Tears for Fears


ObamaTears
President Barack Obama wipes away a tear during his farewell address, January 10, 2017. (WH.gov)

“Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.”
– President Barack Obama, from his farewell speech, January 10, 2017

There was sobbing, actual wailing, in homes all across America, Tuesday night, including mine. President Barack Obama’s poignant and touching farewell address may have been the backdrop for this river of sorrow, but it wasn’t his poetic words, or the sunset of his challenging presidency, or even Malia wiping tears from her eyes or the president when he dried his own.

When the speech was over and the lights came up in McCormick Place, and President Obama moved slowly through the room, thanking each of the smart, dedicated, civically minded people who had given all they had to his administration and election races, the reason for the melancholy became clear. This wasn’t about what we’re losing, but what we are left with.

As someone who has had to mourn too often, I know the waves of sorrow that pound at the heart like a storm surge washing away a dune, eating and coming back to feast again and again, until all that’s left is the indestructible, the warm memories of what was lost.

This is not that kind of crying, that kind of aching absence of a lost parent. This is not solely about what is gone. It is about the terrifying uncertainty of what is to come. It is about a government being presided over by a fool who follows the advice of oligarchs, evangelicals and dominionists, each with their own Machiavellian agenda, whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

Like the Persian king of old, he is guided by vanity, ego and conquest (sexual and otherwise). It is how he values himself among men, to rise above them.

There is a period for mourning, but there comes a time when we must stop our sadness and empower each other to go on – not to “get over it,” as the more strident of our fellow Americans ridiculously insist , but – to  face the inevitable future, as challenging as it may be for our country and values.

“We have everything we need to meet those challenges,” the president said. “After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people.”

The challenge is whether to be numb with fear in the face of a possible religious and/or cultural dystopia, or to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against those who would make it so. I choose the latter, because it is our right and, as I see it, our duty to make the world, our world, our neighbors’ world, better.

The promise of our democracy can be fulfilled, Obama went on, “only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.”

“Our founders,” he said, “knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”

We are citizens, after all, and not subjects. This country and its leaders belong to us.

“It falls to each of us,” the president admonished, “to be those those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen.”

The sadness must and will fade with time, so damn the past! Every fight we engage in now is for our future.

We will be loud, but civil. We will fight for our neighbors when their rights as Americans are trampled. We will, as President Obama said, be vigilant.

And because I know you’ve been humming this ever since you read the header, a bit of Everybody Wants to Rule the World:
“It’s my own desire, it’s my own remorse.
Help me to decide.
Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world.”

-PBG

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DNC rules change leaves Lessig out of 2016 Democrat debates, forced to leave the race


Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig has ended his nascent bid to become the Democrats’ nominee for president, despite some remarkable fundraising and outreach. Citing the Democratic National Committee’s last minute rules change for qualifying to get into the party’s next debate, Dr. Lessig says he is at a distinct disadvantage, one he sees no way of overcoming.

It seems Lessig realized that his anti-corruption, get money out of politics theme could not catch on with voters if he couldn’t get his time along side the other candidates.

“I may be known in tiny corners of tubes of the Internets,” he admitted in a video released Monday, “but I am not well known to the American public, generally. Our only chance to make this issue central to the 2016 presidential election, was to be in those debates.”

Lessig blames the DNC because they changed how far back the polling had to go to be included in the show. After originally saying they would go back to polling in the six weeks leading up to the debate, which would be October 10th, they decided last week to modify the criterion as at least six weeks before the debate.

“Under this new rule, I am just shut out,” he said

People who have been paying attention to Democratic polls will note that even though Vice President Joe Biden, who never announced he would run, was included in those polls, Dr. Lessig was left out.

“Unless we can time travel,” he says, “there is no way that I can qualify.”

Lessig’s endeavor began with a bang, promising to run only if his crowdfunding website could raise a million dollars by Labor Day, which it did, with no problem. But, arguably, it was the nature of his original campaign that doomed it from the start.

When he first announced his run, Lessig promised he would stay in office only long enough to get his pet issue, getting money out of the political process, passed into law. Once that was done, he said, he would resign. He called it “A Referendum to Restore Democracy.”

“The candidate is the referendum,” he explained in his August announcement. “The campaign is for that referendum.”

Not surprisingly, there were more than a few who found the strategy doubtful. He finally realized that himself, telling Bill Maher, last month, on his HBO series, Real Time, “Yeah, that was stupid. That was totally stupid,” and, he added, in obeisance to the party, “Like my daughter would say, ‘Fine. You win. I withdraw that promise.'”

It took a few more days for his name to show up in the polling. By then, under the DNC rule change, it was too late.

Still, Lessig insists he will continue the fight to fix our democracy. “We can’t solve any of the problems that this nation must address,” he said, like climate change and Wall Street reform, “until we fix the crippled and corrupted institution of Congress first.”

The fight’s not over. As usual, the people must lead.

-PBG