Kadner: In love with a virtual reality
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org January 21, 2013 4:56PM
The 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue from Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday,Jan. 21,2013, following President Barack Obama's ceremonial swearing-in ceremony during the 57th Presidential Inauguration. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated: February 23, 2013 6:27AM
For many years, I have been in a virtual relationship, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been duped.
Many people had warned me this could happen. I did not believe them. I was a smart, cynical person.
We seemed to have so much in common when this romance began — compassion for the less fortunate, a love of children, an enthusiasm for political debate and a beautiful vision of the future.
“She’s not to be trusted,” many people said.
“All she wants is your money,” whispered others.
And some very close friends told me that this ideal match was just wishful thinking.
“It’s just a hoax,” I was told more than once.
And I’m beginning to wonder if they were right.
Watching the presidential inauguration Monday, hearing about the parade, the grand balls, the celebrities and the millions of dollars spent on the lavish celebration, I felt the Lady Liberty I had come to believe in may never have existed.
Millions of Americans have lost their homes through foreclosure. Millions of others have lost their jobs or their life savings since the Great Recession began four years ago.
Yet in Washington, D.C., in the place where all the political power resides, nothing seems to have changed.
There are fewer inaugural balls this year than in 2009, when Barack Obama first took office, but still the atmosphere seemed festive.
That just struck me as wrong.
Not only have people suffered economically, but American soldiers have died in combat or suffered crippling injuries.
Thousands of people in foreign countries we have occupied have lost their lives — and not all of them were our enemies.
The object of my affection, the country I thought I knew, wouldn’t see any of that as a cause for celebration.
Have I been lied to?
No, comes the reply, followed by more promises of caring for the elderly, the economically disadvantaged and immigrants who come seeking a better way of life. Nothing has changed.
But that doesn’t seem quite true.
Democrats and Republicans seem to have forgotten they are supposed to serve and protect the citizens of this country, just like neighborhood cops. Instead, they go around to the old folks spreading fear.
“Your Social Security is going to be taken away,” say some.
Others talk about government death panels that will murder the old people.
And if that isn’t enough to cause them sleepless nights, there are the warnings that “there won’t be anything left for your grandchildren.”
Oh, this is a rotten thing to do to older people and not at all what I expected.
But what did I expect? Looking back, the promises made were vague to say the least.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ...
What did those words really mean?
We agreed to speak our minds, to say whatever we wanted without fear of reprisal. But there was no promise that anyone had to listen.
There was a fiery passion early in the relationship. Everything was possible. The sky was the limit.
In fact, we dreamed of worlds beyond the clouds, of visiting the moon, Mars and the stars.
Now, every discussion gets bogged down in arguments over money.
I don’t believe in penny pinching, especially when it comes to the important stuff like housing, health care and education. But I don’t like wasting money either.
Spending it frivolously on things like lavish parties, handing out money to people who drive expensive cars or investing in weapons just in case the end of the world arrives seems like a waste.
“We’re in this together,” I believe I was told more than once.
And during some really hard times, that seemed to be true. A genuine crisis seemed to unite us in ways that I will never forget.
But now, keeping the relationship alive seems like drudgery.
What do I really know about this country that I love?
The idea it represents. There are certainly opportunities here for people that do not exist in much of the world.
If nothing else, the success of Barack Obama ought to illustrate that.
It’s funny, in an odd way, how the very things that have made his life a great American story have provided ammunition for those who find his policies offensive.
Where was he born? What do we know about his youth? How could someone who seemingly came out of nowhere rise to the most powerful position in the world?
I guess that might seem sinister if you didn’t have a clue about the promise America has always made to those with ambition. Obama personifies the great promise of America fulfilled.
And yet the petty bickering escalates, and long-simmering disputes erupt in angry denunciations.
Sometimes I feel like a child in a home where the parents are constantly fighting and never seem to notice the harm it’s doing to those who live with them.
Each side may have a valid point. But I just want the fighting to stop. I want the real threats addressed and the problems fixed.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds ...”
That’s from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
The country was not yet ready to bind its wounds, but Lincoln had a vision that was greater than reality itself.
It’s the vision to see beyond the reality of today that makes great men and great countries.
I still believe in that. It seems silly, I know. But I am, after all, a man in love.