I am usually an optimist — sometimes annoyingly so, to the point of Pollyanna-land. I try to take the long view, to see the ups-and-downs of politics and society as evening out and trending upward over time. I’m the one that smiles and says, in the face of defeat, “Keep fighting — we’ll get ’em tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year.”
Today is not one of those days.
Today, I am depressed and discouraged. I am tired. And I’m wondering if we are kidding ourselves about the work we do. Examples:
- The Bush administration used and defended torture, indefinite detention, and extraordinary rendition. I had hoped the Obama administration would end all three, and figure out a way to honor our Constitution even in the so-called “war on terror.” Yet this week, the Obama Justice Department fought to keep torture victims from even being heard in court by invoking the “state secrets” argument — and the court agreed. Now, not only have we not stopped our assault on human rights, but we have shut down the only form of redress those tortured would have. This is not the Change I voted and worked for.
- We have supposedly ended our “involvement in Iraq” by ending “combat operations.” Yet, we still have 50,000 troops there as “advisors” — and 80,000 contractors. The misbegotten illegal war of George “Mission Accomplished” Bush is still going on … and we are still throwing billions of dollars into that hole, money that should be spent on education and infrastructure and putting people back to work.
- Our state government is going broke, if it’s not already broke, and is unable to make the investment it needs to in education and job creation, especially in the rural and mountain areas. Yet, no one in Frankfort has the balls to do what needs to be done: restructure our tax and revenue system today so that we can move our state forward tomorrow. Check out this statistic that Crit Luallen shared: for every 20 young people starting ninth grade, only 3 graduate from college. How the hell can we move our state forward? You can only sell so many French fries. Damn.
- Corporations are sitting on enough money to hire every unemployed person in the country AND have half the money left over. Yet, in the name of “shareholder value” we continue to send more jobs overseas. This increases profits and value for the wealthy, but destroys our local economies. The disconnect between the investing class and the rest of us is becoming so great that there is real question as to whether the rich even need us to exist, EXCEPT to spend whatever money we do have on goods that they have had made in China.
- We are gutting the middle class of this country, and I don’t see any way to stop it. Jobs and lives are increasingly being divided into two groups: those with high-end jobs and incomes, and those with service jobs and incomes. And there is no way to cross the divide. If you’re making $14,000 a year at a full-time job and raising a family, there is no way you can go to college. And right now, there are no jobs even if you do graduate.
These are just a few of the things I am discouraged about. There’s not room to go into things like economic reform, election finance, corporate greed, coal-company greed, pollution, global climate change, the failure of public education, or gay rights. But there’s one more thing I want to throw into the mix, because it is ultimately the root of all of this: the lack of true leaders in our nation.
We look to our leaders for answers, or at least for a call to solve the problems, and what do we get instead? Political posturing. Evasion of the tough questions. Fear-mongering. Lying, about themselves and especially about their opponent. Greed. Corruption. General stupidity and cluelessness. Lack of courage to face the tough choices. In short, barely the ability to occupy space and use up air, much less actually LEAD.
Too many of our leaders are all about the current power and the future election. Too many of our leaders are looking out for themselves, rather than for the people they lead. What happened to the leader that makes sure the troops are all fed before they eat? What happened to the leader that is looking to build something long-lasting and create more jobs for more people? They’ve been replaced by the leader whose only interest is their own stock options and the quarterly earnings call, or the leader who is more offended that you don’t know their name than they are about their piss-poor voting record and lack of accomplishment.
Yes, it’s a screed, and yes, I know I’m painting with a broad brush — but my God, since when did the CEO of a non-profit make over $600,000 a year?!? And since when did tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans become something a DEMOCRAT would fall on his sword for? And since when did CEOs get celebrated for gutting their work force? And since when did we elect public servants based on how many lies they can tell and how much fear they can spread? And since when did we think it was a good idea to have corporations fund candidates and rig elections, so we can’t change things even if we finally stop watching “American Idol” and start paying attention?
Tomorrow, I will get up and go work in a campaign office. I will make calls, walk precincts, put out yard signs, and generally do the things you do to help your candidate get elected. And if the Dems elect Conway and reelect Yarmuth and get Marty Meyer to the state Senate, I will be glad.
But not today. Today, I am worried about the future of our city, our state, and our nation. And I’m not sure anything I am doing is making a difference. And THAT is the most discouraging thing of all.