He entered the House Chamber with his usual swagger. Men in suits lined the aisle alongside women wearing all red and all blue. He shook their hands, turning left and right, alternating a wide smile with a look of genuine concern — an expert politician.
Pres. Obama addressed the nation last night, offering us hope but not much else. “This can be a breakthrough year for America,” he said into the teleprompter.
He promised to fix the nation’s education system, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, pass immigration, create millions of new jobs. And he promised to tell us how he’d do it all later.
To tell you the truth, the President looks like he’s given up. Forget about 2016. The Obama presidency — with all its potential for change, all those ’08 feelings we had — is officially dead.
I don’t doubt the old man still has some fresh, progressive ideas in him. But he doesn’t think it’s worth it to deliver a rousing speech if none of it has a Muslim’s chance in Texas of ever passing through Congress, especially the House of World War Z.
As a Latino, or maybe as someone who married a DREAMer, or maybe as the son of an immigrant, I was waiting to see what the President would say on immigration reform. Back in 2008, two years after the marches began, a lot of immigrant advocates saw Obama as the solution to their worries, a savior even, who was gonna pass immigration reform in the first 100 days before moving on to resurrecting the economy, establishing marriage equality, and reversing the melting of the polar ice caps.
Oh, and making the entire world love us again.
Let’s just say things didn’t turn out as planned. Hey, we got Osama, which I guess was a top priority, though I still don’t know what that changed.
Now the President stood there and looked deflated. Maybe it’s just me, but he looked skinnier, grayer, with bags under his eyes.
He used to radiate hope. All he radiated last night was FML. And that has me radiating FML today.
Sure, his presidency hasn’t quite lived up to its promise (I don’t know who we thought we were electing in ’08). But it was easy to blame everything on the opposition. Obamans could see their man was still fighting the good fight.
Not now. Not this guy. He’s done. Battered too many times. Let down. Blamed for too much.
The President’s just trying to make it to 5 o’clock.
I could explain in full why I think the Obama administration was dead on arrival, but does it really matter? The only thing that matters is the party’s over. Whatever we thought America would become after ’08 will have to be postponed, at least for a few years, if not a long-ass time.
We live in a divided country. It’s always been that way and we’ve known it. But we didn’t realize how divided we were until we elected a black President with a weird last name. And we expected him to do everything we needed doing.
Shame on us, for not knowing the world we live in, for thinking that one day of voting entitled us to utopia. How many people complaining these days do something beyond voting?
I feel bad for the President, as you can probably tell. And I’m sure some of you will ask how I can feel bad for a chief executive who’s overseen the deportation of close to two million immigrants, some of them mothers and fathers of American-born children, some of them students, some of them decent people.
But Obama didn’t deport anyone, of course. The law did. American law, passed by American legislators, elected by the American people. We deported those immigrants. Maybe not you or me, but as members of a society, we are the reason some little boy or girl will cry themselves to sleep, and their mother or father will do the same in Juárez, Guatemala City or Tegucigalpa.
It’s difficult to accept the fact that we created this America we love to complain about. It’s crazy and scary to think that our very lives rest on the decisions made by 535 men and women, 535 who can barely shake hands much less compromise.
And we’re told America has the greatest democracy the world has ever known. I sure hope not.
So what’s the state of the union in 2014? Pretty much the same. Disunion. Some good, a lot bad. Some progress, a lot still left ahead.
We tune in every January to see what the President has to report about us, as if he might say something that we didn’t know about ourselves. We know that we’re out of work. We know that we treat women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims like second-class citizens. We know that most of our children don’t learn squat in school. We know that we pay a few people way too much while the majority gets paid way too little.
Yet we think Obama’s gonna deliver some sure-fire solutions from that podium with the eagle on it. Don’t we get it? We‘re the solution.
The state of the union is as promising or as bleak as the state of the people themselves. The nation will rise or fall with our combined effort.
And no single person, not even the President of the United States, can decide otherwise.
The sooner we understand that, the sooner we’ll stop being disappointed by these State of the Union addresses.
[Photo: White House via Wikimedia Commons]