Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production


© 2014, UrbisMedia

© 2014, UrbisMedia

I promised myself I would not subject what was left of my audacity of hope to President Obama’s most recent State of the Union Address. I almost made it. I found a movie on one of the few channels that wasn’t carrying it and I managed, except for a few quick peeks to make it nearly to the end. I glimpsed enough to notice that it was a lot of the now Obama “same old”; the lofty rhetoric followed by the promise of half-measures, this time in service of running the gamut between the attempt to restore his disappointing approval numbers and not putting Democrats running for midterm reelection in jeopardy. It was the same old beginning with cherry-picked statistics about how things are getting better, followed by how things are also getting worse if we don’t do flaccid half measures the president has been proposing, and the racist/recalcitrant Republicans have been opposing, for the past five years. His “Republican friends” have been so persistent and consistent that they can sit on their hands and make sour faces when he speaks of the necessity of policy to end poverty, improve education, raise the minimum wage, equalize the pay for women, and get guns out of the hands of maniacs. Are these things intrinsically awful to Republicans, or is it that anything the black president is for is ipso facto awful?

So this time, in his almost desperate State of the Union Address, he seemed to be ready to break with an almost six-year pattern of failure to befriend fellow politicians who hate his guts and wish him complete failure. He seemed to be willing to employ his veto, and authority of Executive Order, to do something unilaterally to rescue his presidency and his legacy. It seemed like there was a sliver of audacity left in the hope.

And then…

The final clichéd play to the sentiments of the yahoos…

Then, the clichéd hauling out of the flag…

Then, the political Hail Mary that would (and did!) get both sides of the aisle standing and applause…

Cue the wounded warrior-hero prop…

He saved poor Sgt. Cory Remsburg for that final ta-da, building up with the story of how they had almost become buddies, in between the 10 deployments this president was complicit in sending the Sgt. to Afghanistan, the last one resulting in horrific wounds from a roadside bomb. The Sgt. was cued to rise painfully next to Mrs. Obama in the gallery as the President related his courage in his recovery. Docs of the two the “mistakes” we as a country sometimes make. They stood, they applauded, the sergeant gave his thumbs up, and I felt like puking.

Ten deployments! Ten fucking deployments! Ten deployments to a useless war that has next to nothing to do with the security interests of the American people, and everything to do with the interests of the Department of Defense, defense contractors and profiteers, and the political interests of certain politicians. It was as though they had to keep sending this presumably patriotic soldier back there again and again, almost until he would finally get the wound some president could exploit for political purposes. Did they need to hope, that all this effort to create a victim/hero/political* prop would not be wasted should he elect, if it is physically possible for him, to commit suicide as so many of his fellow soldiers have elected to do?

Perhaps Pres. Obama’s hauling out of his putative “soldier buddy” garnered him a point or two in his approval ratings. Most of the national media chimed in with what a touch a Hollywood ending this was. Few saw this poor soldier being used once again, being deployed yet one more time, the hero of the moment, who will soon be discarded for the next political prop. The war that wounded him will go on to its long overdue scheduled pullout, yet another military flop that drains the public coffers and fills hospitals and cemeteries, just like the other props, like Gabby Giffords, or the parents of Newtown kindergartners, that are cynically exploited by politicians who have neither did the desire nor the testicles to address the insane public policies that have brought them to their grief.

I didn’t want to watch that State of the Union address because I did not want to once again feel the urge to address the hypocrisy – – not the audacity – – of hope for the country that seems so goddamned deluded with its sense of exceptionalism, so puffed up with its self-righteousness, so self-terrified with the notion that there are horrible forces out there who “hate our freedom,” spy on us almost as much as we now spy on ourselves, and are bent on bringing down our supposed “democracy” and our greed-ridden capitalist economy, when they only want us to get our military boots off their ground and our drones out of their skies. Such is it that I have regrettably come to see the State of the Union as a “state of self-delusion,” and worse, of a perverse validation of the fact that, as a nation, Sgt. Remsburg has become our national symbol; we are him and he is us. I have no reason not to believe that the Sergeant. is not an honorable, patriotic and brave man (some of his fellow warriors, and too many military brass, are not). But the war to which he has been deployed ten times is not honorable; its objectives are chauvinistic not patriotic; and the people who sent him there, and now exploit the results of that folly, are anything but brave.

There is no state of union in America. There has not been from the beginning when there was a disunion between our stated principles about everyone being created equal, and our slavery, Jim Crow and residual racism, between our economic greed and or putative “equal opportunity” for all, between our immigrants and those who have arrogated to themselves the rights of first arrival, between those who would live in peace, and those who make their living by war. We have had our moments of near unity, but it is for the most part an illusion that some, myself included, have had the (I hate to use the word) “audacity” to hope for. But to accept the illusion for reality is to lapse into a state of self-delusion. Alas, maybe that is the only comfortable state left for the Sgt. Remsburgs. Cynicism is not much of an alternative, but it’s what you come to when you run out of audacity.

© 2014, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 1.30.2014)

*I have addressed this subject several times before in  13.3,  61.4,  80.3, and   86.3. I hope, and no doubt you do as well, this is the last.