate a supersized hot air balloon. 

I’m the only candidate with all the answers, no one else. This is THE solution to the problem. My way is the only way. My party is the true American one, no others need apply. I wonder: if any one wants to be President that much and is convinced so fully of their abilities…should they really be considered for the Presidency in the first place? President Smug?

It’s not just on the political stage we get to witness smugness. Spend any time on social media and you quickly discover that Facebook and Twitter and the Internet are filled with a blizzard of opinions, an unrelenting torrent of partisanship that cuts across all political and social lines.  No one party or movement has a lock on smugness.  So many citizens are nowadays sure that their opinion is the tops.  Conservatives crow. Progressives pontificate.  Liberals are in love with themselves. Libertarians lament that not everyone sees things their way.

Smugness is getting lots of play in the wider culture too. Watch a professional sports event and see the athletes preen and dance, even before one play actually happens.  Last week I watched video of a former drug company executive testifying before Congress about his decision to raise the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000 percent to $750 a pill, all in the cause of profits. His demeanor throughout the hearing?  A smirk and a smile and smugness for all to see.  Then he tweeted that the Congress men and women were “imbeciles”.

Even religion can fall into the trap of being so smug.  All faiths must confess that a lock on the truth too often underlies their selling points.  Only we get into heaven.  God loves us best.  Judgment for the many but salvation for the select few.  As one infamous bumper sticker proclaims: “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

The problem with smugness is that no one person, no one party, no one religion, and no one philosophy finally has a lock on “the truth”. (OK, God may, but something tells me God is never so quick or trusting as to actually hand deliver that truth to a mere mortal.)  Instead the world is a very complicated place. Always has been. Always will be. The challenges we face are huge, with the best solutions most often coming after compromise, thoughtfulness and dialogue. That’s where I actually listen to what you have to say.  The person I perceive as an opponent? He might actually have something to teach me. She might know something I do not.  But to actually believe this?  I’ve got to let go of smugness.  Got to open my ears and shut my mouth.

So is my opinion about smugness “right”?  “True”? Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s sit down over a cup of coffee and really talk about it. 




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