If you listen to our president, you'll hear his vision for the future. He wants to take action against global climate change.
He wants to revamp our financial system.
He wants a new health care system that works for people.
He wants to get us out of Iraq, to make it harder for terrorists to operate in Afghanistan/Pakistan, and to change the way we handle conflicts globally.
He wants everyone to pay a fair share of the tax burden. He wants to reverse the tide of job loss, and to rebuild a manufacturing economy. He wants us to lead, not follow, in a global economy. He wants to create jobs in green technologies, and he wants Americans to start being creators, not merely consumers.
He repudiates torture, rendition, black sites, the erosion of the Constitution brought to us by the neo-con wing of the Republi-con Party.
He wants DADT and DOMA to be repealed, he wants equality for all citizens, he wants fairness and respect and civility to return to the national discourse.
(These are the high points, for me. There's a lot more. Feel free to add to the list.)
Back in the olden days I learned something that has really helped me in dealing with difficult people and situations.
When you are faced with someone who has a wall up, who wants desperately to keep you out, you have 3 choices: walk away and give up, batter at the wall and scream, or gently wiggle out a few bricks so he can peek out and see that the natives are friendly. The only effective choice is the third.
This is an approach President Obama seems to have learned, and that's very exciting for me - it's about maturity, about waiting until the cake is baked before you take it out of the oven. (Eating 350-degree cake batter gives you blisters, and wrecks your taste buds for a long time.)
Waiting for good things is hard for toddlers, but shouldn't be as hard for adults. Some days I feel as though I'm on Toddler Kos - nothing is happening fast enough, or right enough, or the way we want it to happen. Obama isn't doing the things everyone knows are the right things to do, or he is doing the same things Bush did, or he doesn't express enough anger about the things that anger us.
It isn't that our frustrations aren't valid in the short term, but what happened to the value placed on careful strategy, on building a strong foundation for change? This stuff went on all through the general election process, and almost every time there was a huge uproar in the blogosphere, with strident demands that Obama hit back, or air an attack ad, or come out swinging, it turned out that his measured approach was best.
I'm willing to trust that what I saw then, when I wanted ads airing about McCain and G. Gordon Liddy, remains true: pragmatism, a measured approach, civility, and kindness win the day.
Obama offered us something we hadn't seen in years - an adult in charge, a thinker, and someone confident enough not to have to swat every fly that buzzed by.
Still, there are things I struggle with:
I have real problems with what Obama says about torture - I don't want America to look to the future and stay out of the past. I do, however, want HIM to look to the future and stay out of the past. The rest of us need to get down in the mud and dig out the truth, and if it's possible to get convictions, we need to prosecute. If it's not possible to convict, if there are holes in the law that protect the guilty, we need to stop screaming that only one thing will be satisfactory and take the best option that remains, with grace. Then we need to change the laws, and we need to make sure that the guilty are tried in the court of public opinion. Disgrace and unemployment aren't enough, but they beat the hell out of walking free.
I believe that individuals who tortured others should be punished. I hate the CIA, I hate what's been done in our name over the last 50 years. I'd like to see the agency dismantled, the torturers jailed, and laws passed to prevent the creation of another agency that meddles in world affairs as the CIA has done. But - here's the caveat - I really hope Obama has tens of thousands of loyal and dedicated agents on the ground in the Middle East, North Korea, the former Soviet Union, Pakistan, China, India - everywhere there's a possibility that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists - because nuclear annihilation beats everything else on my fear-and-anger meter by a few thousand degrees.
I want Obama to speak out in favor of marriage equality, but I suspect he'd do more harm than good if he did. He's already a lightning rod for the far right, and adding his voice to the controversy could serve to mobilize the bigots enough to get some state laws reversed - I think Iowa is fairly safe, but I'm not sure. I'll never forget the shock of Prop 8 passing - I don't think any of us will. It would be wonderful if his voice could move equality ahead even faster, but I'm okay with slower and steady in this instance, especially since this particular change is coming quite a bit faster than any of us anticipated.
I want to save all the species that will be wiped out because we've delayed action on climate change for too long already, but I don't want Obama to waste energy and political capital on those individual issues - it's more important to pass large, meaningful regulations, to fund the start-ups of green energy businesses, to push our manufacturers into the future, to remove the Bush Administration's endless list of protections for polluters.
It's all about compromise. Some we'll win, some we'll lose. We have a better chance of winning if we're not using battering rams. Our President knows that. He'll keep talking to the Republicants, he'll keep reaching out to the fundies, he'll stand back and watch for the right moment instead of pushing the river. And I'll keep defending that approach, because I respect it and believe in it.
True Story/Parable. My daughter is a limo driver, a very good one, and had many regular clients before she went private. One of them was an older white male politician of the conservative variety, and he aired his views about the evils of abortion on a few occasions. She took him on one night, very sweetly, by telling him what a pregnancy would do to her life. He liked her, and he respected her, and he couldn't stereotype her as a careless little slut, so he listened. He remains "opposed" to abortion, but has started to talk about the hard choices women face, and to be more supportive of strengthening the social net. I think he was converted, quite frankly, but an abrupt about face would have killed him politically. Because she spoke out respectfully, someone on the other side is bringing something new to the discussion, and there's one less hardened attitude out there. That's worth celebrating, IMO.
Ranting is a wonderful release, and I'm all for it. After the rant, however, we need some careful thought about what to do next, and some patience with what is necessary and unavoidable...please.