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 V.19 No.3 | January 21 - 27, 2010 

Ortiz y Pino

The Audacity of Soap

Every morning for the past few months I’ve washed my hands with a small bar of clear soap. Embedded in the cleanser is a miniature of the now-iconic blue-and-red silkscreened portrait of President Barack Obama. Surrounding his serious visage staring resolutely into the future are the words: “The Audacity of Soap.”

When I first got this bit of campaign memorabilia—a gift from a young relative who’d poured herself unstintingly into Obama-mania, even taking weeks off from her job as an attorney to travel unpaid to other states for cold, dreary days of door-knocking and envelope stuffing—I couldn’t bear to actually use it. To do so would have been almost sacrilege.

Not now, friends; the glycerin relic is eroding faster than the president’s approval ratings. It’s almost as if, unconsciously, I can’t get rid of this embarrassing reminder of my gullibility fast enough.

The glycerin relic is eroding faster than the president’s approval ratings.

Yes, gullibility. I have to admit it now. I believed FOX News’ version of Obama as a genuine redistributor of wealth. I should have listened to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s characterization instead. The president's a politician.

Wright nailed it. And instead of rejecting his explanation of the man he’d come to know so well as mere sour grapes, I should have recognized the validating evidence that was piling up through the long campaign. The signs were all there; I simply wanted to believe in something else so badly I didn’t pay attention.

The president’s actions have made his rhetorical campaign buzzwords “hope” and “change” seem like sarcasm, not inspiration.

Take health care reform, for example. Looking back, I have to acknowledge that Obama the candidate never promised single-payer health care. That’s what FOX and the Republicans told us he was talking about. That’s also what many Americans keenly desire. So we heard what we wanted to hear, not what he said.

The president’s actions have made his rhetorical campaign buzzwords “hope” and “change” seem like sarcasm, not inspiration.

Obama didn’t mislead us about his intentions. Reviewing his words on the stump a year later, I admit that. So why does it feel like he’s betrayed a pledge? Why does it feel like he’s now willing to settle for a pathetic pile of crumbs instead of the elegant multilayered confection of a cake I was anticipating?

Because Obama the campaigner was so impressive, displaying humor, sincerity, intelligence and eloquence. I figured Obama the president would be what I have craved since Kennedy was taken from us without fulfilling his promise: a leader who would accomplish the improbable, bring the nation together, heal our wounds, push us back on course.

Unfortunately, the reality has fallen short of those unrealistic expectations. He hasn’t lived up to my fondest aspirations. He has proven to be as locked into the Washington Beltway mentality as some of my friends warned me he would be. He has relied on the same tired, discredited arguments that originally got us into the economic and international morasses he seems incapable of ever extricating us from. He is not, in sum, either savior or Superman.

And yet ...

There is still that eloquence. There is still that humor and that intelligence. There is still that refreshing willingness to listen to all sides before making a decision.

So, there may still be hope—but only if there is ever actually change. He has three more years before this term ends. If there is to be a second go-round for him, he will have to show us real change. He cannot, as George W. Bush once tried to explain, “Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me ... You can't get fooled again.”

His speech to the nation about his decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan was not an encouraging indicator. There were all his best attributes on display, the clarity, the persuasiveness, the logic that never seemed within his predecessor’s grasp. For all that glitter, the content was dismayingly familiar and the conclusions depressingly trite: We wage war in a foreign land so we will be safe from attack.

Please. Spare us. That was a one-term president speaking. We have to demand more of him than that if we are expected to renew the contract.

There should be clear signals that this president is willing to move outside of the roadmap to oblivion he has followed so far. He will have to jettison the economic team he has tortured us with so far, pull the plug on the health insurance companies’ gravy train, get our troops out of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Somalia and Iraq and wherever else the oil companies have pushed us. And do it fast.

Start paying attention to Latin America instead. The days of the military dictatorships could be back in a hurry if we don’t send strong signals that overthrowing democratically elected governments (such as the coup in Honduras) won’t be tolerated.

Oh yeah, and one other thing: Sign the blasted international treaty outlawing land mines. We are now the only nation to resist signing it. How pathetic. If you can’t do that, Mr. President, how can we ever get tricked into supporting you again?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail jerry@alibi.com.

 
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