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March 18, 2010

Correct Change

Patricia A. Kelly

We all want it. We usually look down at our hands and count to make sure we have it. Instead of screaming epithets, maybe we should take just as careful a look at what is happening on our political scene.


On March 12, David Brooks, a “reformed liberal,” now fairly conservative New York Times columnist, NPR opinion guy, historian, and former writer for William F. Buckley‘s National Review, wrote a very interesting piece on politics and differences of opinion.


The title of the column was “Getting Obama Right.” Mr. Brooks wrote that conservatives see the president as a skilled politician, a big-government liberal who campaigned as a centrist; and liberals see him as inspiring, but overly intellectual and indecisive, not clear about his mission. Two different groups looking at the same thing, end up with diametrically opposing views.


We all look at things through filters. Some of the ones I look at the world through are feminism, conservatism, self sufficiency as a value, intellectual curiosity. Everything I see is affected by these.


If I see women wearing burkas or veils that cover their faces, and gloves, so that none of their body parts can be seen, I become furious, partly because, when I was growing up, I felt that my femininity interfered with my receiving respect as a human being. So now, looking through my feminism filter at a women so covered up that she has to hold on to her man to walk safely outdoors, I want to run over and rip the veil off, slap her and the man, and generally, create an uproar. Fortunately, I resist, but you get my point.


We have our views and predilections, and they affect not only what we believe, but what we think we see.


I received an email yesterday, purporting to show President Barack Obama, the one who cancelled our Christian Day of Prayer,” praying with Muslims in the White House, the “place where presidents are inaugurated,” and something “no non-Muslim is ever allowed to do.” I looked at the photo, which showed the president removing his shoe in a group that included one woman in a black veil, with eastern-appearing architectural arches in the background, and an obvious security person at the back of the group, looking back, as if toward an entrance.


The arches, the Secret Service man’s position and the mat on the floor were all wrong for the White House. Sure enough, I googled “Obama praying” and found him not praying, but taking his shoes off to enter the Blue Mosque, a famous site in Istanbul, during his recent visit to Turkey. (And, by the way, presidents are inaugurated on the steps of the Capital, not in the White House, and all polite visitors remove their shoes when entering a mosque.)


This email was exceptionally ignorant, but I wonder how many people have seen and forwarded it; and how many people with an anti-Obama or anti-Muslim filter looked at it quickly and believed it.


As far as I can tell, this is happening all over, not only in emails, but in Congress and the Senate, on talk radio and in the “news.”


Twisting, distorting, and inflaming are quite inconsistent with thinking, facing reality, problem solving and planning.


None of this is going to get us anywhere. The American people are getting to the point where they hardly trust anyone. Not only is the stress of living in a world full of liars taking a huge toll on people’s happiness and sense of security, but we all know that we are facing huge problems that are going unsolved while partisans and radicals pontificate.


Medicare and Social Security are facing insolvency just as a huge group of baby boomers start collecting. The number of family practitioners in our medical structure, the bedrock of the system, in my view, is decreasing, just as our government is planning to decrease their reimbursement under the new health care plan. The State of Maryland is facing a budget deficit of more than $8,000,000,000 for the years 2012 to 2015, per Anthony O’Donnell and Christopher Shank, General Assembly House minority leader and whip, with no clear plan in sight.


It’s time to get past the mind games, take a good look at reality, and find some real solutions. Unions, special interest groups, political contributors, radical right and left wing lunatics, are either standing, head-down in the sand, chasing imaginary butterflies through a meadow somewhere, or lying through their teeth while “Rome is burning.”


It’s time to demand an end to the inflammatory rhetoric, take a careful look at reality, learn to deal with the necessary solutions, play fair, and, this time, get the correct change.


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