December 30, 2012

Rediscovering a nation for all


We passed through another decade with a new leader just as political, as inspirational and as flawed as John F. Kennedy was in his day. In fact, Bill Clinton’s idol had been JFK. Clinton tried to arouse the spirits of a nation, just as his idol had, but he did so in a very different era. By Clinton’s day in the sun, much of America was affluent, divided, and mistrustful. We were no longer united around a common external enemy, and instead we created enemies from within.

The technological and educational foundations were established, and there were peace dividends to enjoy, which provided our nation with a modicum of affluence, hallelujah. But, our thirst for a better day diminished. Instead, we began to contemplate how to divide up an economic pie rather than seek ways to expand it for us all.

The last two presidencies, through the 2000s and 2010s, have turned out to be most divided.

As we reach the end of 2012, we remain immersed in recession and economic hardship, begun under one presidency and continued in another, that have lasted an almost unprecedented five years.

Hallelujah now takes on a different meaning. It is a sorrowful sound, one not of joy but of capitulation, a begging for divine intervention and a realization that intervention has invariably failed to arrive, even when our nation stands at economic precipices time and time again.

Our hallelujah is a refrain sung in a minor chord, a recognition that all is not possible if we can’t even sit down and agree to avert a fiscal cliff. It is the frustration our children express as the first generation to believe their lives will be worse than their parents’. It is the melancholy when the responsible among us realize we have, for too long, lived beyond our means. And yet, we kick the can farther down the road so that we may preserve our prosperity, even if our children and those yet to be born will have to pick up the tab.

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