Today's signing of an historic health care bill has the country in pure tizzy mode. GOP lawyers are lining up to file suits, states are hurriedly enacting bans (all ineffectual) and members of congress are still wiping spit from their suits. Angry, angry, angry. Scared and confused, like a bunch of Ritalin kids playing musical chairs to Rage Against The Machine.
I have observed all the madness at arm's length - a distance that I willfully created after Obama won the election. For so many years, (eight, to be exact) I existed in a state of suspended rage. By the time George W. Bush won his second term, I had some impressive ulcers going. When visiting my Republican family members, I could only sit, apoplectic, and keep the cocktails flowing.
About two years into Bush's second term, my white-hot rage began to cool. I certainly didn't feel better about things (the term 'WMD's' still sets me off), but I could no longer sustain my heightened fury. I'd exhausted myself right into defeated, gray apathy and I was not alone. I recall a phrase being thrown around at the time: "Anger fatigue."
About six months before the election, I began to care again. And so, I joined the Obama campaign and went door to door, made phone calls and gave hours of my time to a man and his vision of an improved America that I believed in. I still believe in this vision, more so today than any other.
Although I celebrated when Obama won, I cringed just thinking of how we would soon discover that he was simply a man and not a superhero; a father (a smoker even!) and a basketball fan who was highly intelligent and yet, not an action figure. If there's anything we love to do here in America, it's build up our idols and rip them down once the party soundtrack runs out.
Even the day after, I began dreading the honeymoon's close. (Note my shot of Susan Sarandon and Dana Delaney purchasing their very own Obama Action Figure dolls at the Democratic National Convention here in Denver.) I recall saying aloud to the televised image of OB being adored: "Enjoy all the love while you can, Mr. President, before they all grow teeth and a taste for blood. Yours, specifically."
It was the same dread I felt immediately after 9-11, back when the world showered us with sympathy and love, and I knew that all those good vibrations soon be loaded into machine guns. Sure enough, we immediately began a new war that was more about paranoia, emotion and manly ego than it was about finding Osama Bin Laden. Despite 11 of the 19 highjackers coming from Saudi Arabia (our allies), we invaded a country that posed no threat to chase down an old man in a hole who had a warmer relationship with Donald Rumsfeld than he did with that other evil mastermind hiding in an Afghanistan cave.
Ugh. See? All that frothy bile, it's all still in there, lying dormant. But here's the thing. I hired this man, this Obama guy ('cause that's I how view voting) to do a job. Not just any job, the biggest fucking job the world has created during one of the worst global economic shitstorms mankind has ever seen. I trust him, I believe in him and god knows, I just enjoy having a POTUS who is smarter than I am and remain giddy about that part.
And so I turned my back on Obama, I had to. I silently bid him, "Good luck, pal!" and returned to my life that so badly needed tending. I looked away because I couldn't stand the petty complaining and because I trust him. At some point, I had to, otherwise there would be no going forward for me or the country that I so desperately love.
To those who complain that OB has not cured racism, fed the world, fixed the Middle East, outed all the gay soldiers, improved our education, fixed the housing/banks/auto/airline industries, thinned up all the fat kids or cleaned up the swampy mess that is the American economic system in 15 months, I say this: GIVE THE MAN A FUCKING CHANCE. I mean, what have you done today? This week? Last month?
It's easy to forget that during Ronald Reagan's first term, unemployment reached 11% and 50% of Americans disapproved of how The Great Communicator was doing the job we'd hired him to do. Think about it. Eventually, we recovered enough to reward ourselves with shoulder pads, big hair and DuranDuran.
I just can't believe that anyone believes the current healthcare system is working. I have been very lucky in this regard but when I hear story after story of good people who get sick then lose their jobs, their houses, their savings, I think, "When did the American Dream become the American Nightmare?"
When a friend's daughter, a hardworking young nursing student who also works full time, was denied health coverage because she had once been on anti-depressants, I was aghast. How are we supposed to grow and thrive, or even get back on our feet when the system works against us?
Again, I dread all the wrangling and whining that is sure to come but at least the man has written a prescription for a very sick country in active denial. Americans have become fat, lazy, over-medicated, under-educated and way too much cheap, plastic crap (Made in China!) stacked in our McMansions. And, for the first time in history, kids today face a shorter life span than their parents. Is this the paradise everyone is so worried about losing?
I've kept mum for awhile now but today, I turn around and applaud the man I hired. Good job, OB, but get those steel-toed boots on and keep that secret stash of smokes handy. Our progress isn't going to happen without a fight.
(Top photo by Reid Kirkpatrick.)