April 2, 2007

The Pilgrim’s Distress

Unable to take the solitude any longer, Bookworm one day crawled out of his hole. Stretching his arms and soaking in rays of sunshine, he decided it might nice to take a walk into town.

On his way, he saw a man and a woman arguing alongside the road. Thinking he might be able to settle the dispute, he walked up to the couple and introduced himself.

“I’m Liberal,” the woman said, her arms crossed, her face turned away from the man.

“And I’m Conservative,” the man said, now in the same position as the woman.

“What seems to be the problem?” Bookworm asked.

“Miss Narrow-minded Tree-hugger here,” Conservative said, “thinks that the earth is getting warmer.”

“Well!” Liberal now interjected, “Mr. Fascist Pinhead over there couldn’t recognize a scientific fact if it exploded in his face.”

“Now, now,” Bookworm said, “perhaps we can work this out. Let’s start with you, Liberal. Why do you think the earth’s getting warmer?”

“Well, it’s obvious,” she said, “as anyone but a pigheaded, big business-pandering Republican would admit.”

“But what’s your evidence?”

At this, Liberal scratched her head in confusion.

Bookworm then turned to Conservative and asked why he didn’t believe in global warming.

“Because, unlike some people,” he answered, “I’m not a Bush-hating, flag-burning, PETA-following fanatic, that’s why!”

“Neither of you,” Bookworm said, “have told me why you hold to your beliefs. You’ve simply resorted to name-calling.”

“So?” Liberal and Conservative said in unison.

“So,” Bookworm continued, “that’s not the proper way to argue. Let’s try this again. Liberal, give me a logical argument for global warming.”

Liberal merely proceeded to ridicule Conservative, who in turn began to ridicule Liberal.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on!” Bookworm finally exclaimed. “Those aren’t logical arguments. Perhaps I should describe what I mean. Here’s the classic example: (a) All men are mortal, (b) Socrates is a man, (c) Therefore Socrates is mortal. Now you try,” he said, turning to Conservative.

Conservative thought this over for a few seconds. Clearing his throat, he finally began: “(a) Everyone who has the least amount of common sense knows that global warming is a myth, (b) Liberal, being the irrational little twit that she is, doesn’t believe in global warming, (c) Therefore global warming is a myth.”

“My turn, my turn,” Liberal said, a look of glee on her face. “Okay, let’s see: (a) Conservative is a pompous jerk, (b) Conservative is an insipid fool, (c) Therefore global warming exists.”

Having finally had enough of this, Bookworm decided to head into town. There, he found a large group of people bickering with one another. Stopping to listen for a while, he learned that the people were arguing about a wide range of topics, from gun control to illegal immigration to defense spending. What struck him was that, regardless of the topic being discussed, everyone seemed to hold a strong opinion and felt the need to share their opinion with everyone else.

“Hi,” a young man finally said, walking up to Bookworm and sticking out his hand, “I’m Voter.”

Before they had time to shake, an older woman walked up to Bookworm.

“Good afternoon,” she said, curtseying, “I’m Voter.”

“I’m Voter,” a woman in an expensive business suit said.

“The name’s Voter,” a shabbily dressed man said, sticking out his hand.

A few more people walked up and introduced themselves by the same name. But before Bookworm had a chance to converse with any of them, they were again arguing with one another, everyone trying to talk over the other.

“Excuse me,” Bookworm finally said, getting the attention of the older woman, “I’m conducting a bit of a survey. I was wondering if you’d answer a question for me.”

“What’s your question?”

“If all men are mortal and if Socrates is a man, then what can be deduced about Socrates?”

“A game!” the woman said, now smiling. “Very fun, very fun.” Looking past Bookworm, the woman’s eyes lit up as she spotted Sanjaya from American Idol. “Unfortunately,” she said, beginning to walk after Sanjaya, “I don’t have time to play.”

“You have a question?”

Turning around, Bookworm saw the young man.

“Yes, yes, I do,” Bookworm said, his spirits suddenly buoyed. “Okay, if (a) All men are mortal and (b) Socrates is a man, then what can be said about Socrates?”

“A wise guy, eh?” the man said, now glaring at Bookworm. “I’ll tell you what,” he continued, his fist raised, “if you don’t’ get outta here on the count of three, you’re gonna get one a these!”

Bookworm didn’t have to be told this twice. So he turned around and walked back to his hole, which, he realized, wasn’t such a bad place after all.