Last night I watched the whole State of the Union address for the first time since I can’t remember. Good speech – even usually-disapproving pundits had to admit that. After forty-five minutes most of us were getting a little tired, but not the president, who is not daunted one bit, apparently, by getting thumped in the last election. He threatened vetoes, did some mild trash talking, said we won’t “screw it up” so no one would think he had too much dignity, and presented a whole list of things he knows Congress won’t approve but which most of Philadelphia (who did not watch the address) probably thinks are already law, since they seem like common sense. I love Philadelphia.
It seemed like a self-referential victory lap. And since he did not mention drones, banks or Dallas, I pretty much did a lanky jog with him.
I won’t comment on the whole speech or you won’t read this whole blog post either! But I will comment on the first part and then lament a few things:
Barack Obama said:
The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.
9-11 is over, we’ve returned devastated Afghanistan and Iraq to their people and now we only risk their lives when we bomb them or supply weapons to various factions instead of doing it in person.
At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.
The Empire struck back and now we are on top! Europe schmeurope, China don’tcha whina, even manufacturing is moving back stateside. We’re #1! (I wish I could depict the president crowing for you. He even has a 50% approval rating).
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?
I can only hope that a couple of his ideas get implemented. I don’t think a lame duck can undo what the 1% have been engineering since Ronald Reagan — when someone except them gets a raise these days it is national news! Federal employees got a 1% raise in December — at that rate they might catch up with the 1%’s raises in what, 100 years?
Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?
That would be nice. Post-Afghanistan military spending is out of control, however. It is hard to say there is commitment to diplomacy and building world community when the country comes to any negotiating table armed to the teeth and chanting “U.S.A.!”
Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?
That would also be nice. However, there seemed to be no evidence that the political class wants to have a common sense of purpose — unless it is the purpose their faction proposes. For instance, Rand Paul gave his own response to the State of the Union (unasked, I presume) to make sure we knew he did not have a common purpose. Did you film one too?
Studiously unmentioned in the speech was any religion — not Islam which has been the main cause of war for Obama’s whole term, and not Christianity. God got in the last line of the speech, of course. But the word search came up with nothing for “religion, Jesus, church, faith, hope, love, Christian, Bible” or even “marriage.”
According to an ABC poll 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians in one way or another. Most of the rest, 13%, have no religion. That leaves just 4% as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions. (Gallup says 77% are Christians and that includes 2% who are Mormons). The fact that the president can make a speech to Americans without mentioning Jesus is one of the most interesting, weird things about the country. But as Newshour deftly portrayed it has been that way from the beginning (link has restrictions). The elite who organized the country made sure that Jesus would stay private, not public, even though most of them were Christians, too. I’m OK with that since I don’t want the government “screwing up” the church. But it is still odd.
Even though I give the speech a high rating (which I am sure Barack is waiting to hear), and even though I can whip up some admiration for the president’s audacity, competitiveness and attention to some of my greatest irritations, the speech made me glad, as usual, that Jesus introduced me to an alternative way of life and glad that Circle of Hope keeps giving me a chance to practice it.
My fantasy is that the president was being restrained, but what he really wanted to do was quote James 5:
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”
That would have been nice — and true.