Thursday, September 6, 2012

Invisible Obama

I needed a break from politics.  It was just too depressing to hear all the lies, misrepresentations, anger, and petty squabbling coming from both parties.

This was difficult to do, since I listen to NPR every morning and during much of my commute, and my two favorite TV shows are The Daily Show and Colbert Report.  Watching them was not fun anymore, though, because instead of making me laugh at conservatives, it made me angry.  Angry at their bullying, misrepresentation, hypocrisy, and propaganda.

Listening to the speeches at the GOP convention made me seethe with anger. Not because they held different opinions than me, but at how they mangled the facts.  

Then along came a chair.

Clint Eastwood's painful, cringe-worthy performance of a blathering old man berating a chair on national TV brought out the absurdity of the conservative position toward Obama.  And watching Jon Stewart eviscerate this performance made my day:
Eastwood finally revealed the cognitive dissonance that is the beating heart and soul and fiction of this party. They're so far gone, they're hammering Obama for things Bush did... [like starting the war in Afghanistan].... This president has issues and there are very legitimate debates to be had about his policies and actions, successes and/or failures as president...but I could never wrap my head around why the world and the president that Republicans describe bears so little resemblance to the world and the president that I experience, and now I know why.

There is a President Obama that only Republicans can see.

I've also struggled trying to wrap my head around this invisible Obama.  I've gotten into arguments with people who don't like Obama because he's "arrogant", "pompous", "elitist", "a snob".  Despite the fact that this "snob" was the bi-racial son of a single mother and worked his way through Harvard Law School, then instead of making lots of money in the private sector, started out as a community organizer. These same people who label Obama a "snob" have no problem choosing the millionaire son of a governor over him.

Still, calling someone nasty names is just an opinion, not a fact.  If you feel someone is arrogant, there's no amount of evidence that will dissuade you.  However, there is also a complete fiction around Obama that seems to be gripping entire sections of our population.  He's a socialist.  He's not a U.S. citizen.  He wants to destroy America.  I actually had a family member tell me they think Obama is a Muslim.  Well, there's really no way to have a rational discussion with someone like that. It's like arguing with someone who thinks the moon landing was fake or that 9/11 was an "inside job" (whatever that even means.)

Such theories are ignorant, paranoid, and borderline racist.  Because our president looks different and has a funny name, I believe people are more willing to ascribe things to him that have no basis in reality. (Not that there's anything wrong with being Muslim or socialist, but the people who use those labels sling them as insults.)  In fact, whenever I hear people call him words like "elitist," I can't help but think that that is code for "uppity."  

What angers and saddens me the most about these attacks on Obama is that people have lame, misguided reasons for opposing him.  If you can give me a fair, informed opinion of his policies and why you oppose them, then fine, go ahead and hate him.  If you value your narrow interpretation of Christianity over science and education, he's not your candidate.  If you oppose abortion more than you value women's rights and health, he's not on your side.  If you're against gay rights, he's not so fabulous. If you think large corporations care about your health and well-being, and that the government is evil and has no role to play in solving our problems, don't give Obama your support.

If you want America to go back to the way it was in the 1950's, where Blacks, Hispanics, women, and other minorities knew their place, Obama's not for you.  I mean, seriously, can you believe that in 2012 we're actually having a political debate over birth control?  Republicans have turned a simple, fair mandate that requires all insurance policies to cover birth control (the same way they cover Viagra) into a battle over "religious freedom." ("Religious freedom" for them means "forcing my brand of Christianity on others.")

Let me stress this, because it blows my mind: Republicans don't think birth control is a women's health issue.  I don't know how any moderate woman in America who cares about her rights can reward them for that. Argh!  Poll after poll shows that among almost every demographic other than white men, Obama is leading.  As a white man myself, I don't know how the Republicans can continue to survive as a party that serves such narrow interests. 

Sorry, I have to cut myself off or I'll never stop ranting.  I could list dozens of similar issues that just make my blood boil.  And I hate that.  I hate that it's impossible to have rational, nuanced discussions about politics and how to solve our nation's problems. Because it feels like all I'm doing is playing defense, defending Obama and liberal policies.  And I'll admit it comes from both sides. I also get pissed off when I hear people on the Left say ridiculous shit.  There are times when The Daily Show oversimplifies a complicated issue in order to win rhetorical points.  That annoys me.   

I just want people to be fair.  And I don't see much fairness right now.  Sometimes I just want to give up.  Fuck it.  I have a good job, a comfortable life, health insurance, a supportive family.  I'm incredibly lucky to be living in this time and place. I've got mine, why should I care about people who are too ignorant to understand what's in their own best interest, what's in the interest of our country?  Why do so many poor and middle class people vehemently fight for the rights of rich white men? It makes me want to give up.

As John Steinbeck is purported to have said, Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

Both sides want you to believe that if the Other Guy wins the election, it will be disaster.  The End of America.  I'll tell you a secret.  I'm trying to convince myself that a Romney presidency wouldn't be so catastrophic.  He loves America just as much as Obama does.  He wants to succeed.  And most candidates usually have to move to the middle to get anything done.  Romney was the Republican governor of a liberal state who instituted the model for Obamacare.  He's a centrist.  And to be honest, Romney might be able to get more done simply because Democrats are more willing to work with a Republican president than vice-versa.  All that Obama's accomplished the past four years (and it's been a lot, despite the GOP's empty chair narrative), he's had to do with Republicans blocking him at every turn.  He's bent over backwards to accommodate them, and they still shit all over him.  Presumably they wouldn't do that to Romney.  And if they did, then let the country see what asshat obstructionists they really are.  Ugh, sorry, another rant. 

Whoever wins the election, the world won't end.  Obviously, I know who I'm voting for and why.  I have solid, informed, legitimate policy reasons to think he's the better candidate.  It's not a popularity contest to me. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I believe my reasons are more rational than most of the people who are voting for the other guy.  I don't have to turn one candidate into a caricature in order to vote against him.  

My choice is not between a real person and a chair.



Val said...

I know this is late, but this is one of your posts I just discovered as I looked through my Google Reader archives. Thank you for it. I feel so much of the same frustration and of the "BAHHH!" exhausted feeling lately, and your post articulates it so well.

Tim said...

Thanks, Val. Despite what I wrote, I'm still very happy that Reason won out (barely) in the last election.