Saturday, September 14, 2013

Post No. 188: Why Everyone Seems to be So Disappointed in Our President

© 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

“It does not matter who my Father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
- Anne Sexton

The above Sexton quote appeared while navigating a Borders Book Store, along with an overwhelming desire to chat about “zeitgeist,” which Wikipedia defines as the “spirit of the age,” or the “spirit of the time.”

Last week was a difficult week for the former United States of America. We were confronted with a daunting, complex issue revolving around how we should respond to Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons. We had difficulty figuring out who are, and to some extent remembering who we were.

To compound the problem, many suggested that the Obama administration appeared confused, and lacked the ability to articulate a coordinated plan or vision, or even some real, concrete, identifiable interests to be served by our potential military foray.

But, in our humble view, as with many things in life, this is bigger than the man who occupies the office of the President. This is more about who we are as a people at this stage in our national evolution, how we view our past, and how we view our future.

It’s about zeitgeist.

What we really fear, truth be told, is that we might not be the nation that we thought we were. Long gone are the days of the concrete and tangible, and John Wayne kicking some real ass. Even a 12 year old knows that Iron Man rules through the magic of Hollywood computer graphics and animation technology.

We realize more and more that many things are not what they seem and that to some extent we have always lived in the land of illusion.

However, with rapidly advancing technological changes, the lens through which we view the world is more fluid and capable of capturing a far bigger picture, totally apart from the real-time information stream. Our open and obvious (yet behind the scenes) transfer of our economic might to a larger communist force, our collective response to 9/11, and The Great Recession have us feeling like we are spinning out of control.

We here at the Institute didn’t want this man to be President. In our view, he was the wrong man for the wrong times. However our position was not based on anything which had to do with the man himself, but rather everything about who we are.

Some months back we generated a post, Why We’re So Anxious in America, Debate the Role of Government, and Ministers Suggest that God’s Pissed. The reality is that this is a culmination of 35+ years of excess and not taking responsibility for our actions, as we outlined in Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered.

During difficult and uncertain times, people have a tendency to long for an earlier day when things were seemingly clearer and far more simplistic. And along with that comes a tendency to blame someone for our current state of affairs, and who better to blame than the current President.

Most of us can't balance our checkbooks, maintain good relations with our spouse, or manage our children, and yet we're so cock-sure about how to run this nation.

If we are going to solve problems going forward, we need to snap out of this coma, and face some realities, including one that looms large, to wit: the use of old methods to address today’s issues in a constantly changing environment won’t work. (Been There; Done That) We need innovation, forward thinking; not a reversion to the past.

Many are looking for a savior, to provide some illusion of stability. But no one man (or woman) can fill those shoes or adequately address that emotional and spiritual need.

The simplest, most effective way to address insecurities and uncertainties? Create jobs here at home.

So many of us, despite showing up some place every day, aren’t sure whether we have a real job anymore. Totally apart from what jobs can do for one’s sense of security and ability to provide for one’s family, it does wonders for self-esteem, both personally and collectively. Additionally, according to the Physicians' Desk Reference, it is the most effective drug to administer intravenously to combat paranoia.

On one level, we all need to take personal, collective responsibility for how we got here, including electing people who have their personal, selfish interests ahead of our collective interests.

The following appears in the signature of one of our friends of the Institute: "It is neither the strongest, nor the most intelligent, of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."


  1. 'Spector,

    My view is doubtless too simplistic for this discussion, but I will proffer it nonetheless.

    With few exceptions, prior to the Korean entanglement the U.S. would engage in war in a very selective fashion. Moreover, once we did so we usually won said war.

    Now we engage in superfluous conflicts at the drop of a hat from which we rarely emerge as the victor; all we manage to do is to get a lot of our young people killed and maimed in the process. Rather, we "wage" war as if it were some sort of popularity contest which we might lose by actually kicking the enemy's ass . . . as if that is going to make a difference to the antiwar protesters and the media.

    Yes, I have heard the rationale (rationalization?) that it is "impossible to wage total war in the video age"; I respond "Bullshit". If the cause is just and relevant to U.S. interests, then the people will get behind the leaders (if any can be found) and to hell with what the media and the antiwar crowd think.

    This is a much more complex topic than can be covered in a simple "Comment" box, but I hope that you get the gist of my position. It seems as though our non-leaders have lost their belly for justifiable and effective warfare. I don't know who is pulling their strings --- I would posit that it might be the U.N., but I am not so certain that it isn't economically motivated instead.

    It is currently beyond my pay grade to postulate exactly what/whom that economic motivator might be, but just look at what China has managed to accomplish in taking us over our industry with no resistance . . . as you alluded in your post. If our economy and the jobs of our citizens are for sale to an enemy Communist nation, then why would our government not be open to "throwing a fight" to satisfy the highest bidder . . ?

    The Independent Cuss

  2. "the former United States"

    Interesting choice of adjective. Were we ever actually united? Except as necessity dictated? I look upon the U.S. as a collection of individuals... with that reflected all the way upward. And, I think, our structure and system of checks and balances was designed with that in mind.

  3. Re: China...

    Khrushchev, I believe, once said the USSR would bury us (though this turns out to be not quite accurate). China is simply manufacturing the shovel. I do not actually fear China's current economic power. It will fade as it attempts to deal with its prosperity and all the things which can trip that prosperity up; pollution, greed, collective pressure from the masses to reap the benefits promised for the sacrifices made... Who knows? China may become an ally in the next war that must be fought as "total war."

  4. Out of curiosity, Douglas. Do you think that if the South has succeeded in separating from the North during the American Civil War, that we would have two independently, stronger countries today, than the collective one?

  5. Interesting question. My answer would be "No." Independent, yes... stronger, no. Though one never knows, does one? Much would depend on how the unaligned territories finally aligned. I would suggest, however, that slavery would have died in the CSA within 30 years or so of the end of the Civil War due to economic circumstance and internal pressure though black citizens probably would not have any semblance of equality even today... under that scenario.

  6. Thanks for weighing in, Independent Cuss:

    You raise some rather interesting points. We'll respond by raising three:

    (a) Historically, over the past 5,000 years, wars were initiated by singular rulers primarily for economic gain. We're not sure of the extent to which regular, ordinary peasants had anything to say about them, and in numerous instances people were forced into participating or paid to do so;

    (b) With respect to this potential foray, it is pretty much agreed that it will be difficult to identify a winner, and what will be accomplished is far less than clear;

    (c) We minions do not generally stand to gain economically, or from a security perspective, from pursuing a military route. That there is a humanitarian component to the whole issue has complicated it for us as a people; and

    (d) That the folks who are the perceived victims of the use of chemical weapons are Middle Eastern, many of whom are Islamic, further complicates our approach.

    To go into a foreign land and whip some ass requires a fairly clear set of goals. Arguably, all of them in this instance are murky.

  7. Thanks much Douglas:

    Arguably, the primary motivation for war historically has been economic, or territory. To some extent, for a long time, the United States conducted a quiet, economic global war. To a very significant extent, we now have an economic ally in China, and we are both co-dependent, at least at this point in time.

    Late last week, we heard a NPR program on censorship in China. Essentially, the Chinese do not have a problem with individuals doing and saying whatever they want. However, once one starts to disseminate one's anti-government message which is followed by others, or meet in groups centering around anti-government sentiment, that's when the government steps in. Does that position tell anything about their approach to economic development in this communist giant?

  8. Yes, I think we gave up the territorial imperialism (direct control of resources) for economic (indirect) at the end of WWII (though I suspect that actually began after WWI). This is a more fractured approach with subtle government control over it. I would call China and the US, uneasy and informal allies with differing agendas... possibly like the more formal alliance of Russia and the US in WWII. A temporary common goal has yet to form, however, which will be needed for a formal alliance and more (deeper) cooperation.
    The current Chinese approach to freedom of speech is no different, I think, than any dictatorial entity. A government cannot completely control speech so it doesn't try, just makes "examples" from time to time to remind the people who is in charge. To some extent (let's call it "peer pressure" for now) we practice a more subtle form here. China has never been formally territorial in its ambitions, not even ideological (Stalin and Mao were miles apart in that regard) but it now sees the advantage of economic imperialism and is taking tenuous steps in that direction.


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