Shame On Me

Remember back in 2008 when some of the wingnuts in our country (and there were/are a lot of ’em) were touting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a “Manchurian candidate.” Their teabag-inspired fears were that Obama was a plant, a mole who was going to destroy America from the inside, all to benefit some nefarious entity: Al Queda, China, evil Communism.

Imagine my surprise when, five years later, we find out that those wingnuts were right: Obama WAS a Manchurian candidate. For the Republican Party.

Think about it: what Obama has done are all Republican wet dreams. He’s continued our military adventures (and spending), he’s expanded surveillance of our own citizens, he’s ramped up Wall Street’s dominance, he’s done nothing about the gun violence within our borders. And he’s done it in the same name that his predecessor used: national security.

Even the one thing that has Republicans really up in arms — Obamacare — is really just a benefit for Corporate America at the expense of the general population: he’s created a whole new market of customers for the insurance companies rather than, you know, doing something that would improve Americans’ lives and make health-care affordable for most people.

Before my liberal friends start slamming me, remember that I voted for Obama twice — and would again given the alternatives in both elections (and for that, my conservative friends will now start slamming me). But think about it: how many of those “I’m not Bush” campaign promises Obama made have not only been ignored they’ve actually been completely overturned and Bush’s policies not only continued but expanded?

Guantanamo Bay? Still open. Banks too big to fail? Wall Street still calls the shots and not one person has ever been indicted for any of the wrongdoing that caused worldwide economic turmoil. We still have troops on the ground in Afghanistan and how long will it be until we have troops in Syria? Suspension of habeus corpus? Ask those in Guantanamo or those who’ve been killed by drone strikes with zero chance to address the charges against them.

And then there’s the current hubbub about phone-tapping and data-mining being done by the National Security Agency (NSA), a continuation of a Patriot Act-started and Obama-continued practice ostensibly used to keep Americans safe. This week we got to hear Obama rationalize this domestic spying by saying, “I think it’s important to recognize you can’t have 100 percent security and also 100 percent privacy, and also zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” That stands in stark contrast to the oft-cited Ben Franklin quote that says, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” As I wrote on Facebook: I’ll take Ben’s side on this topic — or any other debate with Barack Obama.

To which many of my friends replied: well, Ben didn’t live in this day and age. He couldn’t know what we’re facing now. And that’s true. But I’m also reminded of reading the news in the ’90s about some Muslim whacko named Osama bin Laden who declared that he was going to make sure Americans lived in fear on a daily basis as his people did. And here we are in 2013, more than a decade removed from the events of 9/11, and guess what? Bin Laden won. Every time you take your shoes off at the airport, he wins. Every time you allow SWAT troops to storm your house without a warrant because they’re looking for one 19-year-old kid accused of setting of a bomb in Boston, Bin Laden wins. And when we allow the government to tap our phones and monitor our online activity, Bin Laden wins.

“Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to be afraid of,” is the counter — which sounds a lot like something Joseph Goebbels would have spouted. And I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go through life fearing every potential boogeyman that the military-industrial complex foists upon us. Does giving away your freedom — freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for more than 200 years ago for this exact (if differently implemented) reason — actually make you feel safer? Are you THAT afraid of everyone and everything that doesn’t look/think/act like you do?

And how should an honest American who feels the government is violating the Constitution and breaking the law react? Edward Snowden continued a long line of honored whistleblowers this week by outing the NSA program and was swiftly labeled a traitor by so many in power. How did Obama respond? He hasn’t said yet, but remember when candidate Obama in 2008 said that whistleblowers’ “acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled”? In 2013, the Justice Department is quickly drawing up charges against Edward Snowden so they can seek extradition from wherever he’s hiding out right now, a not-so-subtle shift in half a decade.

What’s entertaining in all of this is watching Obama’s apologists fall all over themselves to justify the program — when just a few years ago they were screaming for Bush’s head for the exact same activity. I’m sorry, but criminal activity is criminal activity, no matter which party is initiating it.

Obama came to power promising hope and change. And in 2008, for the first time in my adult life, I was actually optimistic that we could solve some of the grave challenges facing our country and world via the political process. In his first term, he squandered the bully pulpit he’d been granted by trying to make nice with an opposition party that had zero intention of doing anything that might remotely be perceived as having positive consequences. And now, in his second term, we’re realizing that Obama is really just the continuation of the eight years we had under George W. Bush. The policies are the same. The rationale is the same. Are we really so surprised that the outcome is the same?

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Consider me shamed, Barack Obama. That you make Bush and Nixon seem legitimate, and that you’ve destroyed any hope so many of us had, is your greatest failure.

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