Friday, August 05, 2011
the nature of change
"the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in dillon
are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA
we will remember that there is something happening in america
that we are not as divided as our politics suggest
that we are one people
we are one nation
and together we will begin the next great chapter in america's story
with three words
that will ring from coast to coast
from sea to shining sea
yes we can
yes we can
yes we can
yes we can..."
the song still inspires.
even now, and even after the candidate who would change everything has mostly changed our expectations by lowering them.
during the soul-on-fire days of 2008, everything was possible--and expected. because the man doing the campaigning (and those who supported him) demanded it.
in 2008, millions of people voted for more than just change--they demanded a reckoning. an exorcism of the bush demon and the damage done to a nation.
two years later millions of those same people voted for a change back to bush-brand lunacy. dozens of newly elected democrats were replaced by even newer right-wing zealots. which caused much cognitive dissonance and many questions about the intelligence of american voters.
and the president who would change everything changed as well...into a moderate
republican. snapping heads back like a right-of-center cross to the jaw.
"yes we can heal this nation. yes we can repair this world." ~~barack obama
we believed it, in 2008. we believed we could wrest the control of our destiny from those who would violate our inviolable principles. those who advocated and implemented fear and torture and unnecessary war. not to mention economic seppuku.
but a mere 24 months later we veered away from rationality and back toward darkness. since then there's been little healing, less repair, and much self-destruction.
as standard and poors put it in downgrading america's credit rating:
"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."
shorter standard and poors:
"america can no longer be trusted to do the right thing--or the smart thing."
as it turns out, we are actually more divided than our politics suggest. we are no longer one people, or one nation.
"nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change." ~~barack obama
this is true. and when those voices call for a weakened president undermined by timid democrats, tea party radicals, and economic hostage-takers? we get the government we deserve and the instability we set in motion.
"we have been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope...but in the unlikely story that is america, there has never been anything false about hope."
candidate obama never hit a false note. his campaign messaging was exactly what a dispirited, disillusioned nation needed to begin believing, once again, in its better angels.
president obama, in contrast, has fallen well short of the promise and the promises. instead of a reckoning, there's been incremental wreckage. instead of exorcism there's been exasperation.
it's as if the president, once elected, forgot (or blithely discarded) the electricity that swept him into office. instead of rising to the voters' mandate, he receded to opposition punching bag. not surprisingly, the hope and dreams and yes-we-can followed.
given the derangement on the right (and the bipolar nature of the electorate), it's possible that reason will re-assert itself in 2012. it's possible that a second-term obama will rediscover his savvy and his stride.
but "change we can believe in" is no longer an option, for the nation or this president.
what's required now is action we can count on.