It’s a question I’ve asked myself many a time. In fact, I find myself asking it about the entire human race from time to time. And the answer’s always the same: I sure as hell hope so.
I’d like to believe that we can grow and mature, learn from our mistakes. But like children who never believe the lessons of their parents and have to find out for themselves, the hard way, we continue to shoot ourselves in the head and then complain that no one told us the gun was loaded.
Two days ago, Massachusetts voters shat on the memory of the late Ted Kennedy by not only choosing a Republican to take his still-warm seat, but possibly killing an already watered-down Health Care Bill that was Mr. Kennedy’s life mission and dying wish. Did this really happen? How quickly we forget the atrocities committed by the Bush Administration. The party and ideology that destroyed our economy by redistributing wealth from the middle-class to the wealthiest Americans and corporations while simultaneously throwing us into a trillion dollar war that we had no moral or social right engaging in. Every American soldier who lost their life in Iraq lost it for a lie. And there are over 3,000 of them. Not to mention the over 100,000 Iraqis killed in that same ongoing war. The American people were twice victimized. First by the 9/11 attacks, then by a president who took advantage of our fear and shock. And now we’re voting these people back into power? Really?
Apparently, it is quite a task for the average American to measure the effectiveness of a president like Obama who saved us from falling into the abyss of an economic depression. Perhaps it would have been better if we had fallen into that abyss so that Americans would then have some understanding of what Obama accomplished by pulling us out. But too many Americans don’t seem to be able to weigh what a massive accomplishment avoiding that depression was and is. Or how close we were to it and what that reality would have looked like. We are an undereducated, incurious lot. And we are easily led. Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Glenn Beck… They are all modern-day Joe McCarthys and legions of Americans are following them all over again.
All this said, Obama can certainly take a more definitive stand. Playing nice, it seems, gets little-to-nothing done. On the other hand, and I believe this is Obama’s logic, if we keep pushing our differing agendas in opposition to the other party, then we may find America in a damaging game of back and forth wherein one party is elected into office, disregards the other party’s beliefs and desires and forces its agenda no matter how severe (as the Bush Administration did from day one), and then the other party takes over again and reverses course until the first party takes control (again) and makes another u-turn. It’s a deadly circle that we could spin in for centuries without accomplishing a damn thing of consequence. Problem is, Americans only seem to respond to extremes. Subtlety is not taught in school and seems to float above the heads of many who miss the boat entirely and are lost and confused when someone points out what has been going on. They simply don’t believe it because they don’t have the tools to see it. We have societal and historical ADD. One year into the Obama Administration and hoards of Americans are already growing impatient and have forgotten the treacherous 8 years of lies, deaths and economic imbalance. Not to mention that we had a president on a religious Jihad all his own. From attempting to amend the constitution to conform to his Christian definition of marriage, to preemptively attacking Iraq in order to “erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”
So as sad as it may be, it seems the only way forward is to either try and meet Republicans halfway, or make the firm decision to move forward regardless of their wishes while we still can; to get as much done now and hope some of it sticks through later administrations. The biggest problem with meeting Republicans halfway, it seems, is that they don’t appear to be interested. So far as I can tell, the game that’s being played is “oppose Obama at every turn.” The notion being that if Obama is truly successful at fixing our national health care disaster, then he will most certainly get re-elected. And perhaps another Democrat will come after him! And God forbid he should bring any of these wars to an end or actually strengthen the economy. Then the corporations and the high-powered bigwigs who live off the blood of the less fortunate won’t get what they so desperately want (and have grown used to). And those very powerful organizations and the people whose pockets they regularly line will suffer greatly. And they are not willing to let that happen. Even if that means denying the American people their basic rights or fulfilling their basic needs. Like health care.
So, these men and women and the corporations behind them scream foul and create illusions of collapse and spoil that strike at the hearts of our most frightened and ignorant until they take to the streets en masse spouting misconceptions and incredulous at the mere notion that someone might actually be attempting to better their lives. And the Independents who don’t believe in anyone but knew that they were tired of Bush start to tire of Obama as well until they’re voting us right back into the abyss we just barely managed to crawl out of. And then there’s the lazy Democrats who just don’t get themselves out there to vote or campaign with enough vigor or resilience. Or the Blue Dog Democrats who just seem to be Republicans under a different name.
Meanwhile, Obama is in danger of being neutered by asking us to rise to an occasion we simply may not be ready for. His attempt to bring the parties and American people together ends up looking to Democrats like he’s not willing to go the extra mile and really take on the forces at hand –essentially “just another politician”– and Republicans see it as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to pounce.
All the while, the world watches and prays that we, currently the most powerful nation in the world (with China fast on our heels), find ourselves in the midst of a growth spurt that finally moves us out of our infancy and propels us into the world of the mature and self-aware. In the meantime, we’re a nation that essentially still believes in Santa Clause, hopes he’ll show up, and then shoots anything that comes down the chimney.