It is now clear that we stand on the brink, ready to shred the last tatters of the great American experiment in democracy. We know from the polls that a huge majority favors serious health care reform, at least one poll suggesting as many as 85 percent. And yet a relative handful of nay-sayers have come dangerously close to denying us the reform we seek. These nay-sayers include a half dozen "Democratic" lawmakers whose livelihood depends on the good graces of insurance companies that stand to reap huge profits or suffer great losses from the kind of reform bill that eventually gets passed; and a minority of voters who choose to remain inexcusably but steadfastly ignorant of the issues even as they scream their opposition, and whose opinions are manipulated by the lies and fear-mongering promulgated by those same corporate interests.
It is a sad spectacle to watch as the man we elected to bring about change on any number of issues that face us as a nation is constrained by political necessity to modify his vision of significant and lasting change. I say "constrained" because I see President Obama as a pragmatist, whose political antennae are precisely sensitive to the line where what can be done crosses over into what cannot be done; and eventually as one who settles for the former. A realistic understanding of what simply cannot be achieved, given the socio-political system we have allowed to take over our country in the past half-century, may be anathema to those who long for radical change. I count myself amongst them. It is, though, sadly, a good deal better than no change at all.
The deplorable fact of the matter is that we have allowed the oligarchs to win. President Eisenhower famously warned us already in the 1950s--and with subsequently validated prescience--of the looming menace of the military-industrial complex. It seems from this perspective, in the first decade of the 21st century, that we "people" have surrendered our power largely to the corporate interests that currently have our government in their stranglehold. We have done this because we were willingly blinded to our long-term interests by the apparently irresistible appeal to our short-term gain. In allowing ourselves to be sold on the seductive--and clearly, in retrospect, deceptive--notion of "small government," we have handed the reins of our government to those who benefit most from its actions or inaction. In refusing to provide our government its lifeblood in the form of honestly paid taxes, we have foolishly ended up delivering that same money, de facto, into the insatiable hands of those who turn it to their profit. They profit from our health care and from our social services; they make money on our security, our military, even on our prisons. They make money on our money. The "privatization" of so many of the normal functions of government has resulted in fewer, more expensive, and less efficient services in virtually every area that affects our lives.
The obsessive and irrational fear of "socialism" that has gripped this country for so many decades has been manipulated by these same people. No question, socialism has produced some sickening, unconscionable excesses. But capitalism has produced no fewer. No political philosophy is immune from exploitation by those whose greed for power and economic gain exceeds their concern for the improvement of the lives of others. In this country, we have shamefully squandered a magnificent opportunity to demonstrate to the world that democracy can work, and have replaced that dream with a squalid oligarchy whose corruption is disguised by our embrace of a shabby illusion of freedom that comes in the form of material well-being.
So let's not scape-goat Obama. It's too easy for the rest of us to whine about the President's failure to persuade antagonists of what so many of us agree we need. He has done, is doing what can be done. But it's disingenuous to expect him to do it by himself. It's too big a job. Those of us who elected this man must recognize that we owe it to him now to do everything within our power to support him in his vision -- or sacrifice the right to sit back and complain. I heard one pundit say last night that we did not elect him to be a good President, but to be a great one. In order for that to happen, as it did with FDR, we must find the greatness within ourselves.
Friends, as the French say: aux barricades! Time to man (and woman) the barricades!
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