Among all his notable fables, Aesop's most well-known is 'Androcles and the Lion.' The story of the escaped slave who, while seeking shelter in a cave, comes upon a dying lion. Starving and wounded, the lion cannot fight off the slave and expects to be slain, or worse, left to die in slow agony. Androcles, instead of killing the lion, chooses to assist the lion in it's recovery, by removing a thorn, forcing out the puss from the wound and using a piece of his tattered clothes to bandage the wound.
For his services, Androcles asks nothing of the lion, save that he not be bitten in the process of the operation. The lion, stomach growling with hunger (the thorn having forestalled his ability to hunt) and not understanding that he can be healed, trusts in the young slave and suppresses his instinct to kill while Androcles is in striking distance, tending to the wound.
The lion and the slave soon depart ways, with the lion promising, "not to forget his kind deed." And so it was, as I pause this story to start our own.
Winter of 2008 saw a fierce political battle for the Presidency taking place between a popular woman, with a household name, Hillary Clinton and a seemingly over-matched, out-resourced upstart, with a gift for communicating, Barack Obama.
Each, in it's own right, had merits that an engaged electorate found beguiling. The problem flowered from the fact that we couldn't have both. Over the Spring their battles continued, and come Summer, America decided that "experience and comfort in the known" would have to take a back-seat to the excitement and endless possibility of "change." America, rightly, saw the challenges that (then) lay ahead for our country were of a different variety, requiring a bold new direction, under the un-tethered stewardship of a truly visionary leader. Barack Obama, seemed to be more of that mold and so, would represent the Democratic Party in the Presidential election.
He would accept his nomination, with great reception, on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech," a prospect the national media did not allow to go the least bit unnoticed.
The winds shifted, trees yellowed and, as migratory animals began their long journeys to new horizons, "hope" and "change" was pregnant and omnipotent. Autumn, for us, brought with it, a collapse of the world Financial Markets, the expose' of a Housing Crisis which had been suffering for more than two years, massive job loss and revelations of an economy that had been in a recession for 11 months without anyone in the government feeling the need to tell the American people.
These revelations, never mind the two wars America were fighting, and other problems extant before the Autumnal collapse, stoked the electorate into a frenzy. The long-held belief in America's unwillingness to elect a person of African-descent went out the window, as all came to understand, these were historically bad times for our country -the best man had to win.
Then-Senator Obama, led the Democratic Platform, of putting forth a bold strategy of bringing all things into order once more, by reaching out to embrace "new ideas," developing the country's "latent talent pool" and facing down "those who dare say America's best days are not in front of us."
What Obama and the Democrats put on the table was an exchange that appeared to be insatiable:
- Universal Health care,
- Job Creation and Protection,
- Sensible Climate Legislation,
- De-Escalation in Afghanistan,
- Bringing the Iraq War to an end,
- Closing Gitmo Prison,
- Ending Rendition,
- Equality for ALL citizens
- Repeal of the worst parts of the Patriot Act
- Massive investment in our nations schools
- Reducing the cost of College Tuition
- Huge Investment in Clean Renewable energy platforms
- Using the Justice Department to "go after those that perpetrated" the Wall Street collapse
- Help homeowners stay in their homes and stem the tide of evictions
- and Other Shit
The Democrats needed only one thing from you, the electorate. That one thing was your vote. If you would just entrust the country to them. If you could just get out an knock on your neighbor's door. If you could just pick that old guy up at the end of the block and drive him to the polls. If you could do these things, the DEMOCRATS HAD A SHOT AT 60 SEATS IN THE SENATE, which would make all the initiatives "UNSTOPPABLE."
You delivered, and resoundingly so!
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.
With a 60 seat Super-Majority in the U.S. Senate, a filibuster-proof majority in the House and the ability to choose the heads of every Cabinet position, President Obama and the Democratic Leadership IMMEDIATELY turned their back on the throngs of people who had fought so hard to elect them. Instead they would begin building ties to those entrenched, (and thanks to the public's outrage) fearful elements of America's Corporatocracy.
Overnight, President-Elect Obama started filling his Cabinet with old Washington re-treads, the very lobbyists he said "needed to be run out of town," Executives from the Wall Street banking houses that caused the world-wide panic and, most-egregiously, Republicans.
If this President wanted to give away half the positions in the Executive Branch to Republicans, why did he not choose a Republican for a running-mate? He didn't even choose a Conservative Democrat. He chose Joseph Biden, a died-in-the-wool, die-hard, no-doubt-about-it Democrat. This was done because the President and his advisers knew, everyone was fed up with the way things were going and wanted blood.
He did this because Republicans were who the established Corporate bosses felt comfortable with, but President Obama sold it as his "being President of all of America, not just the blue states."
At a time when Republicans "enjoyed" 21% approval rating, the President's actions could be easily confused with fortitude. With the scope of time on our side, we can rule that out because he not to use that same "fortitude" to go to bat on Universal Health Care, a proposal 64% of the country agrees with.
There are many who foretold of a weak Obama Presidency from the very first moment. This is an ELECTION NIGHT clip of Green Party Presidential Candidate, Ralph Nader. You need not listen to the entire 10 minutes of the clip, thought there is much insight to be gained. Within the first 7:00, Nader lays out, point by point, an EXACT prelude into how this President and this Democratic Congress would sprint, away from all it's platform issues and, towards adopting the entire George W. Bush policy playbook, in it's entirety.
Please take a moment to watch:
As Nader predicted , President Obama has embraced the very worst of his predecessor's policies: Renditioning, Gitmo still open, Patriot Act expanded, allowing lobbyist's to write legislation, cozying up to Wall Street and, in his announcement of escalating the Afghanistan War, using the events of September 11, 2001 from the bully pulpit. Additionally, Nader correctly predicted that his (or any other) criticism would be met with the refrain, "Give him time."
For so many (aka, every person planet earth), news of President Obama not just not living up to his promise, but actually becoming a principle of the long Washington nightmare, is a bitter pill to swallow. But I, Androcles, am attempting to pull this thorn from the paw of an ailing, thoroughly confused, slumbering electorate.
No matter what else happens in the coming months:
- Health Care will be not much different from what it is now for 98% of the population. If you cannot afford health insurance now, you will not be able to afford health insurance under the new plan. Health insurance premiums will continue to rise. Coverage will continue to be denied, unabated.
- Big Financial institutions will continue to grow, unfettered. While the small, independently-owned lending institutions are allowed to fail at a historic rate.
- Families will continue to lose their homes, while legislation continues to be "worked on" and "looked into" for debt forgiveness of mortgage-holding banks and the employees at these companies are paid with record billions in bonuses.
- Young Men and Women in our Armed Forces will continue to die on foreign soil. Call it a surge, an boost or what ever you want, but, fearless as they are, America's youth is best served by being home with their families during these tough times.
- Untold tens of millions of people will continue to fruitlessly look for work, while the stroke of a pen (and a reported $480 million of unspent Stimulus Package monies) could create jobs overnight for so many Americans and assist in bringing our nation's crumbling infrastructure up to 21st century standards.
- Energy costs will continue to rise. The national average for a gallon of gas on President Obama's Inauguration Day was $1.76, largely on the concerns that new energy strategies were in the offing. Today that price has risen to $2.59, an increase of 47%.
- Scores of children continue to attend inferior schools, with inferior supplies. Some must attend under the threat of losing their lives, with the President's home town of Chicago losing nearly 40 students to violent murders in the 13 months since the election.
I can go on and on, but I think with my having provided enough facts here to crush all rose-tinted lenses, the thorn from the electorate's paw has been removed.
In Aesop's story the Roman slave Androcles is saved when, after being captured and led to the Colosseum for slaughter, the lion he healed back when refuses to kill him and escorts him from the arena instead.
In our story, with so many people holding this President in such high esteem, I keep the words of the 10th-century Iraqi poet, Al-Mutanabbi, close at heart:
"If you see the teeth of the lion, do not think that the lion is smiling at you"
Mostly, because a lot of you will not be happy about the service I have just provided.