Not Throwing Up Our Hands

November 1 podcast

Not Throwing Up Our Hands

If the Lord created the earth and all that is in it in under a week, what could the U.S. Congress do with 19 days?

Well, it appears that Congress has decided that since the Lord created everything in that short space of time, it’s been left with nothing worthwhile to produce. Certainly nothing important that could be seen to fruition in slightly over two weeks. And who in hell made this decision anyway, that business would be conducted only for 19 days out of the 61 days left in the year?

Is it any wonder that poll numbers reflect Americans’ complete and utter disgust with Congress, its members, the administration?

With the country in such a placid state of mind these days, since Affordable Health Care is promised to be fixed and redesigned by the end of November…since budget worries are now finally behind us, regardless of the thirteen member Special Budget Committee (from which nothing good is expected)…since the foreign wars and diplomatic errors (including eaves-dropping on our allies) have now all been exploded and everything is back to normal…..

Since an immigration bill is destined to appear sometime in the next ten years…and a farm bill may finally be enacted in the next three years…and Wall Street is still screwing the average guy in the street…what is there to worry about?

Next week’s elections? Nothing to fret over. Give Christie his governorship; give McAuliffe his seat in the senate. Let small towns around the nation elect whomever they will because, really, what harm can that do?

The more diligent legislators on the national scene can spend the time tearing apart the Dodd-Frank financial effort. But these are people without a huge national presence and probably have very little clout anyway. Just as the phalanx of anti-Kathleen Sebelius is. Someone forgot to tell this committee that Americans have had it with hearings and insults and prepared cute remarks a la Marsha Washburn.

What matters most is that Congress rest from its exhaustive efforts at governing the country and return (whenever it does return) refreshed and rearmed for the partisan battles of the year to come. In which incidentally, there isn’t enough time to complete any legislative agendae since all eyes then will be on 2016 and you know what that means.

And for the President? He, too, would probably like to go underground for a while and sleep, eat, exercise, spend time with his family. No more daily briefings re healthcare which, after all, will take care of itself anyway, one way or the other. Hall’oween is what matters most now, making certain every child has apples and chewing gum and cavity-inducing candy regardless of whether their parents have a job, shelter, a future. Certainly he doesn’t want to meet any international leaders who will question him about his country’s tendency to spy on everything moving.

Mr. Kerry is handling the Middle East. Syria will settle down soon of its own accord, exhausted, bankrupt, and filled to the brim with energized jihadists.

The Tea Party crowd will swarm back to D.C., convinced that its burn-everything, leave-nothing-standing approach is what works best for them.

The old Rockefeller Republicans will still be too timid to call out the Tea Party.

The Democrats haven’t the faintest idea which way to turn. Polls show them with approval ratings not much higher than the Republicans’. They’re waiting until Hillary makes up her mind, not only whether to run but in which direction.

Young people across the country see all this and decide that if they were ever interested in government or service work, they’d better change their plans, but for those few who do understand that one can get rich pretending to represent voters, or at least pretending to knuckle under to the Tea Party millionaires’ demands of no government, no abortions, no spending for infrastructure, no spending on Head Start or Food Stamps or voting rights.

It all sounds, and looks, pretty bleak.

But the picture isn’t yet complete. The Supreme Court appears to have been politicized beyond anything we’ve experienced before. The only way to fight the rightward tilt of this cabal is to come up with legislation that will directly override what the Supreme Court has decided, or an impossible series of Amendments to the Constitution which can never pass as the country right now is in no mood to fight, anywhere. Further, to fight the Supreme Court and actually win might well mean the end of political careers for sixty or seventy men and women. This might be healthy, but its likelihood is beyond even conjuring odds.

As one local candidate for a school board position has decreed, the status quo is no longer good enough.

But that’s the problem.

The Status Quo is familiar, comfortable, dependable. Voters are used to tri-partite and unworkable government. They vote to continue this year after year. They don’t really expect the government to do anything helpful for their own lives, but just on the off-chance that it might, they vote to split the Houses of Congress as a checks-and-balances system without realizing that this only perpetuates the partisanship that has grown so bitter in these past six years.

The short version of this is that it’s easier to complain than to change. Which is another reason we’re not getting the best and brightest to run for office.

This assessment is depressing as hell, but we think it’s fairly accurate, too.

So what can America do about any of this?

One of the unique features of the American character is optimism. How else to understand the very partisanship we witness day by day in Congress and around the country? People are having pitched battles because they are convinced, they believe, they hope that the visions they have for the nation are the right ones. They believe in God. They hope that God believes in them and their causes.

True enough, hope can get out of hand, as it has here. But without hope, would the Tea Party exist at all?

The same thing is true for the forces that oppose them. Surely, people hope, that obstructionism by itself is not the way to run a country like ours that has such a long history of coming like the cavalry when it’s called. If we could overcome the Great Depression, why can’t we overcome the Great Recession? If one president makes egregious errors and tangles the country into a snarl of problems, surely there’s someone out there who can do a better job? How else, simply, explain people lining up for hours to vote?

Since we live in a melting pot, so-called, why can’t others do the same? Syria, Palestine, Israel. Even China with its ethnic minorities of tribes and customs should be able to right itself and make strides in international diplomacy and trade. Russia, for God’s sakes, with its history of brutality and totalitarianism has to, at some point, come to its senses, or at least what to us seem sensible realizations.

On the more personal front, when disasters strike, Americans rebuild. Some would argue this is money out the window. Not the victims themselves. This is what they know how to do: build, plan, start over. What is this about except hope and optimism that the storm of the century really is only a storm of the century and not destined to return every few years?

What is it besides optimism that has energized anti-gun legislation and organizations?

Or, on another front, that energizes anti-abortion forces?

What could it possibly be, apart from madness, when we see the men and women who want to persuade us to vote them into the highest office in the land?

Rightly or wrongly, these Americans believe what they were told as children, that anyone in America can grow up to be president. This is not true, first of all, and we think it’s a dangerous fiction to circulate,too. Just as not everyone is adaptable to a college setting and would be better advised to turn in another direction, so too men and women with political ambition would ninety-nine times out of a hundred be better advised to turn their hopes and expectations in another direction.

Warren Buffet did. Bill Gates did. Jeff Bezos did. And each of them has produced and promoted national and international understandings, better healthcare for the entire world, and commerce that works at the speed of light.

Examine the life of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. He had presidential ambitions, undermined as we know by his own behavior, but with maturity and renewed optimism he became one of the most effective Senators in the nation’s history.

Or even, here we go, Richard Nixon, not an advantaged young person, who worked hard, worked within the boundaries of his time (rightly or wrongly), and did become President. After deciding that the country should be allowed to kick him around some more, he overcame some very difficult and questionable obstacles to get what he wanted. When it was discovered that he had disappointed us, America chose to hope once more at the ballot box.

Keep your eye on that ballot box. Ignore if you want to the polls. Listen to your neighbors’ thoughts and ideas. Don’t give up. You won’t win every battle, but you’ll be happy that you tried.
That happiness is what keeps people optimistic, it’s what keeps our country afloat.

America has this one extraordinary mind-set, that life can be improved, regardless of setbacks that occur every few years. No other country in the world can get off the canvas as we do, over and over again, and stand tall, ready to take the next punch.

So while it may appear we’re standing still just now, uncertain, worried, what we’re really doing is trying to find new ways to be American, to be the Americans the world expects. We will.

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