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On a potentially fateful Wednesday, President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address. I sat back, listened to it, and mentally dismissed everything as an exaggeration or an empty promise. It took me a day to consider why I possessed this defensive mechanism.
The answer is simple: our generation essentially gained sentience (pinpointed as somewhere between middle school and growing unseemly hairs) underneath the ignorant grip of the absolute worst presidential administration in the history of our country. We have been raised on a diet of complete and utter political suspicion. George W. Bush lied to the American people about matters for which he should be imprisoned. Everyone knows that. There is proof, too. However, as a nation, we have slowly withered into apathy, cynicism, and helplessness.
Nothing capitalizes on this attitude so much as our generational love affair with The Daily Show. Jon Stewart helps us laugh at the disintegration of our country, but this laughter also builds a stubborn wall of complacency. Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, on the other hand, make people impassioned enough to run around having tea parties. So we are either too aloof to contemplate political changes or we are too angry to compromise on them.
We have heard the word “partisan” so many times that it has lost all meaning. Sure, our country is divided between people with different principles. Fine. But why the hell can’t we at least agree that the United States of America needs to get its act together? Obama doesn’t need to do anything ridiculous like move closer to the center. He hasn’t done anything remotely liberal, besides moving to prevent our country from getting taken away by the undertow of our own greed. He enforced the wonderful free market of Wall Street with some bailouts, he prevented the American auto industry from going under. If you think a Republican president would have had a better strategy, I would like to hear it. I would have especially liked to hear it at any point last year.
Obama is already in the center, but every time he moves closer to it, the Republicans move farther right. What else do they want? Guantanamo Bay is still open. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell still exists (yes, he said it would go away in his speech, but he also said that last year and the year before). Gay marriage is slowly being crushed. He renewed the Patriot Act. The Second Amendment is intact. Health care reform is in a downward spiral. The biggest problem with the idea of partisanship is that Democrats and Republicans have become totally separate entities and neither seem to have a clue about how to actually fix the country. Our democracy, like our economy, has become based on numbers instead of people. Every politician is primarily concerned with reelection. Every corporation is primarily concerned with profit. As such, risks aren’t taken and significant changes aren’t made.
Luckily for us, the two have become beautifully, sensually intertwined with the removal of corporate spending limits for elections. We won’t ever have to donate to political campaigns again, or really even worry about knowing a single, actual fact about the candidates. We have no chance at matching the unthinkable billions that corporations will be able to pour into elections. The manipulation of voters, the theft of votes, already reached an art form in 2000, but I look forward to seeing the awe-inspiring slander, subversion, and propaganda which now await us.
It is admirable that Obama can stand up at the podium and say that he has “never been more hopeful about America’s future” than on the night he condemns Democrats, Republicans, the Supreme Court, the Military, Wall Street, and his own administration for mistakes and partisan habits. That’s why he got elected- we wanted someone who made us hopeful. At least for that brief, glorious moment where we believe what he says.