The Winter of Everyone’s Discontent
Ten days have passed since my last post, and I wanted to reassure my readers that I haven’t been struck down by swine flu or a runaway Mack truck. I’m alive and well. You haven’t heard from me for one plain reason: nothing is happening.
Sure, the Winter Olympics are under way in Vancouver and its environs. A disgruntled female college professor allegedly went on a fatal rampage in Alabama. A dozen Afghan civilians were terminally inconvenienced by an errant American missile. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana announced that he wouldn’t run for another term, citing chronic partisanship in our legislative branch. I feel his pain.
Perhaps Bayh gave up because nothing is happening where it really matters: untying the knots in healthcare reform… creating jobs for victims of the financial crash… curbing the fearsome federal deficit… imposing reasonable controls on Wall Street… stripping powerful lobbies of their ability to buy elections and dictate public policy. If anything, the entrenched interests that continually thwart the public will are entrenching themselves more deeply and defiantly.
Right now the most powerful person in the United States isn’t President Obama or even Oprah Winfrey. That honor goes to Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs and unacknowledged Master of the Universe. This is unnatural and wrong. Right now the leader of the free world is bowing not only to foreign potentates of dubious merit, but to sinister ambassadors from the banking and pharmaceutical industries.
Our president displays occasional flashes of brilliant rhetoric and even righteous anger. He’s studious, deliberate, conscientious, highly literate and well-informed on all the issues. And there’s the rub; he’s Hamlet with a Harvard law degree: an eloquent and precise thinker and speaker… a man of action, not so much. One begins to feel nostalgic for LBJ’s crude manipulative genius, Nixon’s acute grasp of his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, Reagan’s supreme confidence in his own vision, even Dubya’s maddening prowess as a “decider.”
Meanwhile, we’re feeling rudderless and ill-served. Lefties are growing restive, right-wingers are mobilizing for a populist rebellion, and of course we moderates find ourselves more marginalized than ever. (The extremists within both parties seem intent on nudging us out of their ranks.)
What to do? Enjoy the Olympics, go sledding in the snow, light a fire in the fireplace and toast some marshmallows until they’re evenly tanned. This difficult winter will eventually pass, so we might as well take some pleasure in it while it lasts. Bad times don’t have to make a bad life.