Waiting for Obama; give me the simple life…

November 17, 2008

(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

I’m kind of in a malaise what with the election over and just sitting around waiting for Obama.

Yes, he was elected to be the next president of the United States, but meanwhile he has no actual authority, while our current president George W. Bush has little authority either being the lamest of lame ducks one could imagine. I suppose he does have enough time left to create some mischief.

It’s not that I am waiting for Barack Obama to do anything in particular, I just think it would be nice to see a president do something besides make awful and ill considered decisions on the use of our military and act as if we were the only country in the world that mattered. Sure we all want to feel pride in our own country and we certainly don’t want outsiders dictating to us what to do, but I think we are better than what we have gone through these past eight years.

Strangely, I don’t think Obama is planning to do much of anything different that Bush would have done in Iraq. It seems that the Bush administration was already trying to ease its way out of Iraq, if ever so slowly. I actually agree that time tables are a bad idea, although, in reality the Bush administration set them, just not in concrete, using the euphemism of “time horizons”. And I believe Obama plans to withdraw troops as quickly as possible (probably quicker than Bush would have and certainly quicker than John McCain would have), but he is leaving some wiggle room should matters on the ground change significantly for the worse.

And I hate to admit it, but if things eventually work out in Iraq to our favor, W. might go down in history with more favor than it now appears — he was steadfast in the face of adversity, in the face of negative public opinion, instead of just ignorant and stubborn. The fact remains as a nation we violated our own principles and possibly international law – something we only follow when it is in our own interests (or do we ever?).

I did appreciate Obama’s clear statement on 60 Minutes Sunday that he would end our use of torture. I heard a retired Army general from World War II on C-Span tell of how we caught an important Japanese agent and did not torture him and got lots of invaluable information from him nonetheless. Of course I have to think that back then we were fortunate to have a statesman at the helm and generals and admirals who believed in duty, honor, country (to include preserving our moral stature) over just escaping with a good retirement (and I am not so ignorant that I have not heard that there were some limited atrocities committed on our part, but they were not secret policy as now).

Afghanistan? Who knows? Seems like we will end up brokering with factions of the enemy and buying our way out (with our own funny money?) and maybe not until there is a whole lot more loss of life.

The economy? We certainly tried to hang on to the old economic model where we were in charge as long as we could, but I fear it has slipped out of our grasp. And that does not stop the rest of the world from blaming us on what is shaping up to be the second Great World Wide Depression in half a century. I almost have to agree with the hard-line fundamentalist free marketers who say we just have to let the free market sort things out and not let the government or governments run things (apparently a lot of free marketers, a lot of Republicans in fact, have been panicked out of their laissez faire attitudes). However to alleviate great suffering and possibly to prevent rebellion of the masses, we probably have to have a rather massive intervention by the government. But simply throwing money at something does not make it work. Didn’t we bail out Chrysler a few decades ago? What happened?

I really think if I had life to do over again (and I don’t) I’d be a conservative Republican and concentrate on making as much wealth for me and my family as I could, but not really for self-aggrandizement, but instead protection.

If not wealthy, I think I would have liked to have had a self-sufficient kind of farm or acreage where I grew my own food (to include a hog or two and chickens for eggs, maybe a milk cow).

One thing that has never appealed to me is communal life. Never had any desire whatsoever to live on a commune while I toil and others sit in the shade (and I don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid either), and with all due respect Mr. Obama, even though I am happy you won, I don’t want to “share the wealth”, although I think they took your quote slightly out of context.

I had a great uncle of French descent (he died before I was born), who was a small (both in stature and land) independent farmer in California’s San Joaquin Valley. He believed I am told that a farmer should do his own work and not hire many people. But he was a big believer of cooperative undertakings such as the public irrigation district of which his farm was part and public schools, sitting on the local school board himself.

And now I’ll go off into one of my stories – My dad always used to tell me that my great uncle and others on that country school district board back in the earlier part of the 20th Century would pitch in themselves when something needed to be fixed at the schoolhouse. Fast forward to the latter part of the 20th Century and as a reporter for a newspaper I was covering a meeting of a rural one-school school district in Tulare County, Ca. The Superintendent-principal was giving his report and noted the drinking fountain was on the fritz again. “I’ll get down there tomorrow and fix it,” one of the farmer-school board members commented. If that had been the city’s school district it would have taken a funding request and negotiation with the union to get the job done.

There’s certainly something to be said for the simplicity of the old ways. But lest you think that I’m stuck with some notion that we can all return to some bucolic paradise, that same rural school district where the farmer-school trustee was ready and willing to fix the drinking fountain had its problems. One errant kid lit a match to the school and several classrooms burned down one weekend. And this wasn’t rural North Dakota, so their student body had a fairly good cross section of society. Then again, although as I recall they went through normal channels to rebuild, they did get right to it and they also caught and dealt with the culprit (through juvenile court I think) with dispatch.

I’m trying to make this thing fit together somehow. I think our current economic problems may force our nation as a whole into more practicality – that could be a good thing.