Tuesday, January 28, 2014

One Woman's Experience--State of the Union

With the Capitol looking like a shaken snow globe, high drama unfolded across the nation on huge flat screens, computer laptops, iPads, and twenty-year-old consoles enshrined in cabinets.

I relished each moment, from the red carpet entrances to the polarized commentary on various networks afterward.

It was a long eight years under George W. Bush, so I take time to enjoy each inauguration ceremony and state of the union address by President Obama.  Who knows what the future will bring?

It's like a scene at court in Elizabethan England--trumpets, thumps of the gavel, colorful dress, and a boisterous crowd of courtiers.

This time, however, heeding a tweet from Jimmy Carter, I watched on the Fox Network and clicked my moment-by-moment responses on Bing (#BingSOTU).  Doing so cut into my pleasure, but I wanted to do my duty to counteract negative responses to the speech that might be expected of Fox viewers.


Every five seconds I clicked "Strongly Agree" to most things (exceptions: the parts about drones and about fracking).  

There was a red line representing Republican viewers, a blue line for Democrats, and a green line for independents, which mostly tracked the Republican line despite my best efforts.  (I'm a member of the Green Party--apparently not many of us were clicking away on Bing's poll.)

It was dismaying to watch the graph of the red line hover at 20% approval to most of the speech, rising to 90% approval when the President said, "Nobody gives more than our soldiers..." but falling to 5% when he said, "America's longest war will finally be over."

"We must give diplomacy a chance" was another unpopular point with the red line.  Discussing US-Iran tension, the President said "We must resolve it without the rule of war," and the red line plummeted while the blue line rose.    

Give peace a chance?  That has been unpopular ever since we chanted it in demonstrations in the 1960s.

The President did a good job.  He began with compelling individual stories and ended on a crescendo with the personal story of Cory Remsburg, wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

In between Obama moved through the areas he had planned to cover:  jobs and the economy, energy, education, financial security via MyRA and an increased minimum wage, health care, immigration reform, voting rights, gun violence, equal pay for women.

Here's a link to the full text of his speech:

Obama's diction was simple and emphatic.  The best moments came when he had earned applause and repeated the line--usually a 4-5 word sentence--several times in a loud voice above the noise of the ovation.

"Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy!" he repeated.  We have worked "to free other nations from tyranny and fear."  I wasn't so enthusiastic about that point.  Perhaps it's time to leave nations like Afghanistan alone and let them deal with their own tyranny.  

In contrast, I was puzzled by the Republican "response" speech from Cathy McMorris Rodgers.  I had to like her 4-H efforts as a child, her decision to lovingly accept her Downs Syndrome baby, and also her prayers for the nation as she ended her speech.

But in between she said some bizarre things: "So we hope the President will join us in a year of real action--by empowering people--not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes, and fewer jobs."  

Huh?  What planet is she living on?  Doesn't she know we've moved from something like 10% unemployment in 2008 to 8.1% now?



Afterward I switched to Rachel Maddow and listened to her and Rep. Tim Huelskamp trade jabs.  He called her a "cheerleader" for Obama.  She kept asking how he could accuse the president of lying in the following tweet:

Was there a diplomat in Benghazi that gave his life for his country Mr. President?

You do not agree that Chris Stephens gave his life for his country? she asked.  Huelskamp avoided an answer by launching into a tirade against Hilary Clinton and the administration.


"I can't listen to this!" I finally complained, and my daughter Roz immediately took the opportunity to switch the channel to Dance Moms.

"Politicians can't fight worth shit compared to dance moms," she commented, and yes, the vitriol and personal attacks did rival what I had heard earlier.

The prize for Most Moving Moment of the evening was the paid announcement by Gabby Giffords promoting gun control:

What is Congress afraid of?  9 out of 10 Americans support background checks.  They make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get guns.  Congress is afraid of the gun lobby.  Tell Washington it's too dangerous to wait.

Listen to it at http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/


May voices like hers be heard above the din.

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