Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'Cause The World Keeps Chargin' Up The Hill

Today marks the end of the first full year of President Obama's Presidency. Your opinion as to how he has done so far undoubtedly has at least a bit to do with (a) your pre-election opinion of him, including but not limited to whether you voted for him; and (b) your political ideology. Rightly or wrongly, in a world cloaked under layer after layer of just so many shades of gray on so many issues, we tend to see our politics in black and white terms; regardless of the pigmentation of a particular office holder.

Once upon my lifetime, I recall politics being personal and being something that belonged to each of us. As a boy I remember asking my father for whom he had voted earlier that day in whatever election was being contested and him telling me that it was none of my business. He was old school in that regard I suppose - not too far removed from a generation of people such as Irish immigrants who had had to fight damn hard to win the right to vote - in that he believed that one protected the sanctity of what had been fought so hard for. No more. Somewhere along the journey, the lines of demarcation were redrawn in rapid-drying, short-lasting erasable ink, which seem to do nothing but turn ever dialogue into a diatribe and every debate into a donnybrook. I cannot wait to tell you why my guy is #1 and your guy is best epitomized by using the finger 'tween the index and the ring.....and sadly you cannot either.

I cannot fathom a task on this planet more ceaselessly tasking on the one who is performing it than President of the United States (although I do acknowledge that my wife's unlucky lot in life has likely placed her on the medal stand). The office ages its occupant at an accelerated pace in a compressed amount of time. To everyone but the person providing 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a return address it seems to be a job so easy even a fool could do it. To the one who knows better there seem to be countless moments where he wonders if it is a job so hard that only a fool would compete for the right to do it......and winces just a bit at his moment of self-realization.

From my limited and admittedly selfish perspective, as a certain gravelly-voiced singer from the Shore is fond of saying, "It ain't a Democrat thing; it ain't a Republican thing; it's an American thing." And I have never asked him and he has never told me so I do not pretend to know for certain what the "thing" is of which he speaks but I would like to hope that it is quality of character; the examination of the contents of the vessel fairly and squarely without relying upon solely the sheen of the pretty packaging. It is substance and not form.

And at day's end, whether this day, tomorrow or a day so far off in the distance that it is at the point of intersection between the sky and the horizon line, all one hopes is that your decisions and my decisions are driven by stuff and not fluff; that they are the product of well-considered reason and not bullshit. The process works as long as we believe in the process and understand that from time to time it is going to produce a result that you or that me - as an individual - finds unsatisfactory because the purpose of the process is not simply to make me happy at the expense of all others.

If you think that is what America has ever been about, then start sharing whatever it is you have been smoking because all of the rest of us want to hop on your mellow. The place you seek is "the perfect place" and once you locate it, be sure to ring up Yogi, Boo Boo and Ranger Smith. Those poor bastards spent years trying to find it.....and never did. But they were cartoon characters - well drawn to be sure but make-believe nonetheless. They could expend as much time as they wished on such a pointless pursuit; they had nothing more important to do.

See the difference?

And the miles we have come,
And the battles won and lost;
Are just so many roads traveled,
And so many rivers crossed.

And I ask God for the strength,
And the faith in one another;
For it's a good night for a ride
'Cross this river to the other side
My blood brothers.


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