The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It



I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on the lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shortly after the 2008 Presidential election I called my cable provider to ask whether I had been “auto-subscribed” to an expanded package which included the Obama station.  It seemed that scarcely a day went by that the new president didn’t have a news conference in which he would announce matters of great importance – such as, “Today’s Tuesday.”  It didn’t take long to identify a pattern that would repeat pretty much throughout the next four years.  Sadly, through no choice of my own, I was forced to watch these interruptions of regular programming – a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s interdiction against cruel and unusual punishment.

With the 2012 election the regular appearances continued, although at a blessedly slower pace.  And as we headed toward the 2014 election Obama had even less to say on air – perhaps taking a hint from his Democrat buds who certainly didn’t want him to campaign on their behalf – and in some cases refused to acknowledge that they either knew or had ever voted for him.

There are probably as many ways to interpret the results of this year’s election as there are people with political perspectives.  Despite the fact that all politics are supposed to be local, the nation swept Republicans into office in greater numbers in the House, switched control of the Senate and entrenched state governments with yet more GOP governors, including the states of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois which have been Democrat strongholds for years.  For the first time in my voting history, I actually cast a ballot for a candidate for Congress – who won – defeating a freshman Democrat in a district that is, at the least, liberal leaning.

Perhaps the results stemmed from the fact  that the majority of Americans, in poll after poll, believe the country is heading in the wrong direction; have antipathy to President Obama; or generally reject the climate of uncertainty and ineptitude which have been either tolerated or promulgated, depending on your political affiliation, during the past six years.  Even during the turmoil of the Vietnam War, as divisive as that was, I don’t remember a climate where Americans felt as hostilely towards one another as they do today.  What should be most disappointing for those who voted enthusiastically for Obama is that, rather than serving as the president of the country, whether intentionally or otherwise, he has set himself up as the president and leader only of those Americans who accept his philosophic view – and that in a rather imperious manner.

Yesterday’s post-election press conference offered the president the opportunity to recognize that he and his party were thoroughly repudiated by the electorate and that it was perhaps time for a sea change.  Instead, he took the time to point out that two thirds of the eligible electorate didn’t bother to go out and vote – as though that proved that his policies are just fine – it’s just that two thirds of us were too busy getting tattoos or having their nails done to express their opinion.  This does not bode well for the next two years.

When we’re children it’s understandable that not having developed a solid sense of self-worth, we might, if confronted with the fact that we’ve made a mistake, deny either that we committed the offense or find an excuse why it wasn’t our fault.  It’s “the dog ate my homework” syndrome.  Most of us, however, realize that we can only push those excuses so far and so often.  And ultimately, like the little boy who cried wolf, at some point people, even the most generous of us, will simply cease listening either to the speaker or the excuse.  And we categorize people who continue that behavior with a term – pathological liars.

This is not a new phenomenon.  St. Paul addressed the issue in I Corinthians 13:11:

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Maybe it’s time we all grew up.

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