When it comes to attaining the fabled American Dream there are basically two options to find fulfillment: improve your situation or lower your expectations.
In a way, our country has become much like Garrison Keillor’s famed description of Lake Woebegon where “all the children are above the average.” We’re all awesome. We’re all brilliant. We know this because we’ve been inundated with congratulatory messages since we were old enough to watch Sesame Street. Special snowflakes are we all. And yet every day we still end up sitting in a cubicle or waiting in line at the DMV with all the other grubby snowflakes with the realization that perhaps we’ve set our expectations a bit too high.
Politics is the game of managing expectations: inflating them to soaring heights during election season and then slowly deflating them until they sink back down to vulgar realities of how life actually works. We’ll still have to go to our jobs. We’ll still have to pay taxes. The poor will still be poor, the rich will be even richer and there’s nary a jet pack in sight. Perpetual disappointment is the price of swearing fealty to any political orthodoxy.
Perhaps the greatest gift that we could grant to our generation would be a little more contentment with the things we already have and continue to be given. Hot and cold clean running water whenever we turn the faucet. Grocery stores stuffed with food. A remarkable decline in global poverty. The computer screen you’re reading this on now. And most of all, we can celebrate the family and friends who love and are loved in a way that makes them unique no matter how “average” we are.
The message that taken as a whole things are actually pretty good will never win an election but it can help us win some peace of mind for this moment. And that’s something we should have the right to expect.
Nowhere in politics is our lack of empathy so apparent as in the belief that our political opposites are mindless sheep who are constantly manipulated by unscrupulous appeals to their basest urges. In short, they only voted for “that guy” because they were greedy, racist, terrified, angry, or horny. By no means could they suppose “those views” out of selflessness, logic or a love of country.
The people on the other side aren’t at all like us…
They haven’t done any research at all while we’ve read tons of books and articles written by people who definitively prove that we are right.
They have no idea how to use logic while our Pinterest boards full of caricatures of the President as a monkey that provide irrefutable proof that he is evil and stupid and a very bad man.
In fact those people must be crazy to support their deficit-spending, freedom-hating, religious zealot leader.
Some people are sheep. Some people blindly follow but not us. Not our tribe. Not we enlightened few.
Or perhaps all get to be a bit sheepish sometimes? I know I do.
There’s a political game that pundits play at the start of a sentence: “The Obama Administration…” And what follows next is usually bad and usually vague and entirely geared to give the impression that the President himself was up to something or other that he probably didn’t have much to do with. The government is a big place and the President hires the people who hires the people who hires the people who do the work of getting things done. He’s responsible for daily operations the same way that a CEO is responsible for what goes on down in the mail room.
So when an operational decision of the State Department gets made during an attack or a branch of the IRS goes rogue or the Justice Department starts poking around in people’s phone records — unless they were doing those things by the President’s direct orders — it’s going to be a little difficult to hold him personally responsible. President Obama’s responsibility now is to correct the damage done and that will be the test of his leadership and the legacy of Presidency. He has already said that he “will not tolerate this conduct in any way, especially from the IRS, given the power it has.” Lets give him a chance to make good on those words.
The pundits will all play the “administration” game over the next few months with increasing shrillness as we approach the 2014 elections. They have played the same blame game with Bush and with Clinton before him. Let’s all take a deep breath and watch to see what our leaders will do when confronted with corruption. That’s what matters most.
I was going to try to write something pithy and clever and insightful about the recent spate of scandals that are rocking Washington. And then I watched this clip from the Daily Show and I realized that it pretty much sums it up.
I’m trying hard, President Obama. I’m really trying to find some light at the end of this tunnel. Help me out. Please.