An Electorate on Edge – The Role of Patience in the Healthcare Debate


I drove to a coffee shop earlier today in an attempt to seclude myself from the minute-to-minute shuffle that accompanies the process of moving houses (that my family is currently wrapped up in). I had pages and pages of history notes to sift through — so I just needed a place where I could clear my head and forge forward.

A few minutes after I’d sat down at a table and started looking though my notes, I realized that I’d forgotten to retrieve one last bit of information on the North’s Civil War strategy. So I opened up my laptop, dragged my cursor down to the blue ‘Safari’ icon, and waited as the tiny clock-like pinwheel on the URL bar twirled and twirled.

But I quickly became impatient and within seconds found myself wearing out my index finger by tapping incessantly on my keyboard’s ‘enter’ key. I couldn’t stand the seven-second wait for my browser to load. I needed immediate gratification at the risk of my own sanity.

And then I had one of those ‘a-ha’ moments (the ones that used to be depicted in old Tom and Jerry reruns when a giant lightbulb would appear above a character’s head): I realized that my agitation wasn’t an isolated incident. I’m a junior in high school, so it’s no secret that patience isn’t my forte; but neither is it that of the American populace. We’re an electorate on edge, a country whose thirst for instantaneous indulgence usurps any bit of willingness to roll with the punches when the going gets tough.

Last week, the House — sporting its fresh coat of red – voted to repeal the landmark healthcare bill that promised to to insure over thirty-two million additional people, end health insurance companies’ implementation of lifetime coverage limits, forbid discrimination against patients with pre-existing conditions, and — in essence — overhaul the broken healthcare system and its tired regulations.

Healthcare was (as most issues in this presidency are) a highly partisan battle. It further polarized Washington. It created enemies out of friends. But, of course, one side won, and the bill’s policies began to take effect in the weeks and months after its passage. The White House website says that all of the aforementioned policies among “other changes including new benefits, protections and cost savings will be implemented between now and 2014.”

Hold on a second. So does that mean we have to wait?

And now America’s fuse is lit and Congress’ spiral of reverse gratitude is already spinning. Republicans have long been tapping their feet and anxiously looking at their watches; and as soon as they got into power, they pounced.

Michele Bachmann wants to “repeal [the] president and put a president in the position of the White House who will repeal this bill.” Despite the gravity of that demand and — in my opinion — its breach of both civil and human rights, Bachmann represents a growing mass who expect something from nothing. It’s the same portion of the population who expected the economy to be “fixed” within months of Obama’s election and are “shocked” to find out that he’s done “nothing” to repair the economy.

Things take time. Long-run investments are what sustain economies. If the United States (or even my family, for that matter) only made short-term economic choices and divested from every stock or venture that didn’t immediately yield a massive positive result, it would be in a much downgraded position. When healthcare hasn’t finished coming into effect and Republicans already decide that it hasn’t quite done the trick, that’s an irresponsible decision.

Patience.

Lessons from a Little Old Lady – How Kinship Can Eclipse Polarization


Sunday night at dinner, as I was poking and prodding at the final remnants of my butternut squash ravioli, my grandfather turned to me and — in that matter-of-fact tone that only a family patriarch can pull off — said, “Ami, here’s a story for you.”

He and my grandmother had flown from Los Angeles to Portland on Friday morning. When they took their seats on the plane, my grandfather became engaged in a conversation with — as he put it — “a little old white lady.” As their conversation progressed, the woman shared with him that she was on her way home from Tucson where she had traveled to listen to President Obama’s speech at AU.

My grandfather was taken aback. He wondered why she hadn’t just watched it on television like the rest of the world, why she’d cared so much about something so distant, why someone so frail would expend so much energy to fly to an unfamiliar place. The woman smiled at my grandfather. “Because,” she said — as though the answer were obvious — “he’s our President.”

Two years ago, Barack Obama was elected on camaraderie’s coattails. The “hope and change” mantra of his campaign was a point of cynical contention from the right, but the desire that it represented was very real and deeply rooted in the contemporary American psyche. The country had a profound thirst for something new and fresh.

But even in the wake of such an overwhelming mandate of optimism, polarization has triumphed over brotherhood, gridlock has transcended compromise — and history has repeated itself. We’re stuck again in that vicious cycle: as political vitriol morphs into physical brutality, the country takes a brief step back to self-assess. The shooting in Tucson has momentarily united us — but it’s only a matter of time until that harmony will wear off and we’ll be back to our usual, comfortable division.

How do we know that? Because nine years ago, when the towers fell, stars and stripes blanketed our nation and the American populace took on a patriotic, altruistic flair. But when the dust settled, what emerged was that pervasive with-us-or-against-us mindset (which consequently paved the way for a streak of impulsive choices and continual polarization). It wasn’t long before “kinship” and “unity” had been erased entirely from the American lexicon.

And forty-three years ago, a significant portion of our nation rallied around a preacher whose stated goal was to end the madness, end the division, end the segregation. But the recurring segmentalist nature of our country made sure that he didn’t make it to the promised land. Even then, malevolence overturned any sort of mutual allegiance we had to one another.

We need more little old ladies.

If we all did away with blind cynicism and acrimony and instead maintained a state of mind that promoted communal dependence and patriotic loyalty to one another, Washington’s gridlock would disappear in a heartbeat — and so would the nation’s. Hostility casts a shadow on our world. But in darkness, all it takes is one flicker of light to see our path.

In memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., I aspire to live in a country where civility outshines anger, where camaraderie outshines discrimination, and where little old ladies are the lights that guide us on our way to getting there.

Pick One


Keith Olbermann, according to the New York Times, is “the leading liberal voice on American television in the age of Obama.” So, it was no surprise, last week, when it became evident that he had contributed financially to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates.

Olbermann’s left-wing leanings are no secret in the realm of political television. He often does a segment at the end of his show that he calls his “Special Comment.” In the context of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the word “special” can be roughly translated to “vitriolic,” and “comment” to “anti-Republican tirade.” During the Bush years, they were often directed at the president and vice president themselves.

When he and Chris Matthews covered the 2008 presidential campaign for MSNBC, they were prematurely replaced by David Gregory–two months prior to election day–in response to widespread criticism of their partisan coverage. It’s clear that he hasn’t tried to conceal his political ideology. So why is it such a big deal that he made these campaign contributions? What’s everyone yelling about?

I’m the son of a journalist and have (for the most part) been versed on the “dos” and “don’ts” of objective news coverage. For much of the presidential election, my dad–whose political opinions are just as potent as the next guy’s–refused to put a sticker on his 1998 Toyota Sienna that would indicate his support of one candidate over another. Jon King, Anderson Cooper, Brian Williams, even Larry King–guys who cover politics on a daily basis–ask the tough questions, and don’t disclose their political views, and remain as unbiased and uninvolved as possible.

Because, at the end of the day, if you want a forum where you can holler your opinions at someone and spawn claims that you are corrupt, then run for Congress. Objective journalism does not go hand in hand with the endeavor to move a political agenda. How reliable is a “reliable news source” when its anchor just dumped a heap of cash into the reelection campaign of the person whom he’s interviewing?

If you want to wield your domineering outlook on the public stage, don’t run a news show on a news network, or claim that what you’re doing qualifies as neutral reporting. Just as it’s irresponsible for Sean Hannity of FOX News to give to right-wing political campaigns and subsequently claim that his network is “fair and balanced,” it’s irresponsible for Keith Olbermann to similarly deceive his viewers.

“When a journalist becomes an activist, the principle of independence is not just eroding, it’s corroding from within,” says Bob Steele, an ethics professor a DePauw University. And Steele is right. So, on that note, here is my special comment, directed at Mr. Olbermann himself:

Hey, Olbermann. Pick one.

Smudged Legacy


A legacy is like a chalkboard; you write and write, you smudge and smudge, you dot the i’s and cross the t’s until you’re out of room. You’re left with a couple of options. Either you can leave the message–the lesson–up on the board and grant interpretation to the prerogative of the viewer Or you can erase it and start over.

And there goes your legacy.

Nancy Pelosi is choosing the latter. I wouldn’t agree that she’s been “the most effective Speaker in a generation” as many are claiming. I would assert, however, that she’s been one of the most principled. In a gridlocked Congresses, she’s often avoided compromise and negotiation. She’s taken on the challenges that are important to Democrats, fought for the fundamental missions of liberals, and has answered the toughest questions with a progressive answer.

Perhaps her deeply rooted self-confidence was a factor in the demise of her Democratic majority. Retrospectively, maybe she should have been less “out there” and pushed a less partisan agenda. But she wasn’t and she didn’t, and in her position as Speaker, she didn’t need to be less partisan. She had nothing to lose.

Well, she lost it.

Instead of walking away from the chalkboard and leaving her legacy to the analytical eye of history, she’s picked up the eraser. And assuming that she succeeds in becoming the next Minority Leader, she’ll erase that pristine legacy of principle. She’ll have everything to lose. She’ll have to transform herself from the bleeding-heart liberal she has always been into a centrist-leaning blue dog. That’s not who she is–that’s not what the chalkboard should say.

To maintain her legacy and honorably end a career of righteous conviction, Nancy Pelosi should drop the eraser and choose not to run for Minority Leader. After a career of steadfast loyalty to the left-wing, the next two years would become a smudge on her legacy.

A Post-Election Concession


As featured on the Huffington Post:

A four year old got angry and dragged her ruby-red crayon all over my computer screen. That’s what the map on my MacBook Pro looked like last night: a fresh coat of crimson Crayola. And, as four year olds are known to do, she colored outside of the lines. It’s messy, it’s uncalled for, and I’m feeling a complex combination of overwhelming emotions.

I’m angry that Republicans have retaken the House. I’m worried that the poor will be left to fend for themselves, that special-interest groups will determine the fate of our economy, that Congress will decide to regulate love, and that energy reform will manifest itself in the form of tax breaks for pollution-prone companies. I’m baffled by such an abrupt shift in popular ideology and loss of faith in new policies that haven’t yet had the chance to prove or disprove themselves. I’m concerned that my new speaker, John Boehner, is getting a little too much sun.

I’m terrified. I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m bellowing vitriolic insults at a Sony flat-screen television. But in the face of such severe inner-ire, there’s something that I must concede.

If there’s one thing that I learned last night–regardless of the magnitude of my outrage–it’s that we live in an incredible country, the likes of which the world has rarely seen. The “city on a hill” phenomenon–the idea of American exceptionalism in its traditional context–is not what I’m pointing to. I’m not saying that economically or socially, culturally or educationally, commercially or religiously, America is any more “exceptional” than the next country. What’s incredible, however, is that the same ethos of cyclical change that ushered in the would-be era of liberal influence in 2008, became its roadblock tonight. And that, even an angry liberal must admit, is exceptional.

There are countries in this world that have held the same leaders (or whose leaders have held them) for decades–generations. A steady capacity for change, in all its ambiguity and disappointing two-sidedness, is a remarkable achievement.

Taking a good hard look at the shifts in influence from the beginning of the Clinton era to the dawn of the Gingrich era to the beginning of the Bush era to the dawn of the Pelosi era to the beginning of the Obama era to the dawn of what may prove to be the Boehener era, one realizes what American freedom really means.

There’s been no violence, there’s been no bloodshed; and in an undisputed, clear-cut manner, the tables have very dramatically turned. The elasticity of the potential for power to shift in the United States is a present-day embodiment of Constitutional freedom and proof that Lincoln’s government “of the people, by the people, for the people” has not perished from the earth.

“Frustrated” doesn’t being to describe it. I’m worried about the economy, just as I’m anxious about the well-being of the environment. I’m worried about the future of welfare and Social Security. I’m worried about racial profiling. I’m worried about a second subprime mortgage crisis. But paramount above that extraordinary frustration, there’s only one thing that I can coherently verbalize: God bless America.

A Supplement to My Last Post


Obviously, I don’t believe that all Republicans want to destroy nature and I don’t believe that all Republicans are xenophobes. I don’t believe that all Republicans are the downfall of our country, nor do I believe that all Republicans are roadblocks to the fulfillment of the American Dream. All that I wrote in my last post is black and white and really only represents a fundamental framework of my opinion.

It would be naïve (and certainly an affirmation of Jon Stewart’s recent critique of the media) to make all these very broad statements without explaining them. So this is a simple and contemplative explanation and supplement to my last post:

People are people and politics is politics. But from the time I was learning my beginners’ addition problems in the first grade until the moment I watched firsthand as Barack Obama took office on a chilly, yet sunny day during my freshman year of high school, I saw and experienced the failed policies of the last administration. The poor economic decisions, the insensitive social treatment, and the governmental nightmare that ensued.

The last administration is not, thankfully, running for office tomorrow. But people who represent its policies, upheld them, and support the foundational ideologies of George W. Bush and his cronies are running. I am not going to allow them to win without expressing and publicizing–perhaps through a desperate medium–the extremities to which they may be willing to travel.

To assume that all Republicans represent and believe all the things I wrote is unfair. But to understand what the party is capable of is important. Do a mental cost-benefit analysis. If the costs of voting for Christine O’Donnell, Meg Whitman, Sharon Angle–people who believe in and practice the aforementioned policies–out weighs the benefits of voting for Barbara Boxer, John Kitzhaber, Harry Reid–people who believe in and practice dissimilar policies to the Republicans’, who pushed for comprehensive healthcare reform and will continue to push for policies that will aid and abed the process of becoming a citizen, repeal counterintuitive military social regulations, and further hold banks and corporations financially accountable for the mess that they have helped to create on Wall Street, which has, by all means, trickled down onto Main Street.

Regardless of whom is is for, please vote. But, in perhaps a less emphatic tone than in my previous post, I recommend spending your valuable vote on someone who will appeal to your interest and the interests of those less fortunate than you.

The ball’s in your court.

Election Guide


If you think that more minorities belong in jail, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you’ve seen your share of nature and have come to terms with letting the rest of it go, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you think that no one else should benefit from your success, that you and your money are better off in the a secluded bubble of wealth, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe those who are different should be sent away, ostracized, or persecuted, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you know which religion is best, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you think that not all Americans have the right to health insurance, if you think that only those who can afford it should have it, and that you are not somewhat responsible for the well being of your neighbor, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that the government doesn’t serve any critical function, or if you feel the deep desire to give up your compensation when you retire, if you have the concrete knowledge that you’ll never lose your job and you’ll never be in need of financial assistance–why bother having welfare?–vote Republican tomorrow.

If poor people are none of your concern and poverty–you’re sure–is a back burner issue, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to love, that the distinctions are clear, that the government should dictate to Americans who they can and can’t love, and  that feelings should be in the hands of Congress, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that corporations shouldn’t be held accountable for deeply destructive environmental policies and financial irresponsibility that has proven detrimental to millions, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you’re under the impression that the subprime mortgage crisis couldn’t have been  prevented by regulation and oversight, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you don’t believe in the American Dream and instead believe that those seeking it should be sent away en masse, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you know that we need more wars, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you believe that Texas oil billionaires need more money, that large companies should be able to fund major political campaigns, vote Republican tomorrow.

If you’re sure that old white men should make decisions about what does or doesn’t happen to bodies of young women, vote Republican tomorrow.

But if you’re interested in a future antithetical to the one just described, you may want to reconsider your vote. I cast my vote for the Democratic Party in 2010.