Monday, 12 May 2014

Dream Big/Work Hard

            You have to wonder about the vitriolic regard in which President Obama is held by big business.

            After all, the man bailed out Wall Street with the Troubled Asset Relief Program when the financial services sector almost wrecked the whole economic system. Toss in the fact that he went to bat for the now thriving American car industry when many said it should be abandoned and you’d imagine the captains and the kings would be nominating him for capitalist canonization.

            Stock prices are at, or near, an all time high, as are corporate profits and upper management remuneration. Productivity is just humming along now that fewer employees are doing more work for the same paychecks.

            Large companies are sitting on mountains of cash with no requirement, or incentive, to reinvest in job training; besides which, they can park foreign profits outside the country until the cows come home without threat of taxation.

            The Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act has been, at most, a minor irritant and has done little to prevent Wall Street cowboys from once again riding the financial range. With Hillary Clinton waiting in the wings for coronation, a real reformer like Elizabeth Warren will have to wait at least another six years to make a run for the roses.

            So what exactly is the problem with Barack Obama? Could it be race? It’s hard to imagine given that the US boasts a remarkably integrated society. Turn on your TV – look at sports, entertainment, even weather forecasting, African-Americans are well represented – at least on the surface.

            But recently while talking to a middle-aged, well-to-do, white gentleman the subject of the president arose. After suffering through the standard, “He’s out to turn the country into goddamn Cuba” diatribe, the real reason for his distaste emerged: “I hate the way he lectures me.”

            That statement left me perplexed. Does Barack Obama lecture more than his predecessors? If anything he’s quite cautious in his pronouncements, and logical to an extreme. 

Perhaps the gentleman preferred the “bomb ‘em first, talk later” credo of President Bush or “explain to them until they’re blue in the face then they’ll leave you the hell alone” stratagem of President Clinton.

Or could it be that he just doesn’t like a black man running the show?

            I realize that this is not exactly a comfortable suggestion; but cut me some slack I’ve been laboring for a couple of years on a musical about the intricacies of race during the New York City Draft Riots of 1863.

            Race was a tortuous subject back then and it’s lost none of its capacity to engage, embarrass and annoy; and yet it’s safe to say that, for the most part, the US does its best to deal fairly with this extremely complex issue.

            After all, we did elect a black president and we’ve largely gone about our business paying him the normal amount of heed or lack of attention that we devote to any politician. I believe that’s because Barack Obama is no 50 Cent or Mike Tyson; rather he’s a paid up member of the Ivy League clique that perennially rules the country.

            And yet, there’s a resistance to this moderate, cautious man that seems to go far beyond normal ideological differences. Perhaps, it’s an unease with the history of the country – for there’s no denying that some of the Founding Fathers were slave owners, while the first union of states could only be achieved by putting the moral issue of slavery on the long finger.

            Or could it be that the resistance to Barack Obama is merely symptomatic of the discomfort that follows a barrier being broken – as happened with the election of Jack Kennedy, the first Catholic president.

            Despite any beefs I might have with this black president over his caution and pragmatism, I recognize that he’s still a symbol of the greatness of the country; moreover, he’s an inspiration to all races, classes and creeds, that if you dream big and work hard enough you or your children could one day become president too.

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