Friday, January 29, 2016

The Blame Game

As if comedians didn't have enough material from this election season, who should come along but Sarah Palin, sent to them from on high like manna from heaven. In her latest attention grabbing stunt, Palin made a public appearance to announce her endorsement of Donald Trump for the Republican party's nomination as their candidate for president. As Trump stood next to her at a campaign rally in Ames, Iowa with a dumbfounded expression on his face, Palin went into one of her trademark stream of consciousness rants of gibberish that sent the pundits' hearts all a flutter. So much nonsense came out of her mouth that it was truly hard to make sense out of what she was saying, other than she thinks Donald Trump is really good and all of his opponents, and especially Barack Obama, are really really bad.

One thing she did make crystal clear is her contention that the current president is directly responsible for her adult son's behavior problems.

Palin's son Track has had numerous run-ins with the law, and the former governor of Alaska contends her son's issues are a direct result of post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD), resulting from his service in the military in Iraq. Whether there is a connection between the two is debatable as A) young Mr. Palin had behavior issues before entering the service, and B) there is serious doubt as to whether he actually saw combat during his time in Iraq. What is certain is that President Obama has made veterans' health care a priority of his administration, making Governor Palin's accusations that the Obama administration turns a blind eye to veterans' needs, absurd. Of all the legitimate criticisms of the Obama administration, this is not one.

At lunch with a wise old friend the other day, I asked him why he thought President Obama when compared to all the other US presidents, is reviled by so many Americans. I expected my friend to bring up the easy answer of race, but instead he said that people right now in this country are simply angry because they are dissatisfied with their lives. They may be un-employed, under-employed with poor job prospects, in the hole with their mortgage, and/or headed toward retirement without enough put away. Some Americans may have plenty of money but are just struggling with that ol' ennui. Regardless, who better to blame for your funk and anger than the man sitting in the White House?

With her ridiculous accusations that have been panned, even by the right, Palin is tapping into a current trend in society that has reached epidemic proportions, namely blaming public figures, especially the president, for personal problems.

The good news for him is that Barack Obama is not a bi-partisan scapegoat. The grumblers and whiners on the left blame all the problems of the world including their own on the the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, the Bush family, the police, Dick Chaney, the one percent, Monsanto, evangelical Christians, and white people, especially if they themselves are white.

Of course Obama is not the only scapegoat for the other side. Minorities, immigrants, the Clintons, political correctness, homosexuals, gun control, atheists, universal health care, little league participation awards, big government, and scores of other concepts and individuals all give the president a run for his money as the favorite scapegoat of the right.

One may ask, we've gone through bad times before without having to resort to blaming government officials or everybody with whom we disagree for all our personal troubles, why now?

Here's my half-baked answer:

In the past, no matter how desperate the situation, Americans used to believe in the promise of this country, as they looked toward a brighter future. Sadly for many of us today, The American Dream has become an ironic term. We no longer believe in ourselves, our country, or really very much at all for that matter. True, the Trump campaign uses the slogan, "time to make America great again." but the greatness they are espousing is not meant for everyone to share. They're not alone. Gone from the vision of both sides of the political spectrum I'm afraid, is the idea that all of us, no matter how divergent our backgrounds or beliefs may be, make up this country. You heard me say it before and I'll say it again, our great strength as a nation is born out of our differences. At least it used to be.

I heard a radio story this afternoon about people who date folks with different political opinions from their own, (spoiler alert: there aren't any these days). One woman interviewed for the piece said she would never date a person with different beliefs because "conservative ideas are ignorant." It seems the only thing we respect these days is keeping a tenacious grip on one's own ideology, come hell, high water, or rational discourse.

We've all become cynics, not too surprising since most of us get our news from the late night comedians. Politics, and by extension, government, has become a three ring circus, nothing more than a punchline for Steven Colbert and his peers. Nothing is sacred anymore, not school, not the church, not our families,  not our country, and least of all, not politicians and the pinnacle of their profession, the office of president, and the person who happens to hold that office. I've used this quote before but I think it's worth mentioning again. It's attributed to Oscar Wilde but I believe he lifted it from an old Irish proverb:
A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Since you can't put a price tag on hopes or dreams, they have no value to cynics (here I'm quoting myself), that is until they're gone. And when they're gone, the price we pay as we have seen in recent years, is that instead of being a nation of builders, makers and doers, we've become a nation of worriers, whiners, and complainers.

And we wonder why no one in their right mind wants to be president.

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