Watching the President of the United States give a State of the Union address is often like watching a peacock strut. Its head projects forward with each step, and its splayed feathers say “Look at me. I’m tall. I’m beautiful. I have it all. I did it all.” The President usually lists an embellished log of accomplishments and forecasts a list of unreasonable – if not unachievable – expectations. Then Congress comes back and peacocks what it has done. The President and Congress, like the peacock, claim they can do everything – but fly. In fact, the peacock struts because it can’t fly. Well, this week, the President flew as Congress attempted to strut. President Barack Obama laid out the reality of our nation, his accomplishments despite obstruction, in front of Congress and the nation. He did it in real time, in virtual reality, in jaw-dropping fashion.
The 2012 State of the Union offered a vast contrast to the picture of the nation the Republican candidates running in the GOP primaries have painted. The President offered a different picture of the nation’s political and social realities than the Congress has held up. The American people don’t know what to think about the state of its nation and the mental state of its leaders because they get a different spin from all directions. Nothing is good enough. Nothing is right. The other party is always wrong. Reality is never real. And as the nation witnessed in 2011, the Congress is delusional.
However, the week…the nation got a true dose of reality. Now, I’m not saying that I agreed with everything the President laid out…particularly about the Iran piece. I believe he’s being walked into a trap on that tip…but I do believe he is trying to construct a virtual reality for the type of government we currently have and the limitations its poses when you have ideologues and millionaires running the government who have distorted realities about the socio-economic conditions in which most people live in our nation.
The President held up a mirror to Congress this week. Hopefully it was as ugly to them as it has been to the rest of us. Congress has painted itself into a corner, largely because the ideologues don’t understand the role of government beyond self-interested motives and rhetorical retraction.
Rhetorical retraction simply means they think they have to move backwards to take the nation forward. We know its empty rhetoric. They know its empty rhetoric and the President showed it was empty rhetoric.
The politics of political gamesman was really the subject of the State of the Union. That is the state of the union, virtually. In a very literal sense, the President laid out what has been, what is, and what could have been had Congress not played with the lives of the American people.
He asked Congress what reality are they looking at – what reality do they really see? Is it the same one as the American people, or is it a contrived reality for the privileged and the socially impolitic. Both, of course, represent what the GOP is presenting as their best options to Obama in Romney and Gingrich. The President called for Congress to be fair to the American people. The GOP wants to just be fair to the rich. What they are calling “class warfare,” as the President noted, the rest of the nation calls “common sense.”
For most us, common sense is virtual reality, what is in the here and now…not a contrived one. What Americans need, here and now, is a more responsive government to address problems specific to the needs of its citizens. Hopefully, the nation heard the President and will return to its virtual senses and a common reality of what’s best for all of us. Not just a few of us.