You know what is really, really popular lately? Quitting.
Republican candidate for president Scott Walker quit last week. Speaker of the House John Boehner quit the other day. Even Pope Benedict XVI quit a few years ago. They all realized they couldn’t pontificate like they used to.
We tend not to dwell on quitting because it is contrary to everything we have been taught, from Aesop to Winston Churchill to Chuck Noll. You should never give up and you should try try again, right? Stiff upper lip and all that. “There’s no room on this team for quitters!” the coach will yell. Then he’ll tell you to quit scratching when you’re up at bat. We were watching the movie “Swing Time” on Turner Classics the other night because even though there was nothing on and it was late we just couldn’t quit watching. Way back in 1936, Ginger Rogers was preaching the anti-quitting gospel:
“Will you remember the famous men
Who have to fall to rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up,
Start all over again.”
Even Old Blue Eyes got into the act with “High Hopes.” Why an ant moving a rubber tree plant, or a ram butting a hole in a dam should be all that inspirational is still not clear to us. We guess you had to be there, but, suffice it to say, quitting has always gotten a bad rap. Which is unfair because, think about it, wouldn’t it be a better world if some of those “famous men” and women for that matter, had quit? Shouldn’t serial killers quit? What about Bill Belechick? If only someone had taken a certain German ex-corporal aside and said, “Listen, Adolph, if you keep up this ‘Mein Kampf’ thing, it’s going to create a furor. With your powers of persuasion you should be in car sales. Let me hook you up with this Porsche fellow I know. He’s got a roadster that will win the master race, verstehen Sie?”
Or how about, “Madame Bonaparte, your son is simply too short for a career in the military. He needs to open up a bakery. Some day, he may even have a famous pastry named for him!”
Also, quitting always seems to take a back seat to the other more glamorous aspects of life. Every time you hear about somebody who got a new job with more money or better benefits, didn’t they have to quit an old job with lower pay or stingier bennies? And what about alcohol, tobacco and gambling? Quitting is good.
The recent quitting in the news is mostly a function of the political climate because there are a lot of candidates but only one of them can get the nomination. So most of them will have to spontaneously quit along the way. Quitting in politics can be tricky, and we mean that in the original Nixonian sense. When Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus quit during the famous “Saturday Night Massacre” that was bad quitting, in the sense that they quit as a matter of conscience. But when Nixon himself quit, that was good quitting because a lot of people seemed to want him to. Congressman Anthony Weiner quit Congress for reasons that everyone finds disgusting, and King Edward VIII quit the throne for reasons everyone finds romantic. Roberto Duran quit a boxing match because he was tired of being punched in the head.
By the way, the Idler has not given up on his dream of becoming an ex-president, but would be willing to entertain the idea of suspending his campaign if some competing billionaire wished to make it worth his while. Especially since we’re also willing to take back any wisecracks we may have made about anyone’s gravity-defying coiffure. The Idler will never quit, but this doesn’t preclude his being bought out.
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