My dog Twinkie fears two household items: vacuum cleaners and bathtubs.
The roar of the vacuum scares her simply because it’s loud and annoying. She’s never had an unpleasant experience with a vacuum. There’s no traumatic tale of a suction accident in her puppyhood. She just hates and fears the racket instinctively—so much so that she will do whatever gymnastics are necessary to avoid coming within five feet of a running vacuum.
As for bathtubs, they didn’t scare her until she learned to associate them with becoming wet and miserable.
She reacts to the sound of the vacuum running and of tap water filling the downstairs bathtub in exactly the same way. As soon as she hears either one, she freezes and then, sneakily, peers left and right, plotting the course of her escape.
One night I happened to be vacuuming the hallway just as my wife was preparing the bathtub for Twinkie, who was napping in the bedroom between us.
The nightmare clatter of the vacuum and the filling tub roused her to the doorway.
First she looked my way—presumably to see if the vacuum cleaner was far enough down the hall for her to clear it at a safe distance on her way to the doggie door.
No chance. The hallway was blocked.
She looked the other way and saw my wife approaching with her sleeves rolled up and a towel over her shoulder.
We chuckled at each other as poor Twinkie gulped in terror. For a moment, she seemed paralyzed.
But then she made up her mind. She bolted towards me and leapt over the vacuum.
She fears the vacuum because of what it might do to her—not because of anything it’s actually done. But the bathtub makes her miserable every time she’s plunged into it, so her decision wasn't difficult.
She evaluated her options and made the correct choice.
I wish Noam Chomsky could be as clear-headed as my dog.
On one hand, Chomsky must be smarter than Twinkie because he explains the role the corporate media plays in manufacturing consent far more lucidly than my dog can.
But on the other hand, Twinkie must be smarter than Chomsky because she understands that sometimes we have to overcome our fears of the unknown if we want to avoid an outcome that we know in advance to be miserable.
Donald Trump is as loud and annoying as any vacuum. Most of us share the instinct to steer clear of him.
Hillary Clinton makes a much more soothing sound. The gentle whoosh of flowing water is attractive to us even if there’s lead in it.
But what do Clinton’s benign words about fighting for ordinary folks really portend? Presumably the same things they’ve always portended: 1) people of color being shipped off to prisons at disproportionate rates to perform slave labor; 2) fossil fuels being called “clean” as long as their pollution takes the form of invisible methane leaks instead of visible smoke; 3) helpless women and children being championed on camera while they are systematically murdered and displaced behind the scenes as a direct result of compulsive international meddling; and 4) American citizens being deprived of the basic protections of citizenship against international corporate profiteers through instruments such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Clinton calls herself a progressive who gets things done.
She’s right—as long as your idea of progress involves enslaving an ever-broadening swath of the American population to pay for wars that they never asked for—wars that are somehow supposed to make us safer from terrorists by killing innocent civilians all over the world.
If that thoroughly predictable future is less frightening to Chomsky than the unknowns associated with a Trump presidency, he needs a phobiametric recalibration.
But the most frustrating thing about Chomsky’s coerced-by-the-circumstances endorsement of Clinton is that it buys into the very binary logic we must explode. When you get trapped in a binary, the mistake is almost always to race towards one extreme or the other.
Twinkie didn’t charge towards the vacuum to embrace it. She took the risk of coming too close to it so that she could escape to safety. Life presented her a choice between the vacuum and the bathtub, and she selected option #3: the doggie door.
For me, option #3 will be Bernie Sanders until he refuses to run any longer. I think the abundant evidence of election fraud and voter suppression in this year’s primary process may yet prove that Clinton’s campaign lacks much of the support it claims. I think it’s possible (though improbable) that James Comey of the FBI and Attorney General Loretta Lynch will hold Clinton to the same standard of law as any other American entrusted with classified information. I admit that superdelegates are unlikely to betray their donors by representing their constituents, but I remain hopeful that enough Americans will rally in Philadelphia on July 25th to pressure the Democratic Party as dramatically as Icelanders pressured their government leaders in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal. Non-violent assembly can be very persuasive when it occurs on a large enough scale.
Maybe that’s all wishful thinking.
Maybe the Democrats really will decide that the recipe for winning the presidency is to nominate a widely despised candidate under criminal investigation—as long as her opponent is Donald Trump.
If that’s their decision and Sanders subsequently endorses Clinton, then Chomsky is free to run towards misery with his vote.
As for me, I prefer to face the dangers associated with coming too close to Trump in order to move towards a brighter, safer, healthier, saner world. Even if Sanders becomes a fearmongering party hack on Clinton’s behalf, I’ll attempt to jump over Trump by supporting Jill Stein.
The strategy of jumping will work if enough people who are paying attention (such as Chomsky and the swing state voters he hopes to influence) are willing to vote out of hope instead of fear.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if Stein shaves off just enough votes for us to land on the surreal comb-over of an orange-faced vacuum?
That’s still preferable to ending up miserable for a minimum of four years.
The vacuum will be loud and annoying. Everyone who hears it will try to turn it off or unplug it. Frightening though it sounds, the vacuum probably isn’t going to eat us even if we land on it.
As for the tub, we know for a certainty that it will leave us wet, shivering, and miserable.
I don’t care how pleasant the bath tap sounds relative to the vacuum. I cannot in good conscience choose the path that leads to poisoning the planet, enslaving my fellow citizens, and murdering/displacing innocent civilians all over the globe.
I won’t be taking my cue on this one from a graying academic—however highly regarded he may be. Instead, I’ll be following the lead of a mutt rescued from a local pound. This vacuum-bathtub binary is unacceptable, so I’m taking my chances on reaching the doggie door whether I succeed or not.
Call me a low-information voter if it makes you feel better. Depict me as an unwashed mongrel if you like. But even if there is something canine about my rationale, I fail to see anything humane about Chomsky’s.
It’s really that simple. Bernie or bust.