John Colson: Hit and Run |

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

What’s a divided nation to do?

We have a historically significant election in our immediate past, a black man sitting in the White House, fundamentalists of every stripe clamoring for our attention and our support, 15 million people out of work, untold millions homeless or next to it, an environment polluted beyond recognition, an unsustainable focus on outmoded technologies and misguided ideologies, and a raging storm of question marks looming over our every thought.

We have no idea where we’re going as a nation and, by extension, as a world.

Around the U.S., the hope and excitement that came with Barack Obama’s candidacy is fading fast. Once fervent supporters are coming to the conclusion that our new president is just another politician, not a visionary prophet of a truly brave and just new world order.

Obama’s performance in office, his disappointed former troops complain, has fallen far short of his promise as a candidate, and too many of his decisions seem to be only slightly more rational than those of his predecessor.

My e-mail in-box is clogged daily with pleas for money, action, support from a wide range of progressive and left-leaning organizations who, unfailingly, hew to the line they followed through the 2008 election process. They extol the dim outlines of idealism that can be seen at the edges of legislative initiatives concerning the environment, the switch from petro-based economies to more sustainable renewable energy resources, or the need for a complete revamping of our educational system, or any of a hundred causes.

But as I peruse these pleas, I wonder how much their hearts are in it. Do they quail in dismay over Obama’s failure to ride to the rescue waving a flag in one hand and the sword of progressive ideals in the other? Do they wonder at his apparent ability to go along with an economic rescue plan that keeps the power elite on their thrones while ordinary people lose jobs, homes, futures? Do they ask themselves, in the dark and private sanctuary of their homes, why we are still unsure about the correct course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Where once I foamed at the mouth with the courage of my own convictions, and would have been one of those calling on Obama to get real or get the hell out, I now find myself thinking that he’s doing the best he can in an arena that, by definition, does not allow for unilateral decisions and idealistic solutions to huge problems.

I read a lot of opinions, every day, as I wander through the halls of ether and electrons that make up the Internet, which largely has replaced libraries, campuses and bars as the place to gather and discuss the issues of the day.

Frequently I read a writer, activist and social commentator named Sam Smith, who’s been making noise since the Sixties and whose voice I respect. His disillusionment with Obama has reached a point where he thinks the president is in the way more than in the lead on far too many issues. As Bob Dylan once sang, “your old road is rapidly agin’,” and Smith would prefer that Obama “get out of the new one if [he] can’t lend [a] hand, for the times, they are a’changin’.”

Smith recently penned an article titled, “Putting Obama Behind Us” that lays out his case and his call for Obama to either join up or shut up [it can be found on the Progressive Review website at, and I have to say I agree with him.

To quote yet another icon of American culture, Rick in “Casablanca,” it’s clear that “the problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” but the problems of the world need attending to, with or without the help of a guy who promised a lot but has yet to deliver.

I retain the hope that Obama has a plan in mind, that he will suddenly step out from his own shadow and dazzle us all with bold new ideas and move quickly to turn those ideas into reality.

But I’m worried that, like a skunk in a live trap, he’ll never be able to make the stink he wants to because he can’t raise his tail.

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