Do not share this column with your friends, unless you really must. And, please, no Twitter or Facebook. It’s quite embarrassing.
Nevertheless, I no longer in good conscience can withhold this information. In the grand tradition of the father of our country, I cannot tell a lie.
I have been — and still am on occasion, alas — a flip-flopper.
Indeed, if I were to be under subpoena by a House committee and asked the eternal question: “Are you now or have you ever been a flip-flopper?” I would — under penalty of perjury — have no recourse but to answer: “Yes. Yes, Congresswoman Pelosi (or whoever), I have. I have done it many times. Sometimes I just … change my mind.”
In truth, I have been flipping and flopping from a very young age. I had been gobbling M&M’s when I went to Raisinets as my candy of choice. I drifted from “Howdy Doody” to “Captain Video” as my favorite television show without so much as notifying the network.
It went on from there. In junior high school, I switched girlfriends. And even worse, they switched on me. I went from basketball to tennis as my favorite sport. (OK, I was too short for the former.)
It was a downhill slide into college, where I couldn’t make up my mind between Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and then Balzac and Flaubert, as my favorite author. I even considered changing majors from English to Comp. Lit.
My senior year, I flirted with a career in the CIA while, at the same time, participating in anti-bomb demonstrations on campus.
Talk about flip-flopping!
Maybe I should have changed my middle initial from L to I — Roger Inconsistent Simon. In my adult life, I have been a disgraced muddle of thought. I waffle on everything from preferred cuisine (Japanese or Italian?) to the existence of God.
Which leads, of course — and you knew this was coming — to politics.
As some readers know, I am one of those who switched from left to right. This didn’t come in a blinding flash. It came over a period of years and still continues. I am constantly evolving, at least I hope so. But still, I did flip-flop, big time. Not in all areas, but in a substantial number of them.
So can I be trusted? Will I flip-flop backward and make enemies of my conservative friends, just as I did many of my liberal friends?
I don’t know the answer to that, although I suspect I won’t. But some ideas and opinions that I have now more than likely will change or alter to some degree over time. I am a human being, and few us remain the same throughout our lives. Most of us react to the flow of events, both internal and external.
In fact, there is reason to be suspicious of those that don’t ever change their views. Besides often being rigid personalities, they may have difficulty responding to the constant unpredictability of the world. (John Lennon, wrong on a number of things, surely was onto something when he said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”)
So flip-flopping may be closer to the natural state of things than not.
Which now leads us to the key question in this election season. Since it can be argued that most of us have flipped or flopped one time or another in our lives — except, of course, for those “saintly” or “brilliant” few who realized the truth from birth and have been, ahem, unwavering in its pursuit ever since — how do we determine if a candidate is a flip-flopper or a FLIP-FLOPPER, if you know what I mean?
Many, as we know, have been accused of this crime: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Kerry (and how), Clinton (he and she), Al Gore, Herman Cain, Barack Obama (of course) … I could go on, but you get the point. And I’m not sure there would be room for all the names on the website anyway. If you examined it closely, you could probably find that everyone running for office from POTUS to dog catcher has flip-flopped at one time or other.
So what do we do? A solution to this conundrum might ironically be found in a wise and cynical quote attributed to Holy Roman Emperor Franz II. When assured that a certain Austrian was a patriot, the Emperor is said to have replied, “But is he a patriot for me?”
If we replace “patriot” with “flip-flopper,” we get: This man is a flip-flopper, but “is he a flip-flopper for me?” Or, more simply, is he basically going my way?
With politicians — as with ourselves — I’m not sure we can ask for more.