07/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

When Do We All Grow Up?

(An invitation: in a moment of sudden and inexplicable insanity, I signed up yesterday to Twitter. Let me know if you Twitter too. We could "follow" each other...!)

Okay, I do understand where they're coming from, this growing chorus of liberal critics of Obama. Like them, I'd wish for him to take many stances and promote many policies that have not yet been forthcoming. I want a public health care option. In fact, I'd rather go for a single payer system, nation-wide. I want equality for every citizen, no matter what their sexual orientation. Gay marriage? Of course! Gays in the military? Way past time. I'd like nothing better than to hear a strong voice in opposition to the power of multinational corporations, financial institutions and insurance companies, and I'm all for strict regulation of their activities. I don't trust any of them. I want an end to the depressing saga of the Middle East, and peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I want Guantanamo closed. I want us out of Iraq, right now, and I do not want us getting any further involved in Afghanistan--but I also want the Taliban and other extremists to be disempowered and neutralized. Oh, and yes, of course, while we're at it, I want to see an end to totalitarianism in states like Iran and North Korea.

All these things I want. But let's for God's sake not be childish. Let's not stamp our feet and pout because we're not getting everything we want this instant. We've gotten ourselves into a huge, stinking mess, and it has taken us collectively years--well, decades--to do it. Is it not a trifle disingenuous for us to expect this one man, Obama, to step up and wave a wand to get us out of it all at once?

Let's be honest. The problems that we face right now have been a long time in the making, and they result from choices we ourselves have made along the way. Was it not we voters (not me, of course!) who decided back in the 1970s that we did not like paying taxes, and elected Ronald Reagan to cut them for us (though even He, the Great One, remember, in fact did the opposite!) Have we not spent years protecting and insulating ourselves from the rest of the world--its disease, its poverty, its hunger and other deprivation? Have we not allowed the bigoted and the blindly religious to determine policies toward everyone the least bit different from ourselves? Have we not worshiped at the illusory altar of "strong leadership," while we ourselves do everything to subvert it? And, out in the world, have we not been at pains to promote the myth of "a strong America," as we stomp around in heavy military boots? Have we not listened without the benefit of critical judgment to those who shrieked hysterically about "socialized medicine"? Have we not bought in, endlessly, to those who would sell us snake oil, or promised us a free lunch? Have we not eagerly grabbed, ourselves, at easy profits, idolized false prophets, and celebrated empty notions of success? Have we not raised celebrity above substance, our own material comfort above that of others?

Did we not expose ourselves to the ridicule of the world by impeaching a president for a minor sexual indiscretion? And electing--and, incredibly, reelecting--another of inconsequential intelligence and clearly limited understanding to the most powerful office in the world? Did we not allow ourselves to be lied to, cheated, and led by our noses into an unnecessary and painfully costly war?

And now, as though in recognition of all this, we may have half-way repented, electing a man who sees things differently, who acts with forethought and circumspection, who wisely recognizes limits--both his own, and the country's--and is willing to listen to the opinions of others rather than spout his own agenda. (And Bill Maher wants "more Bush"!) We have elected this man, and now feel entitled to berate him for not providing an immediate resolution to all our problems.

What children we all are! How lacking in patience, foresight, and forbearance! How incapable of seeing anything beyond our own immediate needs. How gimme, gimme, gimme, now! I look around and I wonder, for God's sake, when do we all grow up?