Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The State of Our Union

To be honest, I really don't know what Barack Obama will say tonight in his State of the Union address. I suppose he will talk at great length about the economy, immigration reform and gun control. And, to be certain, all three are important.

But, if he's truly interested in the state of the Union, he has a solemn duty to state the obvious: the Union is anything but strong. The Union is on the verge of a mental breakdown. In my 51 years on this planet I have seen my fair share of stupidity. Political scandals have come and gone - I was a boy when Nixon resigned in disgrace - and throughout it all, the nation has not only weathered them, it has emerged stronger and wiser for the ware.

But I have never seen the depths to which this country has sunk over the last four years. This is no mere political scandal we have been witnessed to; this is a wholesale unraveling of the very fabric of the Republic. To put it bluntly, what has happened to the United States during the term of this president is beyond belief and quite frankly I have never been so embarrassed to call myself an American.

Let's be clear. This nation has had a sordid history, to put it mildly.  Most of its empire building occurred on the backs of millions of indigenous people - please don't insult them by referring to them as native Americans - who were systematically removed from their homes and herded like cattle onto reservations. And during its first hundred years of existence, it refused to even acknowledge that roughly one quarter of is population was worthy of being called completely human, let alone free.

Fine, you say. That was then, this is now.  Tell me then how, forty years into our third century as a nation, racism as appallingly disgusting as this is still tolerated within our midst?  Barack Obama, the first African American to be elected President of the United States, might as well be Benson for all the good it has done him.

The out and out disrespect shown this man has no equal in American history. The reason is simple enough: we've never had a black man in the oval office before. The very thought of that image has revealed an ugly and unsettling truth about this nation that makes me ill to even think about. Despite all the hoopla about America coming to terms with its demons, the undercurrent of racism is as strong now as it has ever been. Yes, it's true African Americans aren't lynched at the drop of a hat and thankfully millions of Hispanics, Italians, Irish, Jews and Chinese aren't referred to in such glowing terms as Spics, Wops, Micks, Kikes and Chinks. Small favors abound.

While overt expressions of racism have now gone the way of the dinosaur, supplanted by covert ones, I frankly miss the good old days when racism was more open and direct. Nothing like calling a spade a spade to put one's cards on the table. Now you have to listen closely to pick it up.

From the imbecilic Birthers, who are persistent in their contention that he was born in Kenya, to the millions who still insist that he is a Muslim, bent on America's destruction, to the relentless assault on the very legitimacy of his office by the entire Republican Party, no other president has had to carry such a burden. The recent confirmation hearing on Chuck Hagel is a case study in double standards. It is long established that presidents have the right to appoint whomever they see fit to serve in their cabinets. That is until Barack Obama came to town.

The Benghazi attack was indeed tragic, but to listen to Republicans, it's the worst coverup since Watergate.  They are now days away from doing the unthinkable: holding up the appointment of a defense secretary for no other reason than spite. Even George W. Bush had an easier time of it, and all he did was lie us into one war and badly botch another.

And, now the final indignity. When Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address in front of Congress, none other than Ted Nugent, the moron who threatened him during last year's campaign, will be in attendance, a guest of Tea Party favorite Representative Steve Stockman, who recently said he would start impeachment proceedings against this president if he issued executive orders to strengthen gun control laws; gun control laws, mind you, that were supported by former presidents, one of whom was Republican.

Shocked? You shouldn't be. It was in this very same "hallowed" building, in front of this very same Congress that this president was called a liar by a member of this supposedly prestigious and august body, the first time a sitting president was ever referred to in such a manner.

The alternate reality in which this president's opponents live would be comical, if it weren't so sad. They have accused him of socializing the health insurance industry when in fact he merely appropriated an already existing state-run conservative idea. The Dodd/Frank law, which he championed, would destroy our banking industry. If anything, the banks are larger and more profitable now than before the financial crisis. His bailout of the auto industry was similarly assailed as a socialist takeover. Thirty years earlier, when Reagan bailed out Chrysler, he was seen as a staunch defender of capitalism. But then Reagan was white.

It's time to stop pussy footing about the obvious. The problem with this president is his skin color, not his policies. Think about it. Since he was first sworn into office in 2009, the Dow Jones has gone from 6500 to just over 14,000. As Bill Maher correctly observed, "If he's a socialist, he's a lousy one."

I am deeply concerned about the welfare of this nation. There is something sinister and diabolical afoot. When Barack Obama addresses Congress and the nation tonight, he will be delivering his fourth consecutive State of the Union. He will do the right thing and say the right thing. He will, in all likelihood, take the high road, which he has done ever since he assumed office, and he will do his best to convince the country that the Union is strong. He will, of course, be lying. And he knows it. Jackie Robinson knew it, too. Every minority in this country knows full well what happens when you begin to climb the ladder of success. Pity quickly turns to envy and then to hatred.

Barack Obama is the chief executive of the nation and the leader of the free world. And he is black. That has not sat well with a large number of people who fear a changing society and what that might mean to their future; a future which is becoming more and more multi cultured and diverse. In a few decades, they will be the minority in the country.  And that thought scares the shit out of them. Barack Obama is their worst nightmare come true.

The only silver lining here is that eventually these Neanderthals will die off like the dinosaurs did 65 million years ago. But for now, we will have to endure their ignorance a bit longer.

There's never an asteroid around when you need one.

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