it's not a problem, it's a challenge. no, really.

On Sunday morning, after my hour of sleep but before I was willing to start moving around and cleaning up, I talked to a very nice couple who came to dinner at the house once, Sam and Susie. At some point they asked if I was an optimist or a pessimist. Susie said, "Someone who thinks the best thing will happen"; Sam said, "Someone who prefers to see the good in people or things."

I like Sam's definition best, but I question the utility of those words in general. I know when I think of "optimism", I think of a blind faith that things will turn out well (not a good thing, in my view); and when I think "pessimism", I think of my uncle who just assumes the worst of everything. Both words conjure for me a worldview that defies reason in its desire to see things as good or bad, and I dislike that lack of pragmatism in anything or anyone. As I thought about it some more, I tried to think of where I would find those words useful...and I don't. They're loaded words, with imprecise definitions and connotations of "optimism is good, pessimism is bad". They're just another pair of opposites that we have to separate one person from another for no good reason. Given the range of meanings that Sam, Susie and I came up with for "optimist", what exactly does it tell you when used as an epithet? It provides us with no objective information, but even so we use our meaning for the word to start forming an image and opinion about the subject. It's another way to divide.

Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) is well on her way to becoming House minority leader, after Dick Gephardt has resigned and Mark Frost, her primary competitor, dropped out and endorsed her. There's a last-ditch challenge from Harold Ford, a conservative Democrat who has a handful of supporters, whereas Pelosi has over a hundred Democrats who have publicly stated they'll vote for her, which is enough to win. Ford says she's too liberal; for a conservative from Tennessee, I wouldn't be surprised if he also objects to a woman leading the party, but of course we don't say such things in polite company.

This is hopeful, though: it'd be nice if Democrats could start being Democrats again, and stand up and point out that "liberal" is a good word with connotations of freedom, tolerance, and humanism (and while we're at it, somebody needs to say very loudly and repeatedly that humanism is a good thing meaning "the doctrine that people's duty is to promote human welfare", and is not some Satanic plot to make people abandon their religion for Communism). I doubt Ford has a chance: the Democrats have been the losing team in the House since 1994 (no wonder Gephardt quit), and it may be dawning on them, years too late, that trying to be Republican Lite is not making them more effective.

I was going to rant about the idea of renaming a "problem" to a "challenge", but I don't think there's a really a point. It's not a meaningful statement to me, but it may help you or someone else, so I'm unable to make the sweeping generalizations of which I am so fond.

Bleh. Pretty lame week already, and it's barely started. And tomorrow I get to chase down warehouse and retail jobs. Yee-haw.