Being "stubborn as a mule" can be a good thing
Often we hear figures of speech used to portray a character trait but don't understand the full meaning behind the expressions. Lately, I've heard the trait of stubbornness being associated with the Republicans' resistance to buying into Obama's spending plans and agenda.
We usually think of stubbornness as a bad thing. The expressions stubborn as a mule or being mule-headed pop up when speaking of someone who will not budge on an issue. We even say sometimes that they balk at an idea--balk meaning a refusal to move forward.
But is balking or being stubborn always a bad thing? No. We want our children to stubbornly resist the temptation to do drugs or engage in premarital sex, don't we? I want my legislators to be just as resolute in protecting my freedoms and resisting wasteful spending too.
Here is how I found out first hand why being stubborn as a mule can be a good thing--even a lifesaver.
The humble mule suffers from an image problem. The hero in cowboy movies and lore always rides a horse, but the comical sidekick often rides a mule. Because of that, I used to think the mule was inferior to the horse. It wasn't until my family and I took a trail ride a few years ago up the John Muir trail in Yosemite and down into the Grand Canyon on another trip that we learned the truth about mules. (That's me with Justin, who carried me safely up and down the trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite.)
One wrangler informed us that the mule's smoother gait and narrower width make them much more comfortable to ride, earning them the nickname "The Cowboy's Cadillac."
True, mules are stubborn. But they are stubborn for a reason. They will not move into situations they see as being dangerous. No amount of coaxing or bribing will make them change their minds. A horse, on the other hand, can be coerced into going onto dangerous ground. They are more susceptible to the rider's opinion.
Mules are more aware of their surroundings. They can see their hind feet whereas a horse cannot; they also have smaller, more sure footed feet. This makes them much more able to turn around on those switchback turns that are sometimes no bigger than a card table. I wouldn't want to do that on a horse.
(That smooth narrow ridge about 2/3 down the right cliff in the photo above is the trail at the Grand Canyon!)
Whenever we have told other park visitors that we had or were about to take a National Park mule ride on the trails, people invariably thought we were taking our lives into our own hands. They assumed it was a death defying act. But in truth, no tourist has ever suffered a fatality riding a mule down into the canyon or up a mountain trail in the parks. This is because mules have a strong sense of self preservation, making the stubborn mule a trusty steed in contrast to hikers who suffer fatalities, trusting in their own ability and get too close to the edge.
So next time you hear the Republicans (and some Democrats too) being described as stubborn when they won't arrive at consensus, think about the humble mule and its reputation for superiority and safety. When I am putting my life on the line, or my country's future is at stake, I don't want compromise!
Congressman Sensenbrenner recently was the only Wisconsin Representative to NOT vote for taxing AIG bonus money at 90%. He voted no because it was unconstitutional. That is what I call stubbornness with a purpose.
Links: Practically Speaking, Fairly Conservative, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation