Friday, March 13, 2009

News from the Midwest

I realize I've fallen off for a while, but as winter quarter winds down at the University of Chicago, I find myself with a bit more time and clarity, and so I turn first to paddywop.

Before I go any further, I thought readers would enjoy a NYT piece on something close to all our hearts:

Its not exactly breaking news for most of us, but it gives a voice to the phenomenon that has rocked nanny's and many other formerly enjoyable irish pubs.

Second, I'd like to chime in on Obama. Its been nearly two months since his term began and, as a representative of one of the most fervently Obama-supportive demographics in the country, I think a few points are worth making. First, from the day he took office, its been evident that 24 hour news programs, popular news publications, and even legitimate academic works have been scrambling (now less and less) to find ways to criticize the man. Foreign Policy's January/February edition titled, "Yes he did, but what if he can't" symbolizes what I have felt to be a beltway translation of the sentiment: "I want to elect the black man because I don't want to be a racist, but lets doubt his abilities at every step of the way." The problem here, for me at least, is not that these groups have sought to criticize Obama. In fact, I think more criticism is needed if he is going to make a substantial difference as president. But to question his ability seems to avoid the problems that still seems too touchy for mainstream america to confront, but are the ones that stand in the way of an improved US. If any one can deal with problems of massive debt, improving one's image in a community of wary dissenters, and cleaning up the mess of an ignorant white man, it should be Obama.
The other strain of dissent, one I am beginning to sympathize with, is that his optimism is getting in the way of making progress from the Bush years. In attempting to win republican support for economic measures, this guy has relaxed all of his campaign promises: from human rights stances, to military agendas, and across the litany of domestic issues that he campaigned so strongly for. Frankly, the sentiment that I'm picking up on is that this guy is listening to too many sources, too many requests, and is trying to appease too many different opinions. This is a huge problem. America is an intensely diverse country, only getting more diverse, and as a result it will become harder and harder to identify what a certain frenchman once deemed the "volonte generale." Bush did a spectacular job of confronting this problem, simply by not giving a shit. Obama seems to have appealed to some distorted Hegelian sense of improvement by embracing the polar opposite of Bush neglect, and as a result seems dragged down by a bloated forum of opinion. If any lessons are to be taken from the Bush administration, it is that the executive office can be made as powerful as it wants. Bush rewrote executive authority laws, manipulated the entire government to support his agenda, despite broad national opposition, and probably never lost a minute of sleep over it. Obama needs to forget about the image he created for himself over the last two years of campaigning, accept a few enemies, but deliver on the promises he made during the campaign, with the same type of conviction that we saw in Bush. Conviction and fortitude should not be equated (or inherently linked) with ignorance and insensitivity. Bush made this equation easy, but it does not need to be the case. If Obama continues to flop around on all the issues he seemed so sure about 3 months ago, I and my peers will be sorely disappointed. While his hyper-sensitivity is a safe move following the bush years, nothing will be worse for america than four years of an indecisive leader. I haven't written this one off, but simply noticed a few initial gestures that make this trend seem like a distinct possibility.

Finally, on a far less controversial note, I will not be returning to DC for a while: flying home for a week doesn't make as much sense anymore, given the price of flights and the tanking economy. As a result, two of my good friends and I will be spending spring break in the solitude of the Ozark mountains in southern Missouri. At heart, these two guys are certainly of Hibee quality, but in planning for the trip I had to introduce them to the necessity of Edgar Allen Poe, burning effigies, and consistently referencing pumpkin head without contextual basis. They seem positively inclined to the new measures, so I'm definitely looking forward to a great trip. Expect pictures.

1 comment:

Paddy said...

I'm still waiting for the photos ;)