Colson: Thoughts on why I’ll miss President Obama | AspenTimes.com

Colson: Thoughts on why I’ll miss President Obama

John Colson
Hit and Run

I’ve been trying to figure out how to express my feelings about the fact that President Barack Hussein Obama soon will no longer sit in the Oval Office as the leader of our nation and of whatever it is that constitutes the “free world.”

Before getting started on that, though, there remains the matter of absorbing the sheer fact of the election, something I still have trouble with, particularly insofar as the degradation of our national political conversation guarantees that politics, as a process, will not be healed of its current ills for a long time.

I mean, about a quarter of the eligible voters in this vast land just agreed to give our government over to a band of chattering, nattering nitwits of the far right who are supremely proud of the fact that they have absolutely no idea about how to govern such a complex and challenged grouping of states and people.

Last Sunday’s New York Times, in its Sunday Review section, tried to describe “what women lost” in an article about the expectation that advances over the past couple of decades in everything from reproductive rights to paycheck equality and much, much more will soon be tossed out the window — an analysis that I feel is spot on, as far as it goes.

But there are broader questions — what have we all lost in terms of our ability to govern ourselves as a representative democracy? How can we regain the level of trust across society that is needed to do so? — and those will be badgering us for the next four years, at least.

The plain fact is that, from here, the road back to civil political discourse, acceptance of our differences and showing a willingness to live with them is going to be under fire from all sides.

As commentator Katha Politt put it in the Jan. 2 issue of The Nation, “we’re all vulgarians now, living inside a perpetual reality-TV show.”

Her point is made when one takes a look at the distracting and poisonous crap the networks are offering to television viewers — bombastic movies featuring fantastical heroes and heroines, stupid “reality” shows that merely show us how truly stupid people can be if given half a chance and a little bit of cash, and a broadcast news media that long ago lost its way and was drowned by the quest for advertising dollars.

Our print media, which held on to its principles and independence from monied interests much longer than traditional radio and television networks, has been crushed by the onslaught of social media, bloggers and a lack of a good financial model to continue covering the costs of fighting the good fight.

And in the news vacuum resulting from the cascading demise of valid and trustworthy reportage by the media, our nation has become mired in competing fantasies.

In one, our first black president was expected to wave a magic wand and create the kind of socially egalitarian society that some of us believe is inevitable if humanity is to survive much longer. We voted for Obama as our savior, but we didn’t think it through, and there were enough bigots and racists in office and in the general public that their intolerance, their chess moves to delegitimize the Obama presidency, became in effect a cause celebre and a new reality for unforunately large numbers of voters.

And now we are suffering under another fantasy, in which voters believed the utterly unrealistic premise that our incoming president would return us to an America where white supremacy is a settled reality, jobs will be brought back home by chagrined and compliant multinational corporations and people of color will once again know their place and stay there, among other fantastical and self-delusional concepts.

This is a total repudiation of the hope that fueled voters in 2008 and 2012, despite the fact that Obama, over his eight-year tenure, accomplished an incredible number of things even as the Republican party promised to do all it could, and did exactly that, to prevent him from getting anything done.

He got the national economy back on its feet, brought unemployment back from the high of 10 percent at the end of the George Bush era to around 4.5 percent, won adoption of the Affordable Care Act that not only brought health insurance to 20 million people but also cut taxes to the middle class, appointed two solidly liberal justices to the Supreme Court, ended the military’s disastrous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, established 23 national monuments to protect public lands from theft and exploitation at the hands of rapacious corporations, and rescued the international reputation of the U.S. from the moral basement of the Bush years.

Plus, Obama reinvigorated the fight for civil rights that had languished under Bush, and revived the idea that our national government should be an exemplar of sober, prudent and judicious applications of power, and that all of the people in the country deserve to have their voices and their concerns heard and their problems dealt with honestly and openly.

He is a patient, compassionate man whose very presence seemed to mitigate against the rising chorus of bigoted, untruthful, reactionary and infantile squalling of his critics.

To be sure, I did not agree with everything he said and did, such as his abandonment of the “single-payer” health care concept early in 2008, his bewildering campaign of punishment against whistleblowers and, by extension, journalists, and his equally mystifying support for “globalization” and such monstrosities as the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal that was poised to make things even worse for working-class Americans.

But all in all, I think he did a hell of a job in spite of it all, and I’m just sorry that he never got the chance to see what kind of real change he might have brought to our benighted country.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.


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