During Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama did his best to assuage the worries of the country. While Rep. Paul Broun and others may hear “socialism” wherever they like, the Dow 30 heard otherwise during a call for lower corporate taxes, which
boosted the Dow 30, which breached 12,000 for the first time in almost three years during Wednesday’s session. – CNBC
Indeed, there are complaints that the president stole his best lines from conservatives like Newt Gingrich and hammered traditionally Reagen-esque points about small business owners and the need for laissez-faire economic policy to encourage American innovation. At times, the speech was even ironic – the president praised the Tunisian Revolution (already rebranded as a “twitter revolution” to echo the “acceptable” Iranian green revolution in 2009) while his administration pursues a vendetta against Wikileaks (which provided a hefty amount of impetus for the upheaval in the Maghrib, now spreading to Egypt and Yemen). But despite a need to address progressive concerns about foreign policy, including the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the president left those issues for last and understated the situation.
The United States is in a spiritual crisis – our civil religion is experiencing a schism of its own because of ongoing torture, rendition, secret prisons, civilian casualties, targeted killings, increased security measures and other rumblings of the terror culture in which we now live. These terrible realities directly conflict with the same American values that the president referenced in his speech – “America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.” It was these concerns that led to hope in the Obama campaign, and created a strong support among the left-wing independents and Democrats. But it was these same concerns that eroded trust in the administration as it continued to perpetuate the worst of the Bush era offenses. One would think that as critical as those segments were to to the Democratic victory in 2008, Obama would address these issues.
Wikileaks and the exposure of government secrecy is one critical measure in creating doubt among our faith in the the establishment. The treatment of Bradley Manning is ringing in some ears. But even his example plays archetype to some of the more egregious highlights of the malaise plaguing the American subconscious:
- A rash of suicides at Guantanamo couldn’t have been suicides unless the prisoners were able to tie their own hands and feet together before hanging themsevles
- “The Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals”
- The prison where we keep detainees in Afghanistan (Bagram) has worse conditions and more detainee abuse than even Guantanamo
- Obama is continuing Bush’s policy of extraordinary rendition (that is, sending prisoners to be tried in other countries with little or no human rights restrictions on how they treat accused criminals) even after he promised not to
- Jawed Ahmad (a Afghan reporter working for a Canadian broadcasting company) was arrested and detained for over a year with no evidence of wrongdoing or charges pressed
President Obama decided instead to address the viewers at home and their pragmatic concerns – jobs, economic woes, their children’s future – while constantly making personal references to evoke pro-social empathy among the American audience. In doing so, he ignored the moral crisis facing our country, and a large portion of our cancerous, ethical necrosis. As troop suicides begin to outnumber the American lives lost on the battlefield, we must begin to wonder where is the turning point. Obama promised us one. So far, it seems nowhere in sight.
With the further polarization of conservatives who retain the bizarre rhetoric of of the McCain campaign by continually referring to the president as a socialist and other delusional accusations (even in the midst of a speechwhich praised the exceptionalism of America), it’s unlikely that Obama will actually need to appease the progressive base. The threat of any Republican candidate galvanized by Tea Party support will scare naysayers back to the Democratic ticket, in the belief that the lesser of two evils is best. But the correct way to deal with necessary evil is not to accept it, but make it unnecessary.
However, we are lost in the delusion of language, which is only as useful so long as it has a meaningful relationship to reality. All the President’s words and his critics false epithets mean nothing so long as we remain imprisoned by terror culture.