Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Breathe In, Breathe Out ... In ... Out ... Good

To all the people ranting that Obama voters are crazy idiots who have ruined the country ... Please take a long, slow, deep breath. The country hasn't been ruined.

I awoke each morning through 20 years of Reagan/Bush I/Bush II worried that they would destroy our nation. The election nights of 1980, '84, '88, '00, and '04 were long, dark, and cold. In particular, the reelection of George W. Bush was a punch in the gut. Remember that? ... a sitting president re-elected when he won Ohio ... hmmm, that sounds familiar. But if President Obama's approval rating reaches the upper 20% range at the end of his second term, as Bush's did, I'll shave my gray hair from my middle-aged head and eat it for breakfast with a little milk and sugar.

I eventually discovered that America is much stronger than presidents I don't agree with. Reagan, Bush, and Bush tried to walk us backward, but the country moved forward anyway. We lurched and staggered through those years when I hoped for a steady jog--but it was still forward motion, however unsteady. Those presidents certainly slowed American progress, but they couldn't stop our nation from growing and improving.

Those presidents also taught me that America is much bigger than any president, and American history is a far wider span than any four-year term. The best minds and hands and voices of the American people always keep this country on the forward path. Not everyone will embrace progress as it opens its arms to us, but progress will draw us into its bear hug anyway. And I recognize that people who disagree with me still love America, and I expect the same consideration in return.

Obama's reelection must be a shock to anyone whose echo-chamber of Obama-bashing news sources has been assuring you for four years that everyone hates the America-apologizing Kenyan usurper anointed one who grovels to foreign leaders and steals your paycheck. The fact that a majority of Americans don't share your views must be a terrible burden, but it's a fact as clear as the perpetual scowl on Sean Hannity's sweaty mug. Your shock, however, is no excuse for disparaging that majority of Americans who swept Obama back to the White House for four more years.

As an Obama voter, I'm being accused of some wildly ridiculous things right now. But I didn't vote for Obama because I'm crazy or an idiot or a socialist or a communist or any other silly label. I don't want a bunch of stuff from the government, not even an Obamaphone, whatever the hell made-up thing that is. I'm not rubbing my hands together with maniacal glee as I envision America in flames. I'm not trying to wrestle away your freedom or pry your guns from your cold dead fingers. I don't hate America. I haven't spit on the flag. I haven't thrown Israel under the Iranian nuclear bus. I don't want America to become a third-world country. I'm not shoving us down the greasy path to becoming Greece. I'm not trying to crush anyone's children or grandchildren under mountains of debt. I don't support the Muslim Brotherhood or the New Black Panthers or any other phantom menaces. I don't sympathize with terrorists or demean our troops. I don't shake my fist at God. I'm not causing hurricanes by sending a wedding gift to Robert and Brian. I don't want to kill babies or destroy marriages and families. I don't want to steal your money and give it to lazy drug addicts who are too stoned to work for themselves. I don't want to take anyone's job and give it to an illegal alien from Mexico or from Mars. I don't want to force food stamps into anybody's wallet or health care reform down anyone's throat.

Here's a news flash: President Obama doesn't want any of those things either. That's the truth, no matter what you may have heard from Fox Fake News or Rush or Beck or your crazy uncle who runs his own end-times website from his mother's basement.

I don't accept the lies that are being hurled at President Obama and, by extension, about me as an Obama voter. Reasonable Republicans also accept that Obama doesn't hold any radical, anti-American ideas either. Reasonable Republicans (the ones who haven't been chased off by the fringe elements in their party) recognize that Obama is working to improve America, even if they don't agree with him on all policies and positions. When you strip away the right-wing propaganda, here's what Obama actually stands for--and the actual reasons I voted for him:

- We believe that government shares a role with the private sector in creating good jobs for middle-class Americans.

- We believe that government has a role in helping our most vulnerable citizens, especially in bad economic times.

- We believe that health insurance should be affordable and available to all Americans.

- We believe that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are great programs that should be kept and strengthened.

- We believe that Wall Street should be regulated to prevent another economic collapse.

- We believe that long-term deficit reduction can't be accomplished by simply cutting government programs that help poor and middle-class Americans.

- We believe that corporations do not have the same rights as people, and the wealthy should pay their fair share in taxes.

- We believe that money does not equal speech, and the influence of secret money from wealthy sources should not control our government.

- We believe that every citizen should have the right to vote without restrictive laws designed to suppress turnout and manipulate the results of elections.

- We believe that education is the key to keeping America great, and our taxes have no higher purpose than supporting qualified students.

- We believe that gun ownership is for reasonable personal protection and hunting, not for threatening the lawfully elected government when you disagree with its policies, and should be well-regulated to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and unstable people.

- We believe that America is a member of the world community with every right to defend ourselves but no right to force our views on the rest of the world.

- We believe that the hard work of long-term diplomacy is far better than the lazy threat of unjustified military action.

- We believe that sensible immigration reform is far better than xenophobia for both immigrants and native-born citizens.

- We believe that America is a diverse nation of different faiths, ethnicities, races, genders, and identities where we all deserve respect from one another.

- We believe that government or someone else's religion should not control our deeply personal choices about birth control and pregnancy.

- We believe that marriage is not a special right available only to some couples but not to others.

These are core American values that make our nation great--not symptoms of idiocy or insanity. American history was at its worst only when we have veered from these values. I hold these values sacred because they help define who I am as an American and as a human being. I share them with the president, and I'll resist anyone who attacks these values--but I'm happy to work side-by-side with anyone who shares these core American values to keep our country moving forward. These values are the basis of good government, not big government--a responsive state, not a nanny state. These values represent government as we the people.

My advice to all the people who think America is somehow going to hell because Obama got re-elected is this: Calm down, unbunch your undies, be still and quiet for a few moments, and search for your faith in America and in humanity. Even if Obama were the goblin that you've been told he is, he couldn't ruin our nation. The American people are far stronger than that, and our founding system of laws and government is far smarter than that. Don't move to Canada (there are liberals there too--and government healthcare) or secede from the union or go to Colorado and stay high for the next four years.

My advice is simple: The next time you hear a talking head in the media rant about Obama as some threat to your way of life, press the "power off" button on the remote control. When you click on the next online link, delete any website that throws knee-jerk comments about our "socialist" or "communist" president. When you're at work or the local bar, walk away from any person who calls our president an enemy of America or any person who calls Obama voters  insane idiots. Learn to "just say no" to mindless Obama-bashing. Your feelings of disappointment are real, but your sources of information spurring those feelings are deeply flawed. Learn the difference between facts and opinions, history and revisionism, concern and hysteria, reality and propaganda.

You'll survive … and maybe even thrive. America will too.


Addendum: If, after all efforts to connect with reality, you still insist that President Obama is simultaneously a Muslim and the Anti-Christ, this is for you. 


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