Thursday, January 28, 2010

"We don't quit. I don't quit." - Obama

"I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president--unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction." - Howard Zinn (R.I.P.)

Yesterday, was an interesting and challenging day: Obama made his State of the Union speech to inspire his supporters, further aggrevate his detractors, and hopefully bring some people together. Howard Zinn (who I had the honor of meeting last year) died while swimming laps in a pool. Apple unveiled the iPad. I managed to work my ass off (as usual) for another long day at The New School.

No matter the President in power, I always look forward to watching the State of the Union Address and reading the responses from pundits the next day. It allows me to reflect on where we've come as a nation, where we're going, and what we think about our leaders. It's also always amusing to watch politics in action and observe the way the President must convince a divided governing body to agree on a common purpose. What I found most inspiring about the President's address was his theme of a shared responsibility and need for accountability. He made it clear, government either needs to start making change actually happen (instead of just talking about it) or government will lose all faith and trust from an increasingly cynical electorate. If this happens, if trust is lost, total revolution (likely through totalatarianism) becomes a very real possibility.

I was most impressed by the way President Obama gave his disaproval of the Supreme Court's recent decision to overturn a precedent that "will open the floodgates for special interests". Corporations will now have even greater ability to invest in the political candidates they support. ("iCandidate"). I'm glad to see Obama spend much of his speech discussing the economy and his plans for action (as opposed to scaring me about "the terrorists"). I'm pleased Obama asked the body to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" rule that prevents gays from serving in the military. Finally, I hope his call to "make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home." will come true. However, this seems too good to be true; especially, when he is simultanously pounding harder on those war drums for the Iranian regime to hear.

I want the President -who I still consider a genuine and well-intentioned politician- to be able to see his campaign promises come to fruition. Sure, I'm hopeful, and perhaps even out of a certain sense of desperation (as my good friend pointed out). Things are bad; however, I refuse to completely give-in to a cynicism I find corrosive and harmful to not only politics, but to our selves. Nevertheless, I believe in criticism and debate - a most essential aspect of a functioning democracy; however, so isn't progress. So let us begin our debate over these many issues, while also pushing our elected officials in a direction to make real change that will benefit people before corporations. (Admittedly, more difficult, now that the Supreme Court overturned that precedent.) Let us end these futile wars of empire and begin to renew our crumbling social and physical infrastructure.

This change will not be the President's decision alone (as many of his critics try to paint him out to be). The choices we make and attitudes we take will either help us resolve and confront the very real problems we face or make them worse. This will be our collective responsibility, the choice is ours.

* * * *

I'd like to take this opportunity to note; because of the real work that needs to get done in my own life, I'll be taking a break from this page for the Spring to volunteer teach a class on "America Now: Media and Writing" at the International Center in NY, focus on the many changes I need to confront here at (an increasingly busy) New School, work some extra shifts as Asst. House Mgr. at the 92nd Street Y (so as to pay off my debts to the IRS), complete my Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language, and -hopefully- share some much-needed relaxing moments with the friends I respect and woman I adore.

Cheers to finding zen in '10!

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Ron and Ben said...

Sadly, even from the days in 1971 and in 1994-95 when I had the honour to work in Congress as an aide, I observed: Members look at what goes on as they are witnesses at an accident rather than drivers. They still don't get it, nor will they.

Excellent article. I enjoyed reading.

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