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Archive for September, 2009

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Obama’s Speech – Reaction from the Constituency

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Since President Obama’s speech today was directed at the nation’s school children, I took an informal poll in my house (sample size: two)

Brandon (age 6), before the speech: The President is speaking at 12 noon? What about kids on the west coast? Will they still be asleep?

Brandon, after the speech: If the President asks for help all the time, then we can too.

Avery (age 9), after the speech: If the kids with all those challenges accomplished their goals, then we should accomplish our goals more easily than them. Not easily, but more easily.

Avery, when asked if Barack Obama should visit his elementary school one day: I’d rather he wait until next year and visit our middle school, because when you’re the youngest in the school, you get to sit closest to the stage during an assembly, and then I’d be the first one to shake his hand when the speech is over. If he visited our elementary school this year, I’d be way in the back.

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

Respect the Office

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Four years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I wrote this about the way the nation was treating President George W. Bush:

This is a bad sign for our country. Much as Watergate lifted the “nod and wink” attitude of the press and the public that John F. Kennedy enjoyed, this willingness to “Blame First” threatens to poison our national dialogue for years to come. We’re stripping away yet another layer of logical debate and respect for our leaders, and we’re doing it in a world where our internal squabbles are increasing played out on the world stage.

This is a great country. It’s one of a very few in the world where one can criticize the leadership freely, publicly and without fear of retribution. There was a time where this gave us a great sense of pride and freedom in our nation. Over the past decade or so (one could argue that this attitude began with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky), this right we hold so dear has been hijacked and used to make us feel less free, less secure, and less invested in seeing our government and our nation succeed.

The President, whoever he/she may be, will always have enemies. If those enemies feel free to indiscriminately paint him/her as the cause for all evil and strife in the world, we will all suffer the consequences. We absolutely must find a way to hold the president accountable for his/her mistakes, without clouding the argument with hyperbole that serves only to heap more shit on the pile in hopes that it will increase the stink.

God Bless America. God Bless the people of New Orleans. And yes, dammit, God Bless the President of the United States.

Tomorrow at noon, President Barack Obama will address the nation’s school children on the occasion of their return to school for the 2009/2010 school year. When this was first announced, there was a vocal minority of parents who strenuously objected. Some threatened to keep their children home from school. Some school districts announced that they would not show the address to their students in response to parental objections. A friend of mine, who’s name I won’t use here, summed up the feeling thusly:

I don’t want my son to hear a speech that I don’t know the content of, without me there to explain, answer questions or mediate. I don’t need Barack Obama indoctrinating my son into Socialism without being there to counter what he says. . . . I don’t look up to him, I think he is systematically ruining this country. . . . I don’t trust him. I don’t know what he’s going to say, and I don’t know why he needs to address school children absent their parents. What does he have to say that we can’t hear?

As I feared, the way we perceive and interact with the President of the United States has continued along the trajectory that started with Nixon/Watergate, and proceeded through to Reagan to Clinton and to Bush. It is no longer a strong enough sentiment to disagree with the President’s politics. Disagreeing with a particular program, or even offering reasonable alternatives, no longer ranks as sufficient political opposition. Influencing your Congressional representatives by engaging them in debate (at a town hall meeting, for instance) or by writing them a strongly worded e-mail or letter, or even by voting against them in the next election is no longer considered a full and free expression of your duty as a citizen. We’ve reached the point now, where in order to truly be against the President, you have to question his motives. Barack Obama cannot simply be wrong about bank bailouts, stimulus packages and healthcare reform. If you are truly a member of the “other team,” you have to believe that he is intent on “indoctrinating [your children] into Socialism.”

I should be quick to point out that the friend I’ve quoted above is not one of those nutcases who believes that a gay, Jewish Congressman from Massachusetts is in favor of Nazi policies. She is a well-read, intelligent woman with whom I typically agree on political matters. We can, and have, had civil and informative conversations about politics. She has taught me some things I didn’t know and, I dare say, I have taught her some things as well. And so, while it would be easy to write my friend off as temporarily insane, instead I find myself thinking back to the words I wrote in 2005 about how we treated our President, and what the next level of escalation would be. And now we find ourselves in this place, where the President of the United States cannot speak to the children of America, without first clearing his remarks with parents who question his motives for doing so. Not the content of the speech, mind you, but his reason for giving it.

The epilogue to this story, ironically, occurred before the speech itself. In response to these concerns, President Obama released the text of his remarks ahead of the actual speech. After reading them, my friend said this:

I am really happy they released the remarks in advance. I plan to watch it with my kids so that they can be inspired by this speech, which I think will go a long way toward getting kids to appreciate their education and their VERY hardworking teachers.

And so once again, my friend and I agree. If you’d like to inspire your kids as well, the speech will be carried live on C-SPAN at 12pm EDT. The White House web site has also provided a live video feed:

Good luck to all our students in 2009/2010. May they learn, amongst other things, to respect the authority figures in their lives – their parents, their teachers, their coaches, their counselors, and yes, the President of the United States. Maybe, as President Obama says in his speech, when the President addresses American school children in twenty or fifty or one hundred years, he or she will look back on this generation as the one that turned the tide away from suspicion and distrust, and toward mutual respect, responsibility and accountability for all.

Categories: Political Rantings | 32 Comments »

Inside Baseball

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I’ve just returned from my first indoor baseball game – the Minnesota Twins played host to the Chicago White Sox in the soon-to-be football-only Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome here in Minneapolis. I realize domes have been around for a very long time, and that almost all of them are retractable nowadays, but since it was my first time, I feel the need to crack wise about it anyway.

And so, without further adieu, here is a list of the Top Ten things overheard today in the Metrodome during the Twins/White Sox game:

10. Good afternoon, sports fans, it’s a beautiful day for baseball here in Minneapolis, or at least that’s what I’m told by the folks who’ve been outside recently.

9. Tickets to the Twins game today? No thanks, it’s a beautiful day and we’re going to the zoo. Save the ballgame for when it’s cold & rainy.

8. Welcome to the ballpark. Before taking the field, please remove your shoes – we’ve just had the carpet cleaned.

7. Speaking of the carpet – you know how when you mow the outfield grass in a baseball stadium, you wind up with those horizontal stripes that reflect which way the mower was riding? Is it really necessary to put horizontal lines on AstroTurf? I mean who, exactly, do they think they’re fooling?

6. “Take me in to the ballgame, Take me in to the crowd…”

5. Ground ball to third base, the third baseman fields it . . . and calls for the five-ball in the corner pocket.

4. Only 12 more home games until the first game canceled due to severe weather…

3. Of all the available colors, why in the name of all that is holy would you make the roof the same color as a baseball?

2. Dome, Sweet Dome.

…and the number one thing overheard today in the Metrodome during the Twins/White Sox game:

1. We might not win it all this year, but wait ’till next year. Sky’s the limit!!


Categories: Sports Talk | 5 Comments »

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