Bob Franken

King Features Column

(The usual disclaimer: this appears here a week after it was released to client newspapers because that’s my deal with the the syndicator)

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“My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.” Barack Obama used his inaugural address as a rallying cry. The problem is, we certainly are not together as he begins his second term.
So much has changed since the nation celebrated its first black president. What a difference four years of malevolence has made. We have deteriorated from an “Audacity of Hope” to a paucity. Our country has been worn down by nasty opportunists who have turned Mr. Obama’s unique story into a “not one of us” divisiveness.
Their impressionable followers have been manipulated to the point that many of them go to absurd lengths to question the validity of his presidency. For instance, a new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll shows 36 percent of the respondents still question whether he is “hiding information about his background and personal life,” 64 percent of the Republicans. It doesn’t matter how many times the “birthers” are repudiated, die-hard nonbelievers cling to their nonbelief that Mr. Obama is a natural-born American, even eligible to be chief executive.
That doesn’t even count those who apparently no longer want to be Americans. They are so infuriated that this interloper got re-elected, they want to secede from the United States. They fantasize about some nirvana where they can keep their arsenals and be free from responsibility for those in need. It doesn’t matter that they too benefit from the social programs they want to eliminate, their new country wouldn’t tax their minds with such trivia; in fact, it wouldn’t tax anything.
It’s a little wacky out there in the U.S. of A. circa 2013. Actually, it’s loony in here, by which I mean Washington, where extreme is mainstream. Consider Sen. Rand Paul characterizing the Obama executive orders addressing guns as a power grab. “I’m against having a king” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network News, “I think having a monarch is what we fought the American Revolution over, and someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress, that’s someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch.”
That might be considered a little loopy were it not for the fact that such incendiary misrepresentation of government is commonplace in these toxic times. The various calls for impeachment over the executive orders don’t even get much notice, except maybe back in the districts of the various representatives who casually throw around the idea. After all, they were sent to Washington by voters who are scared to death that Barack Hussein Obama wants to replace the Constitution with Shariah law or is conjuring some other sinister plot. That really wouldn’t bother them, if only they could secede. Absent that, they will simply have to wallow in their fearsome fantasies.

We are a frightened nation facing a scary world. Not only are we threatened by terrorists from abroad, but we are worried about financial ruin at home. That despair certainly is understandable given the economic malaise that still weighs down the country. The bitter irony is that the most effective ways to turn things around have been stymied by those with the resources to power a much faster turnaround. Unfortunately, they are the very ones who got us into this mess, the super-wealthy who continue to prosper while resisting any real accountability.
Demonizing those who are agents of change, like President Obama, creates the gridlock that thwarts effective government. Perhaps Obama Take Two will be an improvement, but the jubilation of Inauguration Day was tempered by the grim political battles ahead. The second term will be a constant grind, and it will require fundamental change. “We cannot,” said the president, “treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” His speech was an expression of hope as much as anything else that we can save ourselves from our worst instincts.

© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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