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What Obama did and what I think Jesus would've
The State of the Union address, which is typically on the Tuesday before the Super Bowl, always overlaps the President’s epic speech. So after cell, I watch a recorded version of the speech and stay up late. It only kept me up until 1 a.m. this week. I enjoy the circus and I learn about leadership through the President’s example.
I need a few days to digest what the President said because this particular one is such a charismatic, confident, and in shape leader that I can’t help but be compelled. But I’ve gotta read between the lines.
Politico ran a story that basically argued that this speech, much like many others, was one big euphemism to tell the divided G.O.P. (more on that later) that their inaction was detrimental to the progress of the nation from topics ranging from health care to minimum wage to immigration. I appreciate the tact of not speaking directly, but the people who are watching the circus have such a hard time interpreting the language, that it might leave us as disillusioned as when we started. We are lost in the language and lost in the politics too.
I think Jesus was much more direct with his detractors (see Matthew 23 where Jesus notes his seven woes against the Pharisees). The problem with our nation state, is that even a 13 percent approval rating (four points higher than the all-time low of nine percent) isn’t enough to unfreeze Congress. Even Congress’ leader, John Boehner, who disagreed with much of the paralysis last year, just went with his colleagues at the expense of Americans. A real leader would side with the people he is leading and not be afraid of the political consequences. Jesus did, and it killed him.
Moreover, it seems to me that much of what the President wants to do about inequality and unemployment in the U.S. are small changes. Don’t look for FDR’s New Deal here, or LBJ’s 1964 State of the Union address leading us to act against poverty. Our conservative President plays it safe and still doesn’t get anything done (and still have a 43 percent job approval rating). This might have been the “strongest” sounding that the President has appeared in recent years—using the power of his veto (to limit sanctions against Iran) and executive order to improve the welfare of U.S. residents—but it is still basic at best.
Alternet’s Lynn Stuart Parramore outlines better measures the President could have taken, including talking about Social Security expansion, as well as increasing the minimum wage to more than just $10.10 (which still isn’t high enough). One of the issues here is that Obama simply isn’t a poor person, and never really was. When the elite hand out gratuities in the form of human rights, unemployment insurance, or even a minimum wage it reeks of entitlement and hypocrisy. Than vast majority of those in that room just aren’t connected to the issues that the President is talking about.
Jesus, on the other hand, was an outcast. He freed us by dying for us. He suffered on our behalf. He’s a liberator and a revolutionary. The Office of the President can’t work because of that.
Barry the Bomber’s foreign policy is questionable too, it’s not as hawkish as he sounded earlier in the year when he was ready to bomb Syria, but it’s still not good enough. Gitmo, the illegal no-due-process prison that the U.S. holds whomever it wants in, needed to be closed long ago. He mentioned it again. We’ll see what happens. And what about those who are suffering now and have suffered at the hands of injustice at Gitmo? You won’t even mention reparations, right?
The U.S. he said “move off the permanent war footing.” Nice language as usual, Barry, but your drone program and world policing needs improvement. It’s not as overt as your predecessor, but it feels a lot alike.
Jesus, of course, was a peace maker. Crossing boundaries, like in Mark 5, to help people become Christians and start a movement with his cultural opposites, Jesus didn’t just negotiate with his enemies, he loved them.
Obama's mistakes on huge issues are even more obvious than his foreign policy, as well. After uttering his decidedly mild domestic policies, he spoke about lubricating the path of free trade agreements. Free trade in the Americas particularly simply doesn't reduce national inequality or international working conditions. It's a no brainer, and Obama doesn't seem to care.
His hypocrisy continued when he spoke about climate change out of both sides of his moderate, but never radical (or authoritative) mouth, both rallying for climate change and alternative energy while also supporting "safe" fracking. You can't have it both ways, I suppose. Jesus makes it clear when he declares our yesses should be yesses and nos nos. In fact, if His hand was causing him to sin, Jesus would cut it off.
I suppose that why we're a church though. The state just won't do God's freeing work. So I think the church needs to do the loving and freeing. Of course, our salvation is deeper than merely human rights. So when Obama mentions wage inequality among women and the expansion of preschool as well and lack of opportunity among people of color too, the church should also respond. We need to consider the least among us and offer them a hope that not only meets physical needs but has interior results and transformation too.
Of course, despite Obama’s incompetent leadership, it seems to me like the other side of the aisle doesn’t offer the Americans much hope either. Four different responses from the same party? Is there any sort of real alternative here? Any sort of intelligent discourse? The G.O.P. is so divided, it’s not surprise that the void of leadership results in paralysis as a strategy. It’s about power and influence; it’s about money and lobbyists; corporations and the Koch brothers.
This is a nation that’s run by corporate interests, a prison and military industrial complex, and know where near a leader of the world. Certainly not one that God would bless, it seems. The greatest nation in the world, the President foolishly declared, is a lie. Even Jeff Daniels knows it.
The people of the U.S. need to be led and need relief from the Great Recession that someone is still benefiting the already richest. And it looks like they are being ignored by their leaders in a significant way.
When his disciples noted that there were hungry people among them, they too showed Democratic grace by telling Jesus that they should be sent back to a populated town to eat. You know what Jesus said to them? “You give them something to eat.” Christians need to be on the front lines of these issues—not just hoping our lawmakers and executives do it for us. Part of it is getting on our legislators backs to actually do something, but the other part is actively doing our own radical part when the state just offers us mediocrity.