I just finished watching the jobs speech and my first thought was “were have you been”? The historian-poet-preacher in him which I fell in love with in the Yes We Can and Race speeches (collectively rather than individually) had found his groove tonight.
Every artist struggles with finding their artistic voice, but for me, at this moment, this was balm to my soul. Someone, somewhere, does actually get it. But before I get to what I liked about the speech let me take a small detour and talk about how I think about my relationship between me and my government.
I’m currently staying at my brother’s, @kuhlman, house and he has a great dane. Due to our pomo lives we missed each other. He is off on a construction job overnight and I just returned from an overnight job myself. We missed each other and were not able to pass a key back and forth. When we were texting each other as to our current statuses and how we could coordinate this changeover, I asked him whether the house was locked. He responded, “Maggie’s the lock.”
Now Maggie is a wonderful bitch (which I mean literally). This bitch has a bark that will tear your hair off when she gets scared. I have no idea whether she has the bite to match it, and I like that I don’t know that, because her bark is scary enough. She is the perfect lock. See locks are on-off switches. But living, breathing beings are able to differentiate between when on is OK and off is OK. Sometimes the best lock is the one that can differentiate between when to bark and when to be happy because your friend is here to let you out to go take a piss.
And this is how I want my government to be. I don’t want to rely on my government unnecessarily. I understand that my successes and my failures are my own. But sometimes you want to know that if you are forced, due to the situations of living your life, to deviate from your normal patterns, that there will be a being there to have your back. You don’t want something that is impersonal and cannot differentiate between friend and foe. You want a bitch there that is both happy to see you and happy to go have a poo in the yard.
That story said, there were many things that I loved about the Obama speech.
First, he chastised both sides. He told some hard truths. These words were his preacher robes which I have not seen him don for a long, long time. Too long. And it was needed. Both sides of the political aisle have been being babies for a while now and the only people suffering are the middle class of America. This must change. The only way to get shit done is to sometimes put aside the differences and realize that the betterment of the country is at stake. Since I’ve spent so much time in African countries where politics is so personality based I am especially receptive to the in-out-group mechanisms which operate in such an environment. And if you want to actually help, if you want to get something done in this world you’re going to have to figure out a compromise. Because, as the President of the United States, said “No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. .” What a great line. Sometimes we have to act as a community. Individualism is great, but no one at no time has EVER acted completely in isolation as an individual. We call those beings the last creature of their species. What is required, from time to time, is looking out for those that may not be as smart, or have the opportunities, or whatever as we fancy of ourselves. And in that vein, next week I hope to go pound some nails to help members of my family’s community who were affected by the tornadoes earlier this year.
Second, it was perhaps the most patriotic speech which has been given during my lifetime. It was a call to action. It was competitive (which we Americans love). It told us that there was going to be some hard days ahead. This was the poet that I’ve been longing for. This was the inspiration that I’ve been hoping for. This was the America that I have studied and that I love. Just turn off your brain (I’ll get to the wonky stuff in a moment) and listen to the words of his speech and tell me that you are not inspired by something, or even anything in this speech. No matter your political affiliation this man gets that he was “hired” to execute the laws in the best interest of us all.
Third, it cut through all the bullshit, stupid rhetoric which neither matters nor helps. He has learned from his own failures to properly leverage both the power of his position and the wave of people power which put him in that chair. This was a pragmatic speech to its core. What he said is exactly, *exactly, *what economists have proven matter for the economic development of your country. There are many opinions as to the best, but almost every economist will agree that what is necessary for economic development (this comes from my international development perspective) is: infrastructure, education, jobs for low-skilled individuals, and healthcare. We’ll leave aside for now the reasons why each of these exist. Similarly I’m going to take a mulligan on healthcare because I don’t have the energy to enter that debate as to why people that don’t have millions in the bank don’t *deserve *to not feel awful all the time, but if you care about that watch Sicko and shutup. But see here’s the thing. Our schools are falling apart. While we prosecute irrational wars overseas (which I’ve participated in and have some modicum of epistemic authority here), we’re not able to give the support that our teachers require to educate our children. Our infrastructure is subpar. Visit Europe and try to convince me that we are still number one. Drill, Baby, Drill.
So this is a short review, but my early take (before reading any punditry) is that it was brilliant and one of Obama’s best performances. On a personal level I’m happy for three reasons: (1) the poet I wanted is finding his voice, (2) the pragmatist we all need is finally leveraging his platform, and (3) the wonk in me is reassured that someone up there will bark when necessary and greet when necessary.
There were many great moments of this speech for me. But the one that stands out. The one that I will think of tomorrow. Is this.
No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.
What did you think of the speech?
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