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Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

I went into my chiropractor’s office last week.  I like my chiropractor – he’s a nice guy, we usually chat about his children, the weather, or how my back is feeling.  On this particular morning, I walked in and he said to me, “What do you think about Donald Trump running for President?”  “Donald Trump for President!,” I exclaimed.  “Now there’s a stupid idea.  How dumb does he really think we are?  This birther stuff is ridiculous,” I blathered on, referring to Trump’s stated obsession with the idea that the State of Hawaii’s “Certificate of Live Birth” for Obama is not good enough.  “Who the heck believes this stuff?”, I exploded.  One look at his face told me the answer:  he did.

Deciding to dig myself in completely, I continued, “And Michele Bachmann’s just as bad:  giving a speech in Concord, New Hampshire about the ‘shot heard round the world’ that started the American Revolution…in Lexington and the other Concord (Massachusetts).  Please,” I continued, “Can someone ask these people to just get their information straight before they sound off?”  Not content with the amount of damage I’d done myself, I suggested that it would be nice if these supposed candidates for President showed that they had a clue about matters of foreign policy and government relations before they decided they should make a run for the nation’s highest office.

The exchange, among other things, proves that one really shouldn’t have discussions about politics with those whose views we don’t know in advance (yes, the chiropractor started it, but I shouldn’t have taken the bait).

On the other hand, Trump and the birther devotees have reminded me, on this day when we are noting the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, that such down and dirty arguments connect back to the racist history of the United States — and so, I suppose, we really shouldn’t be that surprised that the birther argument — and similar arguments about Obama’s heritage, religion, what-have-you, have taken hold.

The ‘inconvenient truth’ is that the seeds of this behavior were sown long ago, when the country’s Declaration of Independence was being written. New England communities were built off the proceeds of the Triangle Trade to Africa.   Thomas Jefferson, statesman and slave owner, included references to slavery in early drafts of the Declaration, James Madison supported the repatriation of slaves to Liberia and the Caribbean, and the Civil War ripped the country apart as battles raged over slavery, as Katrina Browne and James DeWolf Perry discuss.

So even while many rejoiced at Obama’s election as President, many others focused on all the reasons why this man of mixed race and heritage could not, should not, be President of the United States.  Which brings us to Candidate Trump.  I find Trump’s bombastic blathering outrageous and obnoxious, and I can’t take him seriously.  Unfortunately, my chiropractor, and thousands of others, do.  Trump is, I believe, just one more face that shows us the racist history of our country — a man who will swear that his pursuit of the ‘truth’ about Obama’s heritage has nothing to do with racism, but with the laws of the United States.  And those laws can not, surely, allow a black man to be president.

Back in September, I wrote a piece focusing on the fight Al Sharpton and Glenn Beck were having around Beck’s so-called “Restoring Honor” rally, which compelled Sharpton to stage a “Reclaiming the Dream” event. The two threw mud at each other, and it was not a pretty scene.  At its core, the fight occurred about race and class, I believe.

And here we are again.  It is the anniversary of the Civil War. Yet, 150 years later, we are still wrestling with pigs.  I fear we are doomed to keep engaging in such wrestling matches until we confront the realities of this country’s racist past, and the huge challenges of building a future of equality, together.

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I’m groaning with the onslaught of political advertising bombarding the media, as I note with resignation that the mid-term elections are five weeks away.  The mud is flying, fast and furious, or should I say, faster and more furiously, since it’s been going on for quite a while already.  Analysts are looking at polls, incumbents are, in general, in big trouble, and upstarts – be they tea partiers or just ‘someone new’ are coming up.  The prevailing mood is one of anger and disgust.

“Throw the rascals out” is a term that arose decades ago in response to misdeeds and political abuse of power as an election approached.  In 2010, with the recession officially over but high unemployment, foreclosures, and belt-tightening still the norm, the cry rings loudly throughout America.

We have become a society that expects instant response and instant fixes.  We get our information on handheld devices, and people post updates on Twitter and Facebook, sometimes minute-by-minute.  TV channels and websites like eBayoffer home shopping opportunities that are triggered by a clock counting down.  Quick – get that bargain they’re offering and that you might or might not need, now, before time runs out!  No wonder newspapers and magazines are enduring a slow but inevitable death:  they have to be printed and mailed or delivered and before they arrive, the news is outdated.

And so it is with politics and our collective tolerance for addressing our national ills.  There are, to be sure, reasons to be angry, and there are politicians who have stayed too long at the party and need to retire.  But the impulse to boot out those who have worked to make the system better, who have come in after huge amounts of damage have been done and who now labor to fix things, slowly — no.

Take Barney Frank.  Frank, the outspoken congressman from Massachusetts, is locked in a tough re-election battle against an opponent named Sean Bielat.  Bielat, a man with no political experience who is armed with a recent degree from the Wharton School of Management, is allied with the Tea Party.  Some longtime Frank voters are headed to vote for Bielat simply because Frank has been in Congress for 29 years.  But in those 29 years, Frank has led the charge for reform of Wall Street and the banking industry.  Do we really want to throw him out to get someone new and very inexperienced in his place?  What will that do in a town like Washington, where it takes years to build relationships and connections?

And then there’s the matter of the Senate race in Delaware, which is just plain weird.  Christine O’Donnell, who has few credentials (including academic) to offer other than her appearances on Bill Maher’s show, has proclaimed that God is keeping her in the Senate race.  I suspect it’s a little more than that, and now, although questions have also been raised about O’Donnell’s difficulties paying taxes on her mortgage and an allegation that she used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses in a previous election, she’s got more than $2 million in her warchest. Oh, and let’s not forget her comment about dabbling in witchcraft.  That is a talent that will probably serve her well in Washington.

And this week, Carl Paladino, the tea partier running for Governor of New York, was caught on tape verbally attacking a reporter and suggesting that the reporter check out opponent Andrew Cuomo’s history of marital infidelity.

I know that people are impatient.  We want the damned recession to be over again so that we can go back to spending on credit, but of course, we also want jobs, mortgages, and a release from what seems like an endless time of economic depression and oppression.  Me too.  On the other hand, we didn’t get into this mess overnight (something too many people seem to forget).  The prior White House occupant did plenty to cause the messy bed that we are now lying in, and he had eight long years to get us there.  So we are now mad as hell and impatient because that upstart mixed-race tall skinny guy with the odd name who we elected on a wave of hope, has not yet been able to fix everything.  And now we’re ready to march in and — since we can’t throw Obama out during the mid-terms — throw out everyone else, in a baby with the bathwater move.

Not so smart.  And please, America, not so fast.  Yes, I share the frustration and the wish for better times.  I also recognize that Obama and many members of Congress, and governors, too, are doing everything they can to ease the recession and bring us into smoother economic waters.  They did not say it would happen quickly, and it isn’t.  And that is frustrating for all of us who want it all to be over, now.

Let us remember, however, that we are a people who live in a country that was built out of the sweat and toil and debates of many years.  The first and second meetings of the Continental Congress, which led to the Declaration of Independence, took years.  The problems being faced by our country now — which influence and are influenced by the economies and politics of the rest of the world — will take as long, or longer, to address.  We need patience, fortitude, and commitment to remain in the struggle, while we resist the impulse to stamp our collective feet and go try another brand that offers untested promises.

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