Page Two: Up, Up, and Away
Do Obama's sky-high approval ratings and unprecedented support indicate unrealistic expectations?
"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
This ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey"
– Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime"
Once again, the electoral system as described in the U.S. Constitution has worked. There has been yet another peaceful change of administrations. The new president's widespread and enthusiastic support among the American people is heartening, even exciting, but still disturbing. Disturbing because too many may be expecting way too much from this administration, and way too quickly.
There is the concern that this country is as in deep a hole as it has ever been, as well as in more ways – diplomatic, economic, budgetary, and on and on – than ever. Usually, national tsunamis don't come so vast, wide, and deep, challenging even the very structural foundation of the country in those many areas. In some ways, it is appropriate to mention the Great Depression and World War II period as a model: There is a similarity in scope and concern, if not intensity. If nothing else, the former perfect storm still dwarfs our current one, so just the comparison might provide illusionary comfort.
What is surprising is the extent of the coming together of Americans in support and faith in this administration – but therein might well lie the problem. Given current conditions, even the best-planned and most diligent attempts at recovery may take much longer than anticipated, if they work at all. Some of those attempts are more likely than not to fail, at least in the beginning. The concern is that the sky-high approval ratings and unprecedented, across-the-board national support for President Obama indicate unrealistic expectations. What will happen if and when these expectations are not met, which could happen even if there are vast improvements but the resulting upturns are not sharp or happening quickly enough? Given the current highs, will we see matching, and thus inherently destructive, lows?
"America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me. "
– Allen Ginsberg, "America"
There are, of course, those with a vested interest in this administration falling on its face. Many pundits and politicians still seem undisturbed by the Bush administration's staggering spending spree of trillions of dollars, even though the country in general has precious little to show for what was spent. Arguing that it is "class war" to suggest that only a very few benefited (greatly and beyond all comprehension) from the Bush excesses is given lie by the current state of the economy. If nothing else, this state disproves the trickle-down theory, although the "stash away" and/or "gush out of the country into foreign investment" theories are more than healthy.
Yet many of the very same experts are now aghast at the plans of Obama to spend not nearly as much on programs to benefit a much vaster and far more widespread swath of the population.
Evidently it is okay to spend wantonly even if the means of meeting the budget is basically by printing the necessary money, but only under certain circumstances. The highest prioritized of these are tax cuts for the richest Americans – which, even when they work as intended and are unaccompanied by unconscionable spending increases, immediately and inevitably unbalance the budget. There are also the spending of unprecedented sums on no-bid reconstruction contracts that excite no scrutiny, even when unfulfilled, and the sending of packages of enormous amounts of cash, running into the billions of dollars. The list above is by no means complete. Evidently these circumstances also involve not spending in certain areas as well including reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, repairing the country's transportation infrastructure, health care, and the social safety net (actually cut by the previous administration, even though its overall costs were relatively so small there was no noticeable budgetary impact).
"When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that's the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin' up to the spirit in the sky"
– Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit in the Sky"
Tuning in to Fox News might shock one, as there are more blow jobs being given on the screen there than in most gay porn films. When Glen Beck "seriously" talks to Karl Rove or anyone talks to the embittered, vengeful Dick Morris (who, because he "engineered Clinton's victory," must have at least a sympathetic understanding of Democrats – at least according to Fox logic), something is being sucked. Whenever Bill O'Reilly laughs at Dennis Miller's alliteration-focused, anti-Democrat "jokes," what's being verbally shared is neither ideas nor humor.
Pure, American white boy Sean Hannity says he truly believes that racism has disappeared in this country, that there is no longer any discrimination based on skin color, citing in his reasoning the end of slavery but ignoring the existence of segregation (more than 100 years of institutionalized racism). Disingenuously, he laments minorities' lack of love for the Republican Party, noting that it is the party of Lincoln and the one responsible for passing civil rights legislation – as though, still loyal to Lincoln, it weren't represented by almost all white faces at the 2008 convention. He ignores his inherent privilege so wantonly and gleefully, one realizes that, even if servicing nobody else, he is orally pleasuring himself.
In general, we are told by many that the Democrats are racist because they talk of race, while the Republicans are not because they so rarely mention it. They must be forgetting that there is not only the love that dare not speak its name but the caste system that must never be articulated.
"Same as it ever was ... same as it ever was ... same as it ever was ..."
– Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime"
Now, you may ask: What of our beloved dissident friends, who ride under the flags of many different ideologies, ranging across the political and ideological spectrums, sharing little in common except their sense of the impending apocalypse? These include those on the far left who advocate violent revolution to those on the hard right who are concerned that the country is being overtaken by secular-humanist liberals (read "socialists," which means "communists") in order that they might morally and spiritually gut the country. These are just those groups that embrace familiar, if extreme, ideologies. There are also others, such as those committed, conspiracy-theorist "truth tellers," who guarantee that they are the only real patriots, the sole claimants to representing good because of their ongoing fight against the New World Order. They know that those who are not so engaged are either purposefully evil traitors or just massively and blindly stupid sheep.
These groups are similar only in their predictions of doom, disaster, and the end of life in this country as we know it. All happily assure us that this nation is closer to fascism than post-Weimar Republic Germany. What of their many assertions that extreme name-calling was appropriate, because George W. Bush would never leave office and that the administration was going to stage even more "false flag" operations (such as the 9/11 attacks) to further the imposition of martial law, which was already happening?
Does the election of President Obama dissuade them even in the slightest? Come on, get serious: Just because we are willfully ignorant that the constitutional republic is dead and those in power are evil beyond comprehension doesn't mean that they, too, are fools! They know that the puppet masters who run the world have simply replaced the Bush puppet with the Obama puppet; nothing else has changed. Instead, the masses, afraid of the truth and unwilling to see what is really going on, have again been conned by the illusion of electoral government. Nothing has changed; there is no difference between the two parties, and Obama is the same if not worse than Bush. These kinds of assertions form a common thread through a range of groups whose other beliefs vary widely.
Since almost all these groups claim to be true constitutional loyalists, isn't the feasibility and appropriateness of that document called into question when they are certain that most of the population has willingly let itself be intellectually neutered?
In the beginning, as they so often do, the naysayers asked questions for which they desired no answers: Isn't he just all talk and no action? What has he accomplished? Are not those who take him seriously naive, if not dangerous, fools? Are those who support him not high on utopian fumes, unaware of the hard and dark reality surrounding them? Don't they know – don't we all know – that to believe too much is to be misled, to expect too much is to end up feeling deceived? Isn't it ridiculous to believe that in politics, anything is as it is presented? Isn't it even more outlandish to expect that any politician will ever really bring change or offer any idea that is different? Isn't it obvious that it is all the same as it ever was and that it will always be this way?
Being overly and doggedly optimistic means one is guaranteed considerable if not comprehensive disappointment. The overly and doggedly pessimistic, however, are almost always rewarded in their correctness.
Some of them are always right because they see only what they want to see, finding the present dark and the future darker. The city is dirty, its people ugly, the government malevolent in its intention, corrupt and oppressive in its ways – which are the same ways of all governments.
Even those who don't restrict their perceptions with predetermined pessimism can maintain an impressive average. The few patches of exposed white snow, where things turned out more to their liking and less as they predicted, still rest not in a field of light but are set against the near-pervasive dark.
The heads of idealists, utopian dreamers, and the faithful are always in the clouds; what they think is going on now and is going to happen in the future is determined not by sight but by belief. They are laughable and not to be trusted.
The pessimist will neither be conned, taken advantage of, or misled. The most militant are former optimists that have abandoned that outlook for pessimism. Far more important than dreaming or taking chances is that they will never again allow themselves under any circumstances to be perceived as a mark. Rather than suffering the terrible disappointments of being wrong, they embrace even casual cynicism, determined only that they won't be fooled again.
"I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world."
– Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"
In the beginning, they said he is all and only talk. He is not one of us. He is not a veteran nor proven in any way. They asked who he was, where he came from, and what he accomplished. They claimed he talked in meaningless generalities, making pipe-dream promises while obviously allergic to specifics.
Those who supported him, despite their pedigrees, were dismissed as fools and dreamers. Since they had drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid, despite the lack of substance in the whole questionable if not corrupt venture, they were now trying to get all others to drink from the same pitchers.
As in the beginning, to many it is now.
To be continued: To look at where we were and where we are now. To consider the meaning of the skepticism about Obama's free-floating rhetoric and perceived lack of accomplishment and the idea that his campaign treasured illusion while ignoring reality-treasuring, resulting in a victory that evidenced shared delusion rather than any acumen. To examine the concerns that Obama's talk of change is rendered meaningless by his actions. Finally, to discuss whether the 44th president of the United States can achieve a change in direction by embracing more of the same.