Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Impending Recession or a Flag Pin on One Man's Lapel? -- A Frustrated Comment on our National Priorities

At some crucial times in our nation's history we have had the right people in charge: Abraham Lincoln helped the country get through the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt helped it get through the Great Depression. Lincoln and FDR are revered today because, although there have been some relatively good presidents, they were good when it mattered the most.

This is precisely why the Bush administration's tenure has been so mercilessly atrocious for our future. It has not just been a case of the president trying hard, but failing, to steer our country through treacherous waters. It has been a case of an administration intentionally doing what it wants to please its own and its friends' interests, the rest of us be damned. History will wretchedly remember this administration as one that, when faced with the tipping point of global warming, the peaking and decline of the liquid that has kept the industrialized world going, the overwhelming housing value crisis, the skyrocketing of food prices, crumbling national transportation infrastructure, and an economy speeding towards recession, was obsessed with the military occupation of a Middle Eastern country with a little bit of oil, at a cost of thousands of young Americans' lives, tens of thousands of Iraqis' lives, and trillions of taxpayers' dollars. "Fiddling while Rome burns" is an understatement.

As Dick Cheney scoffs "So?" when reminded on the fifth anniversary of "shock and awe" that Americans don't support his long-planned conquest -- and have not for a while -- Americans should be coming to realize that the administration really just doesn't care. Its apathy has been more shocking and awful than its evil. Most Democrats in Congress, for their part, just aren't courageous enough to care about the nation's most pressing problems. The silver lining in the U.S.'s losing battle to do something about sustainability has been notable efforts at the local level (and somewhat at the state level).

The conglomeration of big challenges facing us today will require ethics, dedication, creativity, honesty, and humility to solve. We will somehow have to find a way of overcoming a disorder which has crept into society en masse: obsession with image -- the belief that it's most important to look like you are doing good things than to actually do them. We are obsessed with the award rather than the good deed. Whether this theory can explain the abomination of mainstream media coverage of the increasingly silly presidential campaign's to-do of the week -- Barack Obama happens to belong to a church where some guy once said something that makes people uncomfortable, therefore is he fit to be president? -- I don't know, but there's something so heinously depressing about the fact that as the vise of the worst recession in decades tightens around us, we are worried about the significance of Obama not wearing a flag pin on his lapel, a despicable folly which is its own bad metaphor.