Romney, Again?

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts,...
Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, 2008 US presidential candidate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good grief.

The 2012 presidential election was over six months ago and Republicans (and others)  are STILL talking about why they lost. The media are still doing stories on it. Whatever for?

Maybe I am suffering from a lapse of memory, but I don’t ever remember this kind of “after-the-election” coverage. Yes, when the United Supreme Court voted that George W. Bush had won, the conversation was pretty much over. Oh, it lasted a while, but not six months afterward.

When Clinton won, I don’t remember the expansive coverage on why the Republicans lost. What in the world is different this time?

Is it because the Republicans are in shock because they lost to the man whom they had determined would be a “one term president?” Is it because they cannot believe that the non-white, male vote wasn’t enough to vote them in?  What am I missing? Why are we STILL talking about this?

There are issues to be dealt with. There’s the vast amount of destruction that has happened because of Hurricane Sandy, the tornadoes  that wreaked havoc in Moore, Oklahoma and afterward. These natural disasters have not only caused great damage that will require lots of taxpayer dollars to bring relief, but there is they have also struck the hearts and spirits of those who were affected. There will be lots of emotional trauma because of these disasters, and this country, much as it may not want to, will have to address the subject of mental illness and what this country needs to do about it.

There is the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Benghazi has come and gone,and there is still much discussion about what happened there and why, but the overall turmoil in the Middle East is not getting better; it’s getting worse. As we sit in the midst of a sequester which is affecting all areas of the national budget, including the defense budget, it seems that someone ought to be dealing with what implications the sequester is having in all areas of our lives.

There is health care. Yes, we have the Affordable Care Act, and lots more people who didn’t have access to health care will now have it, but the poorest of the poor will still be unable to get it, if the reports are true. That being the case, even though the Affordable Care Act has passed, will our health care costs still soar because too many people will still be forced to get care in emergency rooms?

There is the horrible situation caused by excessive student loan debt. While everyone is talking about the national debt, very little real attention is being given to the plight college students, past, present and to come, are facing with their paralyzing debt. Our Congress isn’t really talking about it; the media isn’t really covering it. And yet, this staggering debt threatens the livelihood of young people who have bought into the idea that a good education means a good life. Not necessarily.

We’ve not yet really settled the issue of gun control. The memory of what happened in Connecticut and Arizona and other places is still fresh; in spite of heart-felt pleas by family members of victims, Congress is still at an impasse. So, we wait for the next gun-caused catastrophe and begin the clamor all over again?

There are the ongoing problems of sexism and sexual assault on women that has gone on in our own military. There are the issues of gun control and immigration reform.  The phone records of Americans have been compromised in the name of …what?

In other words, there are just lots of things that are current issues that we as a nation need to be focusing on, not an election which came and passed in November. The incumbent won. It’s over.

So, why are we still trying to “figure it out?” Why are we still seeing interviews of Mitt Romney? Why is it still an issue that he lost?  It’s a waste of time…

A candid observation

Entitlements be Damned

With the fiscal cliff debacle hanging over us, I find myself cringing every time I hear the word “entitlements.”

The argument, or part of the argument, as concerns how we get out of our financial crisis, is that the entitlements, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security – are just too expensive and are not sustainable. The Republicans are willing to budge on their desire not to raise taxes for the “wealthy,” IF there are substantial cuts in entitlement spending.

Those entitlements, however, are what help “the least of these.”  I keep wondering what legislators are thinking. How are the poor, the elderly, and those who have worked all their lives and now need Social Security …supposed to live? Because one is poor, is he or she not worthy of being treated with dignity? And because one has grown old, is he or she not “entitled” to expect some financial assistance from the country in which they lived during the days of their youth, working to contribute to its economy?

If spending for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security is cut, what happens to this broad swath of people who simply need help? Everybody needs help – even the wealthy. The difference between the poor, lower middle class, and for much of the middle middle class and the wealthy is that the wealthy have more resources to pull from when they need help.  The poor have so little access to what they need for quality of life and, frankly, the wealthy are not concerned about them as regards their reality.  If and when a poor person needs help, he or she is often forced to get money from predatory lenders, who charge them exorbitant interest rates. The poor really do not have a chance. They get ensconced in a downward spiral that goes faster and faster…And the wealthy are not concerned.  The wealthy look for ways to make more profits – even if it is from or on the backs of the poor – and too often turn a deaf ear toward the cries of those who are suffering.

I read a story about a woman who had worked all her life, in a job where there were no benefits, including health insurance. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/gop-obamacare-medicaid_n_2347933.html) She began to feel poorly, but would not go to a doctor because she could not afford it.  She began to look up home remedies, and tried some of what she read, but eventually, not even the home remedies helped. She collapsed on her job and was taken to an emergency room, where it was discovered that the had high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.  The doctor asked her why she had waited so long to get help.

The insensitivity to the plight of the poor and the working poor is phenomenal.

Following this episode, she was able to get Medicaid, and was able to get the medicine she needs to keep her alive, but recently, her Medicaid allotment was reduced because of a state policy that said persons receiving it can only make a certain amount of money; this woman made over that amount, and so her benefits were slashed. Now, she is in the dangerous place of not being able to afford her medicine; the money she makes is just enough for her to pay her rent and utilities.  The article said she is feeling bad again; the fluid is accumulating in her chest again, and her blood pressure is no doubt going up.

Hers is not the only story like this. The elderly, many of them, are not doing much better. It is heartbreaking to think about the elderly who worked all their lives and who now are malnourished because they cannot afford to pay their rent AND buy food. There is something terribly wrong with the way people think – or don’t think – about those who suffer.

And yet, the Conservative hard-liners insist that the aid these people receive are “entitlements” and should be slashed. The very word “entitlement” brings up negative feelings. Anytime anyone says that someone thinks he or she is “entitled” to something, there is a negative undertone that accompanies it. Slash spending, the Conservatives rail, on these dratted entitlements. Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that 47 percent of Americans think they are “entitled” to help from the government. The attitude is one of distrust  and disdain; the implication is there that the poor and working poor are where they are because of some deficit in their characters.

Ironically, there is a lot of money in poor people; maybe that’s why the wealthy are not so concerned about them. The poor need and want to work, and have been willing, in the past and in the present, to work under horrible conditions for paltry pay. The poor are then penalized for being poor; they pay higher – the highest – interest rates on purchases they make. The wealthy take advantage of them and others who are not so steeped in how America’s financial system works. How else do we explain the antics of mortgage companies, who made millions, maybe billions, off people who were lured into getting mortgages they could not afford?

The attitude seems to be “let them eat cake” while the wealthy go blithely on their way, looking for more and more ways to make more and more money. Meanwhile, many of those same people want the spending on defense to be left alone or perhaps be increased. The stated reason is that we, the United States, need that money to defend ourselves, but the wars we have been engaged in since President Bush got us into them had nothing to do with defending ourselves. The massive spending, causing much of our current indebtedness, was done not to defend America, but to get America in a place where it could dip into and be a part of the huge profits that are available in the oil in the Middle East. By all means, spend money to make more money. It is not good business to spend money on that which loses money – and poor people make the government lose money, they would posit.

The wealthy think they are “entitled” to make more money. That’s what business is, and long ago, President Calvin Coolidge said that the “business of America…is business.”  They poor  and  the elderly are not “entitled” to quality of life, not entitled to help from the country they helped prosper.

That is a really sad commentary on America and its “values.”

A candid observation …

To Lose Gracefully

It’s a hard thing, to lose. It’s even harder to lose gracefully.

It has been a full two weeks since President Barack Obama won a second term to the presidency, and still, we are hearing the wailing of Gov. Mitt Romney.

Last week, he said that the president won the election because of “gifts” he gave minorities and young people. Those gifts included  health coverage, contraceptive coverage in health insurance, forgiveness of interest on college loans…among other things I guess would be called “entitlements.”

But it wasn’t gifts, Mr. Romney.  Mr. Obama won because he connected with more of the American electorate than you did.

It is hard to lose. It’s hard anytime, but when one spends as many years as has Mr. Romney, trying to be president, and as much money as he has spent, the loss has to be even more bitter.

One of the things I liked about Senator John McCain in 2008 is that he lost with grace – and he would not let his supporters be disrespectful to his opponent as he gave his concession speech. I will never forget his grace. I know the loss hurt.

Mr. Romney has not been so graceful. He has, in fact, shown that he did not or does not understand why he lost even now.  He still seems to regard some people in America as baggage – and expendable baggage at that. He does not understand that America is not the “traditional” America that he and other politicians grew to love and to know; Bill O’Reilly pointed that out quite well. No, America is becoming more and more pluralistic. It is a coat of many colors. It will never be the same again.

It is a “new normal” that Mr. Romney has not yet accepted. Gov. Bobby Jindal sees it, and so do other Republicans who have spoken out since Election Day.

It might be that Gov. Romney is not going to run for president again. I hope not …because he is a gift that keeps on giving. His opponents – both in a Republican primary and in a general election, would take his “Obama won because of gifts he gave…” and run with it.

I think the former governor would do well to set up for himself a new normal. Seems like it’s about time for that.

A candid observation …

 

When Things Fall Apart

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clearly, for a large number of Americans, things either have fallen or are falling apart in this nation.

Conservatives, bitterly disappointed over the outcome of this week’s presidential election, have resorted to calling for a revolution (Donald Trump) to saying that “America died” (Victoria Jackson), to a musing that America is no longer, “traditional,” the country of our forebears (Bill O’Reilly)  to Karl Rove refusing to acknowledge President Obama’s victory on Fox News. Gov. Romney’s loss has left a bitter, bitter taste in the mouths of too many.

America, for many, is suffering, a suffering that goes to her very soul. Things as they were, comfortable for white males, have changed, and the change is horribly bitter. I am reminded of Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,” where he writes:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

For many, anarchy has come to America.

Karen Armstrong said that when things change as radically as they are in America, there is a resurgence of fundamentalism. People run to that which they know, that which seems safe. But it seems that even fundamentalism in this nation, that which the Christian Right has held onto and used to its political advantage, is changing. Younger religious people are pulling away from a religion that is exclusive and, too often, mean-spirited in the name of Jesus.

Things fall apart.

Joan Chittister, in her book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, writes that we are living in an era in need of a spirituality of struggle. Nothing is the same as we knew it, no matter who we are.  With the emergence of a global economy and a global political awareness, everything has changed. We are no longer able, as Americans, to sit content in a cocoon. We are touched by the whole world; the whole world has access to us as never before. We, for a while had access to them. Now, they have access to us. We don’t like it. This new reality is not comfortable.

In our own country, the demographics of a nation clearly in the grip of change has upset everything.  I watched rallies at which Gov. Mitt Romney spoke during the presidential campaign, and was sad. There were so many white faces, and so few black and brown faces. Did he really think he could ignore such a large part of America? Chittister says that “we are people born in a white, Western, Christian culture that we watch become more brown, more Eastern, more polyvalent every day.”

And, she says, “it shakes us to the center of our souls.”

Change for individuals, things falling apart for individuals, is no easier for them than it is for a nation as great as is the United States. We as individuals, many of us, are experiencing change so radical that our souls have been shaken almost to annihilation. We do not like what we are feeling, and we want it to stop. But change, once it begins, seems to have a mind of its own. It continues to its fruition, and all we can do is deal with it.

Chittister says that some of us fall into deep depression as the change in our lives takes its course. She says that “the spiritual question becomes how to go about each dying day without giving in to the death of the soul.” That question, she says, is at the crux of a spirituality of struggle. And how we handle things falling apart will either result in clinical depression or spiritual growth.

It feels like much of Conservative America is headed toward clinical depression. We as a nation are not doing so well with the onslaught of change that is confronting us. We grew comfortable in our complacency. We didn’t want to change. But in spite of our protests, change is marching through our very cores. Things are falling apart.

My prayer is that fewer and fewer individuals are reacting as poorly to the changes and challenges and struggles that are happening in our personal lives. Most of us don’t want the changes that come into our lives, sometimes uninvited and sometimes, invited by our own actions.  We like sitting in our saucers. It’s comfortable there.

But life is about change. Life is about things, as we have always known them, falling apart.

The hope is that even as things fall apart, we will remain intact, and become stronger. That is especially the hope I have for America. Maybe it’s because the re-election of President Obama is still too new, too raw, but right now it doesn’t feel like America is growing stronger. A politician from Texas said something about “divorcing” from America. That would be secession, right?  We as a nation don’t seem to be doing too well with the changes. It feels like we are …falling apart.

A candid observation…

Change

Cover of "Scarred by Struggle, Transforme...
Cover via Amazon

 

Here we are on Election Day, with one candidate talking about going forward …changing the way things have been done in the past, and the other candidate talking about change …going from big government to smaller government and a balanced budget.

 

President Barack Obama says going forward will help his policies take hold. There will be health care for more people, young people will find college more affordable, federal regulations on banks and financial institutions should help consumers. Change…that’s all change…

 

And Governor Mitt Romney says he will balance the budget. That sounds good, except that with a balanced budget and less spending,  somebody is going to suffer. Less spending usually means less spending on programs that help the masses. Although economists say that less spending should be accompanied by more taxes, it feels like the emphasis will be on less spending, which means …change.

 

Change, no matter which way it comes, hurts. Joan Chittister, in her book Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” writes that “change means movement. Movement means friction.”  But, she says, change is necessary because it is in change that we grow. If we cling to the present, she writes, we “cut off the wings to the soul.” Every day we should be “growing into more” or else we “retreat into less,” says Norman Mailer.

 

So this change in our country …whether it’s from President Obama or Gov. Romney…is a sign of life.

 

Thing is, we resist change.  Collectively and individually, we resist it. We grow comfortable in our spaces, even if those spaces are not good for us, even if those spaces are toxic. To change means we willingly engage in struggle, and struggle is wearying. We would rather vegetate, even though we wail about things not being right. We wail, but we do not want to do the work of change. Too much friction. We don’t want scarred knees.

 

If the truth be told, President Obama has brought about a lot of change. Many have not like it; there was movement and therefore, friction, lots of it. There wasn’t as much change as he wanted, but there has been change. And if Gov. Romney wins, there will be change that will rub lots of us the wrong way. There will be friction and struggle; there will be scarred knees.

 

But that means that there’s life. Where there is no movement, there is no life. Where there is no change, there is no life, either. Change comes unannounced and uninvited too often; in fact, because we resist change so much, the only way change can really happen oftentimes is if it DOES come uninvited. The good thing about presidential politics is that we know that with whomever is in the White House, there will ALWAYS be some kind of change that’s going to rub someone the wrong way. Sometimes, the change, like FDR’s New Deal, helps the masses, and sometimes, the change helps far fewer people. But we know change will come, whomever wins.

 

In our personal lives, change has to crash through our protective doors, invade our spaces of familiarity in order to get our attention. Change has to force us out of saucers and onto the ground; it has to make the scales fall from our eyes so that we can see what we have been trying hard not to see, and make us break into a jog instead of shuffling along where we’ve always been, satisfied.

 

In the case of politics, our country doesn’t decide to become new; the election of a new president forces newness upon us. But in our own lives, change, if we embrace it, means that we decide to become new, that we “do the work,” as Iyanla Vanzant says. The essence of struggle, says Chittister, “is neither endurance nor denial. The essence of struggle is the decision to become new rather than to simply become older.”

 

Well, if that’s the case, and if more people could and would understand change as an opportunity and not a curse, then perhaps we wouldn’t avoid the struggle so much…and just get into the process.

 

And even in the case of the changes thrust upon us by each president, perhaps it might help us and our country if we would accept some of the changes with a little less resistance. We might benefit from that.

 

A candid observation…