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Archive for March, 2010

Fiery Obama“The character of our country.”  With those words the final line on the health care debate was drawn in the sand by President Barack Obama at a raucous, campaign-style rally on the Friday before history would be decided.  
After over a year of heated debate, after over a year of enduring every dirty trick in the book thrown his way by a desperate opposition trying to frame health care reform as a vehicle to socialism, bankruptcy, or worse, Barack Obama rekindled the fire that launched him to the highest office in the land and captivated the entire globe in the process.  Yes, the Barack Obama that made millions of disillusioned Americans stand up and believe in “Yes We Can” again was back, front and center!
For a man with a slight frame and narrow shoulders, he proved without a doubt that what you see can be quite deceiving. On this day he heaved the Democratic party, and a nation spiraling to disaster, right up onto his back and proved that his sinewy limbs may very well be able to tote the load right across the finish line to a victory of historic proportions.
The character of our country, that is what is being decided Sunday for the world to see.  I’m reminded of a powerful scene in the movie A Few Good Men.  Two Marines were on trial for following a “Code Red” hazing order from a superior officer that left one of their fellow, weaker Marines dead.  When all was said and done and it was proven that the two were following a direct order, a basic principle they were trained to adhere to without hesitation or question, they were still charged with conduct unbecoming and discharged from their service.  Baffled, one of the Marines turned to the other and asked why they were still being discharged, it had just been proven that they were simply following orders, just as they were supposed to.  The other Marine thought about it and said, “we didn’t do what a Marine is supposed to do, we didn’t stand up for the little guy.” 
That is, and always must be, the character of our nation.  That is the code our selfless men and women in uniform embody.  That is the code of our American character, the character that leads us to fight tyranny and oppression wherever it is found, be it on our own home soil or far away lands.  That is the character of our American ideals and it is what makes us the beacon of hope the world turns to for guidance and support in trying times and the example by deed we hope they will follow.  That is the character that every legislator granted the privilege to carry our voice to the halls of power must always strive to adhere to.
The opposition to health care reform is a formidable force.  They use their constitutional right of free speech to give an amplified voice to despicable vermin like Rush Limbaugh, a man so pitiful he used his pulpit to denigrate an eleven year old boy that chose to take up the banner of his now-dead-mother and carry her voice to the battle at hand. 
Or another blight on humanity like Glenn Beck, a disgusting man that uses his soap box to preach the same kind of wretched fundamentalism that culminated in four ghastly fireballs exploding into our collective consciousness on September 11th 2001.  What noble purpose can he possibly hope to serve by waving around the swastika of Nazism, or the hammer and sickle of Communism, symbols that still instill nothing more than fear and hatred? What kind of person uses the imagery of tyranny and oppression as the tools of progress other than those our collective American character has always chosen to fight against, and defeated, time and time again?
That is not the imagery we need to paint, it does not speak to our character and it certainly doesn’t speak to the very real suffering that millions of hard working American families are enduring each and every day, with their legions growing by the minute .  If you want imagery to encapsulate the true magnitude of the choice before us, imagine the coffins of those that could have been saved, imagine their grieving families putting those coffins in the ground, torn apart by the anguish of losing a loved one. Imagine the family that’s living in their car because they chose to save their child instead of keeping their home. Now imagine if it was your own family bearing that cross. Now that would be more appropriate imagery.
So today I ask every legislator with our future in their hands to ask themselves the real underlying question and look past the theatrics and chicanery meant to befuddle and confuse, to look past the flawed logic that is being trumpeted from the mountaintops to cause paralyzing fear.  I ask them and every American to look at this vote and choose if they are willing to strengthen the character of our great land, or unravel it.  I ask every legislator not to look at the future though the lens of their own career, but through the lens of little guy that needs their help.  I ask them to show the strength and courage it takes to fight for what’s right, and the fortitude and resolve to see it through to the finish.
The character of our county is at stake right now. There are not many alive today that were around when this fight started.  Will our children and theirs perish before we show the true colors of our character and do what’s right?  Or will we help our President tote this mighty load across the finish line as early as tomorrow and start a new chapter in the history books?
Yes, the character of our country, that is the question at hand.
asteroid impactMy wife asked me the other day why I like to watch disaster movies so much.  No one in the world knows me better than she does, no one knows better the time and energy I’ve sacrificed to give my best effort to make at least some kind of small difference for the betterment of our collective future without the luxury of material compensation.  So she was baffled that I could possibly take pleasure in the catastrophe and mayhem that would follow an asteroid pulverizing a good portion of our planet, or the unbridled chaos of an alien invasion bent on the extermination of our species, or the upheaval and anarchy that would ensue if a virulent plague would indiscriminately ravage the globe and rob us of society as we know it today.  I would like to share my answer with all of you, with the hope that you may look at today with a slightly altered perspective, and that tomorrow, for all of us, will see brighter days to come. 
Hollywood is masterful in the way it brings vivid imagery to our most primal fears, no one does it better.  We’ve all had thoughts of “what if?” We’ve all wondered how humanity could possibly endure terrors of biblical proportions. We’ve all wondered if mankind would find a way to survive and how our civilization would look once we weathered the worst of the storm only to find that everything we know, everything we trust, everything we believe, has been turned inside out.  We’ve all wondered how the human spirit would endure,  how we would rebuild a new tomorrow when the comfort of yesterday was ripped from our grasp, how our most basic faith would survive.
It is the answers to those questions that magnetizes me to the genre.  It is my unshakeable trust that goodness and decency would see their finest hour if we were left with nothing to depend on but each other,  that’s what  wills me to watch.  It is my unwavering belief that collectively our moral compass doesn’t really need an arrow to point the way, that even without one we would all find ourselves instinctively stepping on the same path forward, that’s what keeps me coming back.  It is my desire to see the superficial dividing lines of race, national origin, or religious beliefs get wiped away by the powerful tide of the oldest human condition, the basic need to survive, that’s what  makes me gravitate to such tales. 
History has tested us all before, and no nation, or empire, has ever been spared.  We’ve seen hatred manifest in holocaust, we’ve seen tyranny evolve to genocide, we’ve seen arrogance unleash racism and sexism, we’ve seen heinous carnage in the name of the one thing that is supposed embody the best qualities of our character, religion, and somehow it continues to this day. Yes, we’ve seen the darkest sides of mankind. 
But, when Hollywood decides to torment our psyche with visions of an apocalypse at our doorstep, we all know deep down inside what it will take to ensure the continuity of our very existence, a unified stand that coalesces around our better angels, finally free of the deeply etched lines that divide us from one another.  To see that brought to glorious life on the sliver screen, that’s why I watch.
Lady Destiny knows our history too, but she gives us an opportunity every day to change our stars, she unrelentingly offers us her greatest treasure, the freedom of choice, and all of the magnificent possibilities that those choices could afford us if we choose to embrace the wisdom learned from past mistakes.  The question today, and every day to follow,  is what will we do with her gift?
America, today we find ourselves at just such a crossroad.  While the ramifications of the calamities we all see heading our way daily may not be as instantaneous and awesome as a gargantuan piece of the heavens on a collision course with the blue planet we all call home, they could prove just as potent and lethal for far too many of us that find ourselves inching our way toward the edge of the abyss.  If we choose to turn a blind eye once again, no soul will be left un-ravished, no individual will be untouched, and no dream will remain unscathed.  
In 2008 we found ourselves gripped in the life and treasure-draining torment of two far-away wars, the materializing specter of another great depression, and the indignity of joblessness claiming more and more of our fellow Americans by the day.  In 2008 I, and most of you, heard a man vocalize those fears, we saw a man with vision put his finger on the problems and fill us with the possibilities of hope for a better tomorrow. In 2008 we chose that man to lead our great nation, not unanimously of course, but with a strong democratic majority.  In 2008 we reached for Lady Destiny’s gift and chose a new course, a course that was breathtakingly simple, a course that was achievable, a course that we knew was right. 
When President Obama took the helm, our great American sailing vessel was already in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle and all of our navigation equipment was spinning out of control.  But instead of giving our new captain the authority to chart the direction we chose him for, we got panicked by the rough seas and decided to turn on the emergency radio for assistance. For some reason we chose to tune in to the very same station that had landed us in that foul harbor to begin with, and the minority of doom-sayers started to feel empowered.  All of a sudden, a crippling mutiny was, and still is, afoot. 
To make matters worse, Main-Stream-Media decided to open that sinister channel on all decks with unparalleled volume, giving pure repetition the ability to masquerade as truth, no matter how much farther off course it would send us.  I can only hope this deficiency of real truth won’t prove to be the 21st century version of scurvy that robs us of the strong-minded and able-bodied souls that we will need to man all the ropes and sails.   After all, we are all in this boat together, and like it, or not, we will all be voyaging as one until we find a new port to shelter us from the storm, as long as we can avoid finding the bottom of the ocean together first.
When we voted Barack Obama into office, we knew he wanted to reform our health care system and make it work for every American, we knew he wanted to create a new future by creating millions of green jobs and breaking our dependence on foreign oil, we knew he wanted to make a world-class education accessible to every American without regard to their financial station in life, we knew he wanted to end the misguided war in Iraq and bring the fight to those that brought the fight to our soil instead, the ones hiding like cowards in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we knew he wanted to lessen the influence of special interest money in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to the workings of government, and we knew it was the right thing to do, we knew it was the right choice.  Why are we so busy now making the journey all the more difficult?
So I ask you America, what’s it going to be? Is our tale going to end in blackness and oblivion?  Or are we going to follow the lead of the great patriots of our past that bled for us and gave everything they had to make this an epic tale about what’s best in each of us, a tale about compassion and spirit, a tale about courage and honor, a tale about self-sacrifice and perseverance that deserves to be called an American epic? 
Scene one is about health care and it’s being written right now.  What’s it going to be America?  Will we fail under the self-imposed burdens of partisanship, or rise to the grander challenge together? Will we be blinded into tilting at windmills, or will we see clearly and overcome the real obstacles in our path?
Lady Destiny is waiting for our answer, for better or for worse. So, what’s it going to be?