On the value of Ambivalence

Illustration by Marshall Reeves

One of America’s greatest presidents. Harry S. Truman, once opined that he would like to meet a one-handed economist because he wouldn’t be able to say: on the one hand we have this inflation and on the other….

I like that. If there is one thing in this world that frightens me, it’s people who are too ambivalent. We need people who are decisive, who set out on a certain path and stay on it, with their machete chopping down everything that’s in their way. As Siggy Romberg used to say: Give me some men, who are stout hearted men, who will fight for the right they adore…

On the other hand, there are those who, at least for my taste, are not ambivalent enough. For example, those evangelical guys who are on TV. They have this vast world all figured out, they communicate with God on a regular basis, then faultlessly deliver His message to us down here. And from there it’s just a hop skip and holler to figuring out the political system and becoming leader of men.

The trouble is that – at least to my mind – true leaders of men should be chosen by a majority of other men (and women). Freely. Without mystic claims or electronic hocus pocus. Sure, charisma helps, but so do sound arguments with a bit of modesty thrown in here and there for good measure.

Jan Drabek

Jan Drabek


The octogenarian Jan Drabek has been an ambassador in Africa, Chief of Protocol, author, Vancouver High School teacher, a graduate student in southern India, a radio announcer in Germany, a sailor aboard a US aircraft carrier, and a failed naval aviator trainee.