Page Two: Hope Jr.
Only the foolish expect a rebirth of wonder from Obama, but a restored sense of decency is a good start
And since I don't have to choose, I guess I won't
And I know this ain't no way to treat a guest ...
"You know, some people got no choice
And they can never find a voice
To talk with that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
Why they follow it,
You know, it's called bad luck"
Lou Reed, "Street Hassle"
The inauguration is only a few days away. The metaphoric pounding of the drums, the torchlight parades, and the blowing of horns has already started – coming from both those excited by the new president and those gleefully looking forward to his failures. Some of the latter really just don't like any elected official, and some don't like his politics (or at least what they perceive his politics to be). Others think he was put in by the secret powers that be; this includes the crowd that will argue forever that there are no real differences between the two parties, despite all evidence to the contrary. A cross section of all of those who are angry and/or pessimistic about his presidency feel he is unknown and untested, so any optimism is either naive or stupid.
Almost all of those who are lined up in opposition share a total contempt for those who support/supported him. They label them starry-eyed idealists who think that Obama will walk on water, pay off their mortgages, and find jobs for everyone. Undoubtedly there are those who have unreasonable expectations of this new administration, but most people are far more cautious than that, possessing expectations much lower than those assigned them by the forces of opposition, negativity, and hopelessness.
In general, people of all political stripes prefer articulating the details of ideologies they are opposed to rather than listening to the people who hold those beliefs explain them. In this way, they can mold those beliefs to be so basic and simplistic that they are dumb beyond reason and intentionally evil. There is a lot of energy required in describing the beliefs of people with opposing views, because all intelligence, principle, nuance, and subtlety is bleached out.
Too many people declare this country great but can find nothing great about it now. This is because they revere a pretend, ahistorical past when everything was better and the Constitution burned bright across the land. They imagine a rich variety of worst-case current scenarios that mostly involve the results of an intentional and malevolent assault on the Constitution by other Americans.
Since they love and cherish the Constitution, they want to return this country to a place where that document is at the center of law and government.
The problem is that most of them want the Constitution, in this case, to be their version of it – a version that usually doesn't have much to do with the very document. How can anyone argue for original intent when the framers were in such violent disagreement with one another over so many points? A document created by compromise, one that is designed to facilitate compromise, can't be defined by "original intent."
Many of those who are most critical and despairing over the current government can't wrap their heads around the realities of history. Instead, they insist that in the past, this country was pure and sparkling – like the Land of Oz, only so much better. Despite abundant historical evidence to the contrary, this view holds that back then people were smarter, more involved in government, and better patriots; back then everyone's rights were guaranteed, and the democratic electoral system functioned almost without flaw.
One can spend all day refuting this delusional history, but it does no good. They neither care nor listen. They are beyond certain that things now are dramatically worse than they've ever been in this nation's past. Our constitutional, guaranteed rights have been and continue to be eroded by corrupt politicians and a crooked government. In what ways the government is crooked and the specifics of how it is anti-constitutional most often depend on the individual politics of the person expressing the opinion. What amazes me is that, without any evidence, all too many people speak as though they firmly believe that their opinions are extremely popular ones, held by most of the country's population.
The whole idea of the Constitution is to structure a government that can function in an atmosphere of vicious debates and violent disagreements. The framers were well aware that there were then, and were likely to be well into the future, groups of citizens who had radically different ideas than other groups of citizens. Then and now, these groups do not just simply distrust but often aggressively despise all the other groups. This is not a disease destroying the Constitution. This is a symptom of its health, demonstrating just how visionary the document is.
Almost every proof of the Constitution's failure is based on personal ideas and beliefs some individuals are convinced are being subversively and deliberately neglected and ignored. When the Constitution is working effectively, most citizens should be at least unhappy with the existing government, if not downright ready to revolt against it.
(An aside: Obviously, the Bush administration is an anomaly in its outrageous, two-term assault on constitutional principles, but the Constitution, like a gyroscope, has allowed for a scenario in which things now out of whack will be righted. This is not to predict the realization of a utopian vision. It is to acknowledge that even when our government is functioning at its best, it is functioning awkwardly, imperfectly, and in a way that a sizable percentage of the population at least dislikes and more often than not violently opposes. But rather than being pushed to one extreme or another, post-Bush it will again center itself. End of aside.)
The election of Barack Obama and his inauguration as president is not a beatification. Only the foolish expect a rebirth of wonder from Obama. Then again, only the foolish feel that tearing down this government so that a new one that is constitutionally pure can be built in its place would in any way improve the situation.
Mostly what I am hoping for from this new administration is some sense of common decency. I am cynically well aware that government is never sleek, with its gears meshing flawlessly, or aimed at a problem like an arrow at a target. Having a president who speaks in full sentences and who utilizes dialects other than those of deceit and disingenuous optimism will be an improvement. Certainly, those modest desires are not the only or even most important goals one most hopes for from the government. But they should prove to be at least a tiny baby step in a better direction.