Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Personal State of the Union

I trust everyone watched my President deliver his State of the Union address this week. I was proud of him. What a magical speaker, part dignified statesman, part revivalist preacher, part Regular Joe. And, he's no shrinking violet. I would be in his shoes. It seems that everywhere you turn these days, the media is attacking him. I saw a shot on my MSN homepage last week of the Newsweek cover story, which was essentially that the problem with President Obama was that he governed with his head, not his heart, with a sub-header about how President Obama is ushering in the Sarah Palin Presidency. Give me a break on both counts. I mean, I scarce know where to begin.

However, it was indicative of the about face the media seems to have taken. Once a Golden Child capable of no evil, President Obama faces some unseemly (in my opinion) criticism in even some of the more liberal press. I know he expected a dip in his approval ratings, because that's more or less how the game tends to go, but I wonder if he were to be totally blunt, the past couple of months have been harder than anticipated, and if he ever wakes up in morning and wonders what the hell he's gotten himself into?

Even I admit this has been a rough year, and did not go quite as I hoped. Since that January day when my staff and I watched the Inauguration, huddled around a portable TV in a near empty office, a weary group of survivors from the past several months of layoffs, I have lost that staff to another department, lost that job, was out of work for five months, finally to find a position making $17,000 less per year, with no guarantees that I will have it at the end of the first quarter. When the company's insurance renewed, although they stayed with the same carrier (which I have written disparagingly about before), the costs went up, as did co-pays and deductibles, and the coverage went down. Now, I figure I'd have to have a limb falling off to determine it worth my while to go to a doctor. What I concluded as I listened to the insurance broker's apologetic presentation was that this was the insurance industry's knee jerk reaction to the efforts at reform. They figure to stick it to us while they can. Maybe they assume their wings will be clipped soon. I hope they're right. I was working toward that end, but even I wonder if it will ever happen.

My husband did get a modest cost of living raise this year. But, considering that it was the first increase of any kind in three years, I think we're still behind the curve. Our mortgage went up due to increased taxes, we will lay out more for medical expenses, our savings is on life support after five months of dipping into it, not to mention which all the debt we're still working off trying to pay for medical expenses we incurred over the last decade. And the damn Steelers didn't make the playoffs. All in all, I would say we are definitely worse off than we were twelve months ago. And that's all without taking into account the largest blow of all, which is losing our daughter.

Additionally, I worry about what I see as a deep divide in both Washington and Main Street America. An unintended consequence, it seems, in electing a liberal leaning African American man as President is that politics became more polarized than ever before. Both parties tend to dig their heels in on the their respective side of the fence and refuse to give ground. For a while now I have worried that Washington was more about playing politics than governing, and that seems to be deepening. Out among the masses, it seems to have drawn out the nuts. Rallying behind people like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, the lunatic fringe seems to gathering some force. And that really worries me. I worry that the vast majority of middle Americans are too wrapped up in just trying to navigate their busy, stressful lives in hard economic times, that they are not paying attention to this trend.

Some might expect me, therefore, to cool on my position as an Obama supporter. I am sorry to disappoint you. For my part, I still drink the Obama Koolaid. I trust him above all others as having my best interests at heart, and I trust he is a moral man trying to navigate the tricky waters of world politics with better intent than his predecessor. Some may call me naive or deluded, but I believe history will prove me correct, and in the meantime, I stand by my man. Do I have I empirical evidence for such a declaration. No, not really. It's a hunch more like. It's a feeling that, as rough as things have been, they could have been much worse. I do still have a roof over my head, as expensive as it is to keep it there. I am working. Mother is being cared for, and for the moment I can afford to maintain that level of care, no matter how ungrateful she is for it. My daughter is in college and making me so proud every day. I have food on the table. The Steelers just hired Jerry Olsavsky, a former player, as a assistant coach for the defense. I am very excited about that. So, I'll take what crumbs of hope I can, and hold out for a better day. Rome was not built in a day, the saying goes; the economy will not turn around in one scant year. That said, I am praying for a better year in 2010 for all of us.

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