What should I be doing instead of this?
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The Right to Not Choose

By Bob Woodiwiss · April 1st, 1999 · Pseudoquasiesque
I've always been pretty much a black-and-white guy. You either support the death penalty or you don't. You're either a dog person or a cat person. You're either a liberal or a Clinton supporter. Period.

If you advocate locking up serial murderers for life and then keeping them infected with a really nasty flu, I say, "Make up your mind." If you own some half-and-half dog/cat freak hybrid like, oh, I don't know, a Dobermanx, something that'll attack and kill an intruder if it's "in the mood," I say, "Get off the fence." Or if you believe the defense budget is indefensibly high, the poor are more marginalized than ever and the president can't be held responsible for those things because, damn it, it's that Republican Congress, I say, "You're probably gay, a woman or a minority with absolutely nowhere else to turn."

Lately, though, I've found myself questioning this rigidity. "Cafeteria Catholics" and "Log Cabin Republicans" both seem quite happy to belong to and support organizations which a.) they believe are dead wrong on certain key issues and b.) tell them the exceptions they choose to take with the organizational philosophy means they're in opposition to God and will burn for eternity in Hell.

And then there's Marilyn Manson.

But the real epiphany occurred in Barnes & Noble. There I happened to spot Almost Vegetarian Entertaining, a new cookbook written by Diane Shaw. As one would guess, inside, along with the couscous canapes and polenta/seaweed rumaki and barley ladyfingers, are recipes for fish, chicken and turkey dishes. Hmm, I thought, I could probably be a "Diane Shaw vegetarian" -- i.e., a vegetarian who can eat some meat.

Suddenly, I saw possibilities. Unlimited possibilities. I felt like I could do almost anything. Or, more accurately, I felt like I could almost do any given thing. I began to anxiously search the shelves for more books that could guide me down The Middle of the Road to Wellville. Three in particular caught my eye:

All Good Atheists Go to Heaven: You don't believe in a Supreme Being. You die. And it turns out you're wrong. Uh-oh. Now you're called on the celestial carpet by God to explain yourself. Not to worry. This valuable book outlines several negotiating strategies that, despite your willful blasphemy, could well gain you entry to Paradise. Personally, I lean toward Strategy 4: Claim friends and family who are expected or already there will not consider it "heaven" if you're not with them; and Strategy 16: "I thought I heard you were an all-forgiving God."

Flirting With Alcoholism: Explains how, through careful planning and exacting measurement, it is possible for a drinker to technically not have to answer "yes" to three or more of the Seven Warning Signs of Alcoholism yet remain drunk pretty much all the time.

Zen and the Art of Running a Big 7 Tobacco Company: Think just because you poison people's lives and kill children you can't attain inner peace? Nonsense, Grasshopper. Comes with two free packs of Camel Lights attached.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must write to Louis Farrakhan regarding my idea for a Nation of Crackers branch of his church. ©



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