I watched the State of the Union last night, as I always do. Call it what you will; patriotic duty, curiosity, or simply respect for the office, something that is in short supply it seems, no matter who is the occupant. Most times, they are boring, rather non-descript, and little more than a boring class that has become mandatory for members of Congress and “barely watch” television for the rest of us. There are the obligatory applause pauses, and the concerned looks by the “other side” as the President calls for certain initiatives, programs, or things to be done as if everyone was handed a script beforehand and told when to engage in their antics.
Some have stated that the State of the Union address has no business being done at all in a Democratic Republic such as ours (we are NOT a democracy) as it is a nod to the once powerful kings and queens who addressed their own Parliaments, a holdover of something this nation threw off long ago. Others insist it is simply for show and has long outlived its usefulness other than to fuel the partisan flames that burn so bright.
For my part, the opportunity to watch the President interact with the entire congressional body is something that I look forward to. To see how they respond to him, (and eventually her), to observe their body language, and listen to their reactions gives me a barometer of sorts as to the relationship between the two bodies of government.
In this particular State of the Union, it was going to prove even more interesting as an impeached President was going to address at least half the body that did the impeaching, with the protagonist, Nancy Pelosi, sitting directly behind him, and next to the Vice-President. Kabuki theatre at its finest, and a moment that was not to be missed.
There were the usual theatrics, the introduction of the President by the Sargent at Arms, which I always find interesting, a sort of harken back to the 18th
century, when decorum mattered, and tradition ruled the day. We got a glimpse of what was to come with the no-handshake of Speaker Pelosi by the President (he didn’t shake the VP’s hand either), and the breach of protocol when Speaker Pelosi did not do the complete honorarium, but what proceeded to transpire over the next seventy minutes I found more interesting, and frankly, rather disturbing.
Go back. Listen to the entire speech. I mean, really listen to it, your partisan hat off if only for a few moments. Our brains are wired such that my request is difficult, I know. Our bias is hardwired, a sort of instinct that we’ve not yet suppressed, but give it a try anyway. Tell me, what did you hear? Here is what I heard: A speech that was accurate, uplifting, and quite frankly, American to the core. It praised the President’s accomplishments with the economy, defending American interests abroad, defeating heinous terrorists, and forcing our allies to uphold their end of the bargain and start paying their fair share of their own defense.
He recognized a true American hero, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, General Charles McGee, pledged to protect social security and Medicare, comforted a mother and son who lost their father in the service of our nation, and reunited a family, one of the great moments in State of the Union history, when a serviceman was brought home for this night to be reunited with his wife and family.
He talked of our economic recovery, lowest unemployment for black Americans, Hispanic Americans and women. He praised the bi-partisan work on prison reform, and spoke of the rising wages for American workers as industry is returning, something we were told would never happen unless we waved a magic wand. Listen, without interruption or wearing your partisan hat.
Now, contrast that with some of the antics displayed. The non-handshake of Nancy Pelosi by the President (I’m not sure I would have shaken her hand either with all of the shenanigans going on the last couple of years), the tear up of the President’s speech by Speaker Pelosi, with her afterwards saying that it was full of lies which is why she did it, and the walkouts by members of the Democratic Party. I am forced to wonder what would have been written had Paul Ryan torn up President Obama’s speech, or if Republicans walked out mid-speech.
While Rush Limbaugh, like him or hate him, is truly a towering figure in radio, I’m not sure that I would give him the Congressional Medal of Freedom at the SOTU. It just seemed over the top to me, and almost as though just a bit of salt was being rubbed into the wounds of democrats. It was a television moment to be sure, and one that in my opinion went a little over the top. Then again, the President does know marketing and it was an opportunity.
As I’ve written about before, and quite plainly, what bothers me the most is the chasm that exists between the parties at the present, and while the main stream media prefers to lay that division at the foot of the President, I don’t agree. Count the articles written about him. Go to any news site you want that purports to be objective. How many are positive versus how many are negative? You will find a dominant number to the negative, almost to the point of ridiculousness. No one is that incompetent, absolutely no one.
Further, it seems that the democrats, while wanting to win back the White House, are adding fuel to that fire. Not clapping at clear bi-partisan success, women’s wages and employment being one example, is proof of that. Rashida Tlaib and Ilan Omar not standing for one of the great American heroes in General Charles McGee? At this point, I’m not sure they care about this country at all, deferring to their ethnicity and religious affiliations before our nation. Come to think of it, I’ve not heard either one of them address any policy issues other than the non-funding of Israel, or, as Tlaib herself said at a campaign rally, “We’re going to impeach that MF’er.” No one should snub a man who, in a time of deep racial bias and segregation, was willing to sacrifice his life for a place he had every reason to hate. There should be nothing but support, applause, and genuine admiration, no matter who the President is.
The fact is that we’ve had these deep partisan divisions for a while, and since the election of the President in 2016, they have gotten worse. Partially by his doing, his tweets, and his sometimes ridiculous statements, and I would suggest more so by the mainstream media who, almost to a person, can find nothing positive about this President, and by proxy, this country. The SOTU was proof positive of that, and in spades. When a group of people cannot applaud the positive accomplishments of an administration that affect the entire nation as a whole, that is a sign of a deep seated problem, and one that may not be able to be healed.
To be sure, there have been partisan divisions in our nation for as long as it’s been around. President George Washington warned us of such party divisions in his farewell speech in 1799. I urge you to read it for it is truly insightful. He told us that it will be the demise of the country, when party becomes more important than nation. Last night’s SOTU was proof positive that President Washington was right. Party should never trump the best interests of the nation, and while both sides have their preferred method of getting us to their version of the promised land, the proof was laid bare before us.
History has demonstrated on more than one occasion that partisan divides do little to further a nation. In fact, once that split has occurred, it is almost impossible to heal, leading to a festering of the wound and the ultimate dissolution of the state, for it is not the politicians that the populace has to concern itself with, but rather the population itself. Politicians, in order to take advantage of said division will foster its growth, and widen the chasm as far as it will go in order to take advantage of the unrest. They are the ones that benefit from partisanship the most, fanning the flames of division while they secure their position securely attached to the government teat. They laugh at us, mock us behind closed doors and line their pockets at our expense. How else does one explain a wonton willingness to keep national divisions festering while the nation’s infection of division worsens.
John Locke, a 17th
century philosopher, and the man who gave words to Thomas Jefferson as he fashioned the Declaration of Independence postulated that people are reasonable and therefore should have the right to govern themselves. Locke was right if the assumption is that the people cared enough about the nation itself rather than their own partisan strongholds to do what is right for the whole. I fear that in the end, we are not that intelligent after all. We eat what we’re fed politically, and what we are being fed is division, helplessness, and hatred. We’ve forgotten the essential ideal that this nation was founded upon…WE THE PEOPLE.
In the end, we are the source of all political power in this nation, as long as we remember that and are unwilling to give it up to those that would seek to control us and secure their positions on our backs. Should we allow that to happen as it seems we are, we do so at our own peril, or more bluntly at our children’s. Be objective, see things for what they are, not through the lens of what others wish you to see. Let us start thinking for ourselves and not be swayed by demonstrations of paper tearing, a calculated attempt to drive opinion and appeal to emotion. If we are to continue to prosper, then we must hold our elected officials to a standard that is better than partisan, and essentially childish bickering. We must be the ones to tell them “enough”, and we must do it soon.