In the weeks before Obama’s stirring speech in St. Paul, we had word that both John McCain and Barack Obama were in excellent health. McCain seems to show no evidence of a recurrence of the melanoma that led to surgery in 2000, and Obama shows no ill effects from the years he was smoking. Uh, cigarettes.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, didn’t need a checkup. Everybody had a clear read on her physical fitness just by observing the way she held both the Democratic Party and the media up over her head as they pressed down with their insistence that she give up on the primary process and ignore the support she’d been given by the people. But that was then…
Each candidate is enjoying excellent health and that’s comforting, but… what about the fitness of the voters? At first glance, that seems to bode well also. Record turn-out for primary voting, exuberant support for candidates at rallies, scores of younger voters emotionally invested in backing Obama, a seemingly endless appetite for coverage of the coming election: It looks like we’re in pretty good health as voters.
But in the same way we brandish our cholesterol and body fat numbers over an otherwise enjoyable meal, we might look at more specific indicators of the shape we’re in now and for the months past November.
Americans have come to accept that larger pants and tails-out t-shirts are fine for everyday wear as a means of accommodating the added weight that seems here to stay. Similarly, many often seem ready to integrate much of what happens to the nation with a kind of “What can you do?” shrug. Yes, there’s great zeal, and properly so, about Obama’s candidacy. But the war, prices, money draining from entitlements, hand-to-mouth exigencies for public schools, and global warming: Are we in shape to continue fighting long after the potential ebullience of this election and the installation of a new President? Obama gives us a youthful, vital fresh start; the man’s not a magician.
It’s a pretty good bet there will be fresh death in Iraq during the very moments our new leader is being sworn in. We understand that bringing the Iraqi violence and our involvement in it to an end won’t happen just by changing the personnel in the White House. But do we have the stamina, the marathon training if you will, to keep up the pressure and get that done?
Due to the length and weaponry of this war, there will be thousands of maimed and injured American soldiers requiring our sustained support long after the ink on our bumper stickers has faded. Do we have the strength in our own midsections to support those costs and never let these courageous people down?
I have a relative who can’t seem to shake an addiction to diet cola. Diet cola is always around, it’s sold in humongous plastic bottles that make it seem harmless by merit of its ubiquity, and only a noisy few ever question the steady consumption of the stuff. All that makes it hard to kick.
We’re in about the same place with oil. We know it’s hurting us, especially if one subscribes to the notion that money spent at the pump eventually provides resources to those killing our soldiers in Iraq. But we can’t seem to quit it. As voters and citizens, are we fit and energetic enough to do what needs doing to get us off oil? Look at how corporations have already mobilized against corn as an alternative fuel, spreading fear about a corn shortage that takes food from children and puts it in gas tanks. Vision is blurry when someone is spinning you around by your ankles.
“Teeth Gritted, Drivers Adjust To $4 Gasoline” reads a New York Times headline. Really? Are you “adjusted”? I’m still “adjusting” to the fact that there weren’t any WMD’s. Does that mean I’m obsessing rather than “adjusting”? Will we be adjusting to Medicare coming up empty because of the malfeasance of Bush/Cheney in draining our surplus? What dial setting should we adjust to if public education simply disappears from lack of resources?
Back where I grew up, a popular summer conversation starter is the somewhat rhetorical inquiry “Hot enough for ya?” I would offer that the heat wave, global warming-related or otherwise, has just begun. A new administration will help us. But just as flying on airliners has become an almost Do-It-Yourself proposition, so are we going to be compelled as voters and citizens to do more of the actual work. We’ll need to stay sharp, watch what we ‘eat’ in terms of where we get our news and who is serving it up, and avoid fatigue. The war has run long; that’s no excuse to quit being angry about it. The election feels long to some, causing moronic speculation that we should all be getting tired of it. Who are these people insisting that we should whimper about our democratic process? To steal from Nixon, now more than ever… we must not get flabby or weak. Our workout is far from over.