Bob Franken

The Real State of the Union

As always, it’s called the “State of the Union” speech but if we’re being real about this, it is the “State of Barack Obama’s Presidency” address, or in legislative terminology the “Obama Recovery Act”.

You get the picture. By the time he begins, we know what the president is going to say and who will be sitting in the upper deck listening.

Everyone thinks it’s a big waste of time…certainly the TV networks who could be making more money on their OTHER reality shows. About the only good television in this one comes from the shots of the audience.

That’s where we can watch the expressionless expressions on the Republicans’ faces when Mr. Obama delivers his applause lines (The way things have been going his staff might have to pipe in some canned cheering.)

We might also be treated to some jeering from the GOP side of the aisle. For that matter, some of the hecklers might be Democrats.

It would probably mean a lot more if President Obama let it all hang out with a “TRUE State of the Union” address. This is how that might go:

“Mr. Vice President, Madame Speaker, my fellow Americans: Let’s be honest. The State of the Union is in a sorry state. What UNION? No longer can we agree on much of anything.

“Let’s take health care reform. How obvious does it need to be that our medical system is sliding straight down the tubes and taking the economy with it. But the few who benefit from the status quo found it remarkably easy to push the hot buttons of our most right wing instincts and distort every initiative.

“That sent each and every one of you Senators and Congresspeople scrambling for cover. ‘Bold’ is not a word that normally comes to mind when I think of you guys.

“‘Selfish’ is. As in ‘Selfish Politics’ as opposed to the national interest. (A shout is heard) Oh for crying out loud, shut up Joe. Who NEEDS your heckling. You too Michele Bachman.

“Now where was I? It’s time, my fellow citizens, to realize that the entire conceit of ‘American Exceptionalism’ endowed by God is really an American superstition. The God we worship these days is wealth. In the frenzy of the Darwinians to hoard all the material items they can accumulate, they have destroyed any sense of community. Or even humanity. Our society has become a dog-eat-dog kennel.

“Speaking of living arrangements, there is evidence all around we’ve become a nation of crass Possessionists. Just look at their needlessly large mansions with more rooms and space than they can ever use, except to wall themselves off from the millions have lost their humble homes to foreclosure.

Why do we allow our social fabric unravel into ‘I’ve got mine and the hell with anyone else’ tatters? What would be wrong for higher taxes on those who have taken advantage of what they could in this country and gotten rich while others struggle?

“On the world stage, why is it so important that we always dominate, whether its on the deadly military battlefields or the financial ones? How can we possibly continue to believe that we as the world’s superpower that can impose its will on every other one?

“How long can we pretend that we will forever rule as the most dynamic economic system on Earth when powers like China, that we are so quick to vilify, are the ones who provide the support that prevents our collapse? At least, so far.

“Speaking of finances: What possible reason can we give for allowing the big bankers and investment houses to run roughshod over everyone else and then pay themselves obscene bonuses and thumb their noses at those who they victimized with their recklessness.

“Worst of all, how can those of us in this room, encourage their defiance by avoiding anything that smacks of sensible but effective regulation? How can we as politicians justify the way we allow ourselves to be solely influenced by the lobbyists and the campaign contributions they bring with them. To be honest, I should include myself…all of us…when I puzzle how we so easily slip into the safe but meaningless rhetoric that we substitute for action.

“You want to know the State of the Union? It’s in terrible condition. We gorge on resources we don’t really have. In the process we’ve become flabby and we’ve lost a lot of our strength. It’ll take a lot of discipline to regain the muscular presence we used to have. The time to begin this exercise is now. Or never.

“Thank you. And God help America.”

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