Originally published on August 20, 2009 at Yo Mama For Obama
Here is the concept that will make or break Barack Obama as a great leader and decide whether or not we Americans can live up to the "greatness" we have bestowed upon ourselves. We must cease defining ourselves by our enemies. There: I have said it. In foreign affairs and domestic issues we must do what is right, and not try to weasel out of the proper tack by creating new conflicts and antagonisms to derail us from the issues at hand. It is beyond me why our leaders would rather sidetrack accomplishments that we so desperately need in favor of finding the next "bad guy". It is a path lined with excuses that serves to create a lethargy, if not complete paralysis, not only in our relations with other countries but also in our own nation. Nobody benefits when this strategy of creating enemies instead of progress overtakes our foreign policy and our domestic economic and social agenda.
Foreign policy-wise, the Bush/Cheney administration was the epitome of putting all their efforts into the "enemy" rather than positive actions. In fact, that administration needed enemies to propel it forward. "Radical Islam" all but became symbolic of "all Islam", so that we had an all-encompassing focus on the every Muslim as the evil Muslim. An entire religion was placed on our enemy list. No reconciliation, understanding, either cultural or social, was offered. Bush/Cheney just continued to rev up the rhetoric and bombs to such a point that we were neglectful of any other conciliatory foreign policy. Certainly this stance did not help us in our relations across the globe. More seriously, that policy demoralized our country and set up a state of benign neglect as to our domestic issues and, as a result, the United States almost came tumbling down.
Hosni Mubarek, President of Egypt, was visiting President Obama this week. Regarding a possible peace in the Mideast with Israel, Mubarek said that Israel must make the first rapprochement, i.e. concession. May I ask: what is so degrading about making the first step to peace? Less lives lost? Less children massacred? Less property destroyed? Please —- set me straight here. Some day, it will be more admirable to foster peace than to promote war by incessantly "saving face."
The world is a savage place; that is why we need government. However, our governments, so far, have simply mirrored the corruption, self-absorption and selfishness inherent in our lives. It is time for our leaders to rise above the baseness and set an example. That is exactly what we are seeing in Iran. The people want justice. They want change. They want a responsive government. This force for good is definitely related to President Obama’s example in his, so far, short career. It would be so productive if he could follow this path and not get all caught up in the details stressing conflict.
President Obama tries to take just that path: reconciliation rather than confrontation. Such a strategy is actually so much more complimentary to the person offering it rather than hostility. Can you imagine if it became actually "cool" to wage peace? I guess if money was somehow attached to peacemaking we would be overflowing with goodwill and friendship. It is that trait that must become the attractive, accepted policy. We must value friendship and cooperation over and above having an enemy, rejecting and condemning entire religions, cultures and nations. Maybe then, each country would concentrate on getting done all those things that need getting done. The emphasis would be on the internal problems rather than the external ones. OMG! It just dawned on me: if peace actually happened, the politicians would HAVE TO solve the domestic issues. They would actually have to be attentive and responsible to the problems facing their constituencies.
Insisting on always having a convenient enemy also afflicts our economic and social policies. It has been many months since we entered into the recession. Some economists have been predicting a "double-dip" recession, meaning that once it looks as if we are pulling out of the recession, we will enter another one. As I have been observing financial events, I am of the same mind. Sure, the government provided bailout funds to the banks to prevent a total collapse of our economic structure. But there were never any conditions on how that money should be spent or a time frame for that to happen. My friend in California just purchased a house. She had been looking at short sales and especially, bank foreclosures. Finally, she had to buy from a solvent seller. It appears that the banks not only let their foreclosures become physically derelict, but then when they are offered a good price on the foreclosure, they take between nine and sixteen months to respond. Not only are they dragging down entire neighborhoods with their lack of attention to their properties, but also, when faced with offers to allow homeowners to buy well, they are throwing away the deal due to lack of interest.
So even though the federal government provided the banks with billons of dollars to jump start the home-owning process, this is clearly not happening. It is as if these banks are just using the float of federal dollars for their own benefit and not making the money available for actual home purchases. Once again, there is an emphasis on not doing the right, intended thing because they can. There is no accountability. These institutions are looking on this windfall from the government as a personal gain and not using the funds to better their customers. Again, their sphere of clients are the enemy, watering at the mouth to take those funds away from the banks. Can’t we have some decency even if there is no formal regulation? Appears not.
Finally, our social policy regarding health care reform fares no better than our foreign and economic policies: having an enemy is much more important than effecting new policy. The GOP would so rather see the Obama administration fail, in ANY way possible (at this point, they are not too picky) that all their energy is going into fighting their "public enemy number one", i.e. President Obama, rather than actually delivering the policy we so desperately need. Sarah Palin is the essence of this attack-the-enemy-mode of legislating. Read Robert Reich’s piece on "Sarah Palin’s Death Panels":
Three years ago, my mother died after a long and painful illness. During her last months she was only partially conscious, and in her brief intervals of awareness was often distraught. At several points my father, sister, and I met with doctors to figure out how to ease her obvious suffering with pain medications, and how we could get her into a hospice facility. We could afford the counseling, but millions of other families cannot — which is why one of the useful health care reforms now moving through Congress authorizes Medicare to reimburse doctors for such voluntary end-of-life consultations. The American Medical Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization support the provision.
But in a cruel contortion, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin calls these consultations "death panels," and in a Facebook posting late last night charges that they’ll force the elderly to accept minimal end-of-life care in order to reduce health care costs: "It’s misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients," and added, "It’s all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing."
In her short time on the public stage, we’ve come to expect this sort of thing from Governor Palin. But listen to other Republicans these days — and if you can bear it, tune in to right-wing Hate Radio — and you’ll hear more of the same.
Health care is already rationed, of course. Those who can’t afford health insurance don’t get much of it, except in emergency rooms. For those who have insurance, the rationing is done by prepaid medical groups, the legacies of HMOs, that decide what drugs and procedures their members will get. Or it’s done by insurance company personnel who decide what will be covered.
But for the scaremongers to say that under the health care reform proposals now being considered, government will do the rationing — and that government bureaucrats will decide whether people live or die — is odious. It’s a deliberate lie that preys upon the fears of many people who already scared as hell about loss of their jobs, health care, homes, and savings.
The "town meetings" that are now spewing such anger reflect deep-seated fears that are welling up across America during this economic crisis. Health care reform may ease some of these fears. But the demagogues that are manipulating those fears for political gain don’t give a hoot.
Have they no shame?
Furthermore, longtime Republicans, supposedly the older, more experienced wise men such as Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, are just as stupid and divisive as is Palin. In response to possibly setting up health care co-ops instead of the public option, here is Hatch’s response. This is also a good explanation of what a health coop is and how it works:
Even when a new concept, as applied to health care, such as health coops are put on the table, Hatch just closes the door by saying that it is still a government institution. He is wrong about that but obviously, his main intention is just to achieve a closed door policy regarding ANY reform.
The GOP is being irresponsible and unresponsive to the issues facing Americans. Instead of listening and considering the many approaches to heath care, these senior GOP officials shoot down EVERY idea, labeling them as "government funded" or even worse, as "socialism". Thus, they are trying to scare the bejeezus out of us so that the status quo can remain. After all, if decent health care legislation IS enacted, what can these Republicans resort to in order to tear apart President Obama and get themselves back into office? Their position of always producing an enemy rather than facing the current issues is totally defensive, and only productive for their own little careers and pocketbooks.
It is beyond belief to me that while the United States is fighting for freedom in two places half way around the world from us, we can not offer our own citizens decent, affordable health care. The public option is a must since we are not conceptually accepting of what we really need, i.e. universal, single payer health care. Unfortunately, that misplaced policy says more about us as a country than does our global fight for justice: no regard and care for Americans at home completely negates our battle for justice throughout the world.
All in all, we are our own worst enemy. In our world as well as in our country and institutions, worth must be placed on helping each other. It is diversionary and destructive to constantly make new enemies to justify our existence. I know we are better than that.