O.K. Today we’re playing Let’s Pretend.
We’re pretending that we are filled with optimism about the immediate future. We are ignoring the troubles of the Euro Zone.
We are momentarily putting on the back burner the mortgage crisis which still exists. The savings crisis, which after all, is hardly on the same scale. We’re even ignoring the jobs crisis, which is real and miserable for so many millions of people.
Today we’re pretending that there are American patriots in Congress. Office holders who (remember, we’re pretending) initially ran for public office to do something good for their communities and their country.
We are pretending that the Tea Party will come to its senses and no longer simply shout tax-cuts! Today we’re imagining that when they say they want their country back, they are willing to fight for it, even if it does mean compromise and actually speaking in regular tones to their colleagues across the aisle.
Even more astonishing, we are today pretending that Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority leader from Kentucky, will show up for work in the Capitol unshaved and unpowdered, maybe even wearing blue jeans instead of a three thousand dollar suit from which all lint and feathers have been brushed every six seconds.
And in our let’s pretend world, we imagine McConnell saying, “For the good of the country, the Republicans will agree unconditionally to….”
End of dream.
Here is a shortlist of some of the dangers the country faces in the next few months.
An indecisive but drawn-out personal battle over the debt ceiling. The result of this warfare has made the manufacturing and industrial segments of our society so nervous and uncertain that they are standing in the shade of the nearest big tree doing nothing.
A “fiscal cliff” wherein Congress, unable to agree on any plan to cut spending, cut the defense budget, raise taxes, construct a reasonable and fair tax code, holds the entire nation hostage to the point that defaults are once more in the air, a second wave of recession sweeps down upon us, and we realize that recovery therefrom will be even more difficult and take longer than anyone imagined.
An election that seems to be predicated not on a candidate’s talents and workable ideas for progress but rather on the candidate’s handlers screaming and shouting about unfairness, bias, misrepresentation, and all too often just making up lies to cover their own asses. (Handlers, of course, have very little at stake, unless they also harbor ambitions for government posts and perks when the election is over.)
A raging, vicious and completely out of control battle among Republicans against other Republicans, all spurred by fear of being overtaken and ousted by someone perceived as more conservative than they are.
A terrified Democratic party, unable to move in one direction or another, lest any action or speech be seen as more of the same, i.e., partisan battle.
Gigantic problems with our American infrastructure, our American health care, our American women’s health. Not to mention our American education, voting rights, our international influence.
But today we are pretending that real patriots, perhaps even unbeknownst to themselves, exist, and are secretly gearing up to leap on their horses, ride to our rescue, and make the bad guys (whoever they are) back down.
Mitt Romney, remembering at last his mother’s terrific work with Planned Parenthood, will slew around to save women from government intrusion.
Mitt Romney, admitting at last that his father’s release of years of tax records was the right thing to do, will release his own, going back to 1999, and put all speculation and rumor-mongering to rest once and for all.
President Obama will remember who he is and where and how he came up the political ladder, what he believed in enough to enter politics in the first place. He will recover his principles, his bottom lines, without throwing over his natural instinct to try to work with a Congress that wants nothing at all to do with him.
In our pretend state, Congress will want to work with the president, for the benefit and good of the country.
Here’s the thing. We can all criticize and parse the actions of Congress — which in this term is astonishingly easy, insofar as they have accomplished nothing at all — but it doesn’t help save the nation from looming disasters. Or from global warming, or from international defaults and bankruptcies, or from economic stand-stills on our own shores that give other nations of the world a better chance at survival than we might have.
So the only tool we have left is optimism, the Let’s Pretend early Saturday morning radio program so many of us listened to and loved. Our program no longer is populated by princesses and dragons. Its cast is made up of men and women who, as though waking from a hundred year’s dream, remember what life was like before obstructionism, before we had a black man to follow, before racism of all kinds became perfectly legitimate as a topic of conversation, along with its key words and phrases that told listeners where exactly one stood, even though it was disguised by euphemisms and bird-droppings.
We’re out of time. We’re out of patience. We’re out of money.
The only recourse we have as a nation is to believe in that nation, the way we used to.
This is not an easy game to play.
But as far as we can see, it’s the only game in town.