David B.




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October 23, 2008

Is America Ready For A Sane President?

If current projections hold true, America is set to experience a seismic shift in its political landscape in less than two weeks’ time as it elects Barack Obama as its next president.


Obviously, it will be the first time that an African-American has occupied the office, a much-ado-about-nothing distinction primarily of concern to racists, xenophobes and the pundit class who endlessly ask how “ready” the country is for a slight pigmentation change in the skin tone of its chief executive. While justifiably infusing members of minority communities with well-deserved pride, it is hard to imagine how it could possibly make a scintilla of difference in the way the country is actually run. The fevered imaginings of reactionaries notwithstanding, Jeremiah Wright and Jesse Jackson aren’t in line for cabinet positions.


What will make a difference: Barack Obama is, by all appearances, actually sane. Consistently, relentlessly boringly non-crazy, in full intellectual flower and in complete command of his faculties. And this alone is enough to distinguish him from all prior occupants of the Oval Office since John F. Kennedy.


Since the elevation of Lyndon Baines Johnson, mental illness and the presidency have seemingly gone hand in hand to at least a minimal degree. Consider the track record:


  • Johnson, a man who dangled his dog by the ears, publicly paraded his surgical scars and somehow was able to rationalize the sacrifice of 50,000 U.S. servicemen and millions of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians in a quixotic quest to Americanize southeast Asia


  • Richard Nixon, a paranoiac, delusional drunk willing to hang out with G. Gordon Liddy and to subvert any law or principle in order to gain and cling to power


  • Jimmy Carter, seemingly so insecure as to imagine himself to be under threat by swimming rabbits


  • Ronald Reagan, the perfect package of narcissism and dementia


  • George Bush I, the steely-eyed sociopath who supervised wholesale civilian slaughter in Angola and Central America as a CIA man before launching the murderous war on Iraq


  • Bill Clinton, the cavalier, self-serving narcissist who preened while enforcing starvation upon the Iraqi people through murderous sanctions


  • And then of course there’s Little Bush, whose catalog of personal mental defects would likely comprise fully half of the DSM-IV manual.


America’s leaders, of course, tend to mirror the broader populace, and it is hard to imagine how a nation comprised of the hyper-consumptive, the television-addled and the religiously delusional could expect to fare any better. Whether it’s something in our water or something in our souls, we as a people seem to tend towards the “erratic,” to put things politely.


What else explains the fact that, according to an Opinion Dynamics study, a third of us believe in UFOs, a third believe in ghosts and a quarter of us believe in witches? Not to mention the tens of millions who willingly, masochistically subject themselves to American Idol. And then there’s the small matter of slightly over half the electorate re-electing George W. Bush in 2004, even as he savaged their rights, pilfered their pocketbooks, bankrupted their nation and lied to their faces. Sick, sick, sick.


If Obama is elected, many are going to have a great deal of difficulty adjusting. The demented, insipid Cowboy Fantasy begun under Reagan, and continued through the Bushes and McCain – the ludicrous notion of America as the gallant maverick nation, ever on the side of truth and righteousness, courageously campaigning to save a corrupt and inferior wider world from itself whilst battling evil in all of its various ethnically-tinged forms – will have to fall by the wayside.


No longer will we have senior administration officials somberly issuing “orange alerts,” or telling the world that “you’re either with us or against us.” What will we do without an “Axis of Evil” to hate and Muslims to fear? What will we do without our ignorant sense that it is our manifest destiny to subject smaller, weaker countries to our will, when and where we please, under pain of obliteration? What will we do when, under the stewardship of a calm, rational leader, we turn away from the militarism, the jingoism, the xenophobia and the fear-mongering which has become the sum and substance of America’s existence on the global stage over the past eight years?


America will have to reinvent itself as a rational nation, populated by rational people. It remains to be seen whether we’re up to the challenge.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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