HOPE, CHANGE, AND REALITY January 26, 2016

After a very long, relaxing, productive break, I am ready and renewed to start yapping again. My plan for this year is to post at least once a week while keeping all of my posts as short as possible.

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On January 12, 2016, President Obama gave his final State of the Union Address. In it he presented, with stunning rhetorical mastery, an inspirational and optimistic message of hope for change in America. And, as always, most of what he said was not only true, but cogently argued and pragmatically and morally sound. In his summary, he said the following:

…our collective future depends upon your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen – to vote, to speak out, to stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us.

And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see the future unfolding. I see it in the worker…the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off…the Dreamer…the teacher… the American who served his time…but now is dreaming of starting over – and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance… the protestor determined to prove justice matters…the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect…the soldier…the nurse…the community… the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he has been taught. I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to…the new citizen…the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love…optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.

Finally, near his conclusion he repeated his admonition to America to stop seeing ourselves as black or white, gay or straight, Democrat or Republican, etc., but as Americans first. I only wish that he could have said as human beings first, even if some of us are just puppies!

These are wonderful and inspiring words. But this President has been obstructed in every step he has taken and vilified for every idea he has espoused, regardless of how morally sound or genuinely compassionate they were. His desire for hope and change has encountered the cold, durable wall of the reality too many of us create and support. As a result, he has accomplished much less than he could have had forces of undeniable malevolence not opposed him.

Of course many of these issues were genuinely disputable, and ought to have been discussed and debated at length. When I use the word malevolence I am speaking about those issues Americans ought to be able to agree upon, regardless of which race, party, or tribe we belong to. I think we could all agree, for example, that:

  • No race is superior to any other race, and everyone should be treated equally and have an equal opportunity to succeed.
  • Our criminal justice system is clearly unjust.
  • The War On Drugs was an abject failure and needs to be scrutinized.
  • Global warming and the human degradation of our planet is real.
  • Peace is preferable to war.
  • It is not a sin to be poor. It is a sin to be obscenely greedy.
  • The world is now and always has been too small to comfortably encompass tribalism, jingoism, intolerance, and xenophobia.
  • America must earn respect in the world not by flexing our muscles, but by rediscovering and embracing compassion.

These ideas make sense to me, but maybe I’m crazy. I don’t know. I’m just a puzzled puppy.

 NEXT: DONALD TRUMP’S AMERICA: A PREVIEW