Monday, November 01, 2010

We are two year olds!

This is not a new lament. We are, or have become, a nation of two year olds. We have no impulse control and no patience. We have no long view or sense of anything other than the now. The old refrain, "what have you done for me lately?" has become our daily chant. We wake in the morning, barely coherent, with these words on our lips.

Ok, so what am I ranting about? That's right, it's the election. It seems it's our collective sense, just about 18 months into the Obama administration, that we've been sold a bill of goods, that our president hasn't come through for us.

Let me say that I am in no way satisfied with the state of our economy, our health care system - pending changes included, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan or of our country as a whole. I wish that the health care reform bill included a public option. I'm upset with the administration's active defense of DOMA and DADT. I'd have hoped for more active pursuit of environmental legislation. I'd like a clearer path through the morass of Iraq and Afghanistan.

You know what? There's a lot I'd like to see in this world and in our country in particular but I also realize that much of what I'd like to see isn't going to happen any time soon and much of it is opposed by large swaths of the populace and their representatives. We aren't a parliamentary democracy where the majority rules until it loses majority. Even in those systems, there are limits to what can be achieved due to differences of opinion within parties themselves. Governing is always going to be a messy thing based on the dreaded compromise. Yes, I was disgusted by the kowtowing on federally funded abortion to a meathead like Ben Nelson for his critical vote to pass healthcare. I have the privilege of disgust and taking the "principled" stand on the issue because I'm not responsible for getting the damn bill through congress.

Truth? There just aren't the votes for what we as progressives want. Not yet. So, do we want it all or nothing or do we want what we can get? I say take what we can get and build a majority for our ideas over time. Let the majority get comfortable with a health care reform so they can see that it actually can give them more choice than they currently have. That they can continue to work with the same doctors they choose. Let them understand the relief that comes when they don't lose their insurance on a whim of the insurance industry or because they lost their job. Let them see how much it means to a family devastated by serious illness that their benefits don't run out and force them into bankruptcy just to pay medical bills. Let them see that this isn't even federally run health care, like their beloved Medicare. No, this isn't my idea of health care reform and I hate the idea of a mandate to buy a poorly regulated private product but I hate the idea of another four or eight or twenty years of no health care reform at all.

I want gay rights and I want them now. It's going to happen. I won't tell a group that is discriminated against that they should wait and be patient. They'll have to be but I'm not going to tell them that. It's their right to shout loudly how they deserve their rights and deserve them now. I have been very active about this issue myself. I probably write more letters and have more discussions on this topic than any other, which is odd to me because it just seems so damn self evident that we shouldn't discriminate against anyone at all anymore. But we all know that's not the case.

What I tell myself and will tell all my friends who support gay rights is that it's not the only thing we care about and that it will come. In the meantime, should we really abandon the President and party that are with us in most things because they are imperfect in this one thing? I don't think so. Just imagine one more conservative justice on the supreme court for a moment before refraining from voting or voting a protest vote. Do you really want a gay rights proof right wing majority in the senate and, therefore, on the supreme court? No, Obama won't nominate an enemy of gay rights to the court but the Republicans in the senate can filibuster his nominees until the 2012 elections in the hopes of a Republican President who WILL!

Do I want us truly out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes but I also recognize that even a stridently antiwar president who was philosophically opposed to BOTH of these conflicts wouldn't simply be able to walk away as easily as some might want. Yes, I decry Obama's Orwellian claim to the end of combat operations in Iraq. We all know there are thousands of troops still there and still involved in combat. It's unfair to the men and women serving there  to ignore or misname their real involvement. It's unfair to lie to the American people about the actions they take in our name.

I too worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I fear and think the war was lost many years ago when Bush inevitably turned his focus to his true ambition, the removal of Saddam. He left a rump force to handle a place that has sapped empires many times. By the time our focus returned, I think we had lost almost all good will there. Nothing short of a major recommitment was going to change the tide and there isn't the political will for such a change anymore. The "surge" is most likely too little too late.

Still, I wonder about simply pulling out of such a volatile area and I fear for the women of Afghanistan and those who have allied with us. I have no answers for this sinkhole of American blood and treasure as I have no answers for Pakistan, a place that may make our headaches in Iraq and Afghanistan feel like an ice cream brain freeze in comparison to the migraine that awaits us there.

I could go on and on but I will close here and leave you with this thought.  A historic election just two short years ago gave us a bright and promising presidency in the midst of massive financial wreckage in our economy, wholesale mismanagement of the government, rampant partisanship on a scale none of us have seen in our lifetimes and two wars with other foreign disasters threatening. Since that time, we have seen our economy stabilized to a degree; we have seen stimulus funds flow to actual productive enterprises, successfully preventing mass layoffs and permanent loss of a great chunk of the remaining American manufacturing landscape; a health care reform bill passed against massive opposition from entrenched forces; a rapid reduction of forces in Iraq; an attempt to deal with the wreckage of our justice system that is Guantanamo; two moderate justices to bolster the supreme court against its increasing rightward tilt and an improving picture of the United States in the rest of the world. There are many other actions, large and small that have been undertaken by this administration to undo the damage of eight years of Bush misadministration. I won't bother to list them all here.

If you think none of this matters and that the Republicans are no different from the Democrats then you have unlearned the lessons of the eight years preceding Obama. Go ahead and refrain from voting or cast your vote for a small party that more closely reflects your purist wishes for the country. Then watch closely as the Republicans continue to tear this country apart and push it further from the more perfect union you so stridently hope for. If you really care about the future of this country than don't abandon hope or the party you supported two years ago. Hold your nose, if you must, and hold you head high as you vote for the Democrat and moving forward.

We won't go back. We must move forward.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely said, Mr. Gersh. And not only because I happen to agree with you. Fingers crossed all of the pundits got tomorrow just a little bit wrong. Vote early and often. Hope. Audacity. Change. I'm still very much on board the Obama train.

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