President Needs to Provide Light of Hope for Masses

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Image by kevindean via Flickr

When people say they want their country back, what, exactly, are they saying?

I ask because more than one news person has said that tonight’s State of the Union is an opportunity and a mandate for President Obama to offer a vision of the future; without such a vision, they say, people will lapse into yearning for the past.

What past are they yearning for?

One of the most profound things I’ve ever heard was said by author Karen Armstrong, who said that when too much is changing, too quickly, people yearn for the past; it is in those moments that fundamentalism becomes strongest. The lack of things familiar take people all the way out of their comfort zones and feed their fear and anxiety. The only safe thing to do is to yearn for that which they know, even if what they have known was not all that good.

We sit in transition period. The economy is improving, but is still horrendous; people who used to be middle class are now poor or at best, lower middle class. People who were comfortable, economically, are now immensely uncomfortable and have no sense of security when it comes to visualizing or imagining their future or the future of their children.

This economic debacle has been called a recession, but from all that I have read, it so resembles the Great Depression. The arguments about the distance between the very wealthy and the new poor are the same, and I would suppose that much of what a vast number of Americans are feeling now is not all that different from what the people in the 1930s felt.

It took a long time for the aftershocks of the fall of the stock market to stop coming; people were still in dire straits in the late 1930s. Even as late as 1938, money was scarce for most people, and they looked for pleasure in the tiniest things – but they yearned for the “good old days.”

That, apparently, is where Americans are now. Though it is totally unrealistic to expect that President Obama – or any president, for that matter – would be able to undo what took at least eight years to create, people cannot and will not resonate with that reality.  Mitt Romney said that people who do not have money are envious of those who do…and he is probably right. None of us who are flailing and who are treading water want to be where we are.

And so we are in a bad place, we Americans. We want out. We want relief. Though many hate the idea of entitlements, many have survived because of those entitlements. But that’s not what we want. We want jobs. We want there to be not a diminishing middle class but a renewed and growing middle class. We want to be able to stop having to worry about making decisions on whether we will eat or buy extra gas for a week.

All of the politicians, including President Obama, are wealthy. They cannot feel our pain. They can imagine and they can exploit it, but they cannot feel it. They are so far removed from our places of angst, that their campaigns ring hollow and their blatant exploitation of our fears borders on the immoral and unethical.

The news people are right: if the present dilemma of the American people does not get better soon, Americans who ar prone to look back and yearn for a fantastical past will do just that. Those who have never been economically sound or comfortable will continue to yearn, ironically, for a reality they have never known.

The President has an enormous burden upon him. Unlike the politicians who are recklessly using the angst and anxiety of the American people for their own selfish gain, President Obama has to give a glimmer of hope to people who are on the brink of falling into permanent despair.

I, for one, hope he realizes that, and provides the light in darkness for so many who are truly walking in darkness.

A candid observation

What If?

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What would America be like if it were run by a plain, old, middle or lower middle class president, and if the Congress wasn’t filled with millionaires?

There is so much conversation about how we are a plutocracy and not a democracy at all – meaning that the wealthy are doing the controlling and the governing. Government and big business are in bed together, and they are not about to give up or even consider policies which will threaten their class status or their wealth.

That’s understandable. They have no vested interest in the common people; “we the people” are merely puppets used in elections. Ironically, we elect people who do not really have our best interests at heart, not if it threatens the status quo.

It is not surprising, though it is sad, that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is getting larger and larger and that the middle class is almost non-existent. GOP presidential candidate shows absolutely no sensitivity to this reality, saying this week that the complaints against the wealthy is really envy.

Perhaps somewhat. It would be unrealistic to deny that the “have-nots” would rather be “haves.”

But what if the presidency went to a middle class person who was not so far removed from the days of real economic hardship, who remembered personally what it was like to work and still not have a decent, living wage? What if that person had a Congress that was likewise filled with people who could relate to the vast majority of Americans because they were in basically the same boat? What if the members of Congress didn’t have health care, or what if their jobs at Congress paid minimum wage or just above? What sorts of policies for the American people might emerge?

It is telling that in debates, the words “poor” or “poverty” are seldom heard. We hear that conversations criticizing the distance between rich and poor as being “class warfare,” and we hear jabs intimating that people who depend on entitlements or even government employment are burdens to the system of free enterprise.

But the candidates show their disconnect from what is the reality in America, and it goes beyond comprehension why they do not seem to know that a country cannot be its best if the masses are in distress.

And clearly, the masses are in distress.

Someone said to me that if more people would just try harder and get a good education, the playing field would be more level.

I wondered which country she lives in. The cost of a college education is skyrocketing, way out of reach for more and more people, even as jobs that don’t require college educations become fewer and fewer.

Something is wrong with this picture.

So, I just got to thinking …what if the president were just…one of us? I cringe as I see these millions of dollars being spent to get elected. It’s like the money was pulled from a reserved tree or something; this while so many people are suffering. The poverty rate in America is 46 percent…

To make matters worse, the money being thrown around isn’t getting us any closer to knowing who, really, has the best interests of “the rest of us” at heart. No, super PACs are doling out money so that candidates can tear each other to shreds personally.  All these guys are super wealthy, and all they want to do is get into office to create policies that will protest their wealth. So, what’s a few million dollars to get that done?

If there were to be someone who came aboard advocating for the masses, he or she would be quickly dubbed a socialist. People call President Obama a socialist, but his policies have not been all that kind or helpful to the masses. The complaint against him seems to have stemmed from rabid opposition to his Affordable Health Care Act, but other than that, I find it hard to figure out why people are saying that he has been against big business and free enterprise.

At the end of the day, those who “have” fight to protect their interests. That’s all that’s going on now. That’s why I wonder what America would be like if someone less wealthy, with a less wealthy Congress, were in control?

Would we be a more equitable nation, or would those in power aspire to be like their mentors, i.e, the wealthy who are in power now?

A larger question might be, would a less wealthy president and Congress create a more equal America, or do the masses of people, wealthy, middle class or otherwise, even believe that financial and/or social equality  is even a part of the definition of democracy? Was this country ever intended to serve the interests of and protect the masses, or were we, the common people, duped into believing in the ideal of equality by Thomas Jefferson’s words, “all men are created equal?”

A musing …and a candid observation.