Stuck in the Middle with You

(This post is modified from a Note I published on Facebook, November 5, 2008)
So you know that commercial for Campbell’s soups with sea salt for flavor instead of heart-ending sodium? It kills me. That actor alone is hilarious to me but the dialogue is genius. “What’s that Taste?” “Taste.” Like the poor guy has gone without taste for so long because of a low-sodium diet he forgot what good food was? I love it.

That’s how I felt two years ago after President Obama was elected.

“What’s this feeling?”

“Pride.”

“I like pride. It makes me proud.”

I haven’t really come to terms with the fact that I was wrong. This country WAS ready to elect a black man (or more accurately a multi-racial man) to the Presidency. I was never so happy to be wrong. The electoral votes showed it to be a landslide victory, but 48MM people voted for the other guy. That left a lot of disappointed people.   Just like in the previous two elections.

My original post read, “Let’s do something. Let’s NOT rub this win in anyone’s face. Let’s NOT gloat or be smug. Instead, let’s follow our new president-elect’s humility and dignity and lead by example, be gracious and inclusive, and find our commonality.”

I had felt disconnected and ashamed for so long that the shock of Obama’s win felt like shrugging off a back-pack. I was lighter and more balanced but perversely, I missed the weight that I’d grown accustomed to. 

Having lived in a (mostly) Red state for the last ten months, I heard an earful of conservative speak, saw more “Jesus Saves” billboards than I could believe, and witnessed protests against healthcare or “Obamacare,” bailouts, and taxes.
I was right about one thing – a large number of people were left disappointed that the Republicans were summarily ousted from the majority of leadership roles in our government.  If I’m to believe the news at all, there is a chance they’ll win back at least some of them in November 2010.
But there seems to be so much anger involved politics right now and the “sides” are growing farther apart every day.  The harsh, disrespectful, violent language is uncivilized at best.  Logic, reason, and compassion have left the building.  What remains seems to be the very worst of human nature on both sides of the proverbial aisle. 
When people who are honored with representing me in my government speak in circular logic and pander blatently to interests not aligned with the good of the country, I feel nauseated.  When they fund war but cancel unemployment, I taste bile.  When did treating the sick become the enemy of the “Good Samaritan” crowd?  When did party loyalty nullify sense and judgement? 
I read that something like 46 states could go bankrupt this year
Our national deficit is so big that I don’t even have words to describe it.
In the midst of the liberals pointing and the conservatives bad-mouthing, accountability has been abandoned completely.

I lack an impressive education or advanced degrees.  I am not independently wealthy.  I don’t rub elbows with anyone in power.  But I have a healthy skepticism that enables me to be unawed by these groups.  It allows me to discern the random nugget of honor and leadership that pops up now and again from the absolute nonsense coming out of their mouths and pens. 

Both sides seem to get more extreme by the day.  Each uses fear and hate to build support.  Neither feels the shame they should for the misleading or aggregiously inaccurate rhetoric they employ. 
I miss that feeling of Pride.  Even though I respect the seal and the man behind it, we are only as good as our weakest link in government or in protest.  And our worst has gotten a lot worse.
Whenever I feel down about the state of the union, this rant by the character Andrew Shepherd in the American President always cheers me up.  Hope you enjoy:
 
“Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”. I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

Indeed.

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