Us and Them

You can feel it. The tide is turning. Heads are over the sand, and what they see are a political party that votes to continue subsidies to oil companies and rails against the concept of affordable health insurance for all. (They call it “Obamacare” which says more than its abject rudeness suggests. Would anyone who did not agree with the project to build the interstates throughout the country refer to them as “Eisenhighways”?) They claim to want to balance a budget but refuse to even think about letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire favoring, instead, cutting “entitlements” that the rest of us have come to depend upon. Their enemies, they have told us, are public employees: teachers, police officers, firefighters, and the unions that protect their—our—rights to be dealt with fairly.

The election next week in the New York congressional district near Buffalo that has been rock ribbed Republican for decades will underscore what has happened. This is not a cause for celebration but to encourage us to do more to wipe this political point of view for the respectability it continues to be accorded by David Gregory and the rest of the beltway news establishment, even as it has been roundly rejected everywhere else.

A year or so ago, as the health care proposal was dying its thousand deaths, by filibusters, falsehoods and foolishness, portions of a speech on the very same subject, but by President Kennedy in 1962, was posted here. Even if you were alive when President Kennedy explained why it was our responsibility as a nation to take care of the sick among us, you almost certainly did not see this speech even though ABC, which had nothing else to broadcast in those days, televised the whole thing. It was a beautiful and hot May day in much of the country, and air conditioning was not as pervasive then as it is today. Few people voluntarily stayed home to watch this speech, except, of course, the homebound.

Maybe one viewer was the President’s father, one of the world’s wealthiest men but “recovering” (that’s an expression; he never did) from a stroke. And there was his son, the President of the United States and also quite wealthy, talking about

visit[ing] twice, yesterday and

today, in the hospital, where doctors labor for a long time, to visit my father. It isn’t easy–it isn’t easy. He can pay his bills, but otherwise I would be. And I am not as well off as he is. But what happens to him and to others when they put their life savings in, in a short time? …

This argument that the Government should stay out, that it saps our pioneer stock–I used to hear that argument when we were talking about raising the minimum wage to a dollar and a quarter. I remember one day being asked to step out into the hall, and up the corridor came four distinguished-looking men, with straw hats on and canes. They told me that they had just flown in from a State in their private plane, and they wanted me to know that if we passed a bill providing for time and a half for service station attendants, who were then working about 55 to 60 hours of straight time, it would sap their self-reliance.

The fact of the matter is what saps anyone’s self-reliance is working 60 hours at straight time, or working at 85 or 95 at a dollar an hour. Or depending upon filling out a pauper’s oath and then going and getting it free.

Nobody in this hall is asking for it for nothing….

We aren’t able overnight to solve all the problems that this country faces, but is that any good reason why we should say, “Let’s not even try”?

That’s what we are going to do today, we are trying. We are trying. And what we’re talking about here is true in a variety of other ways. All the great revolutionary movements of the Franklin Roosevelt administration in the thirties we now take for granted. But I refuse to see us live on the accomplishments of another generation. I refuse to see this country, and all of us, shrink from these struggles which are our responsibility in our time. Because what we are now talking about, in our children’s day will seem to be the ordinary business of government.

This was not the speech he made which we remember best, of course. It was hardly as eloquent, and, if you watch it on the link provided in the prior post, you will see the conditions were even worse than those of Washington in the aftermath of a snowstorm. It was hot, the room was dark and nobody wanted to be there.

But the point the President made that day, that we cannot do it all now, but we have a duty to begin is an echo from that famous speech:

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

Those of who spend much of our time riding the fortunes or troubles of the Boston Red Sox have learned all about this from our manager, Terry Francona, the best to lead the Red Sox in the fifty-three years they have occupied one guy’s summers and a person who, oddly, is often called “Tito” becuase that is his father’s name. President Obama uses his father’s name, too, but that was not his choice necessarily. Both of them, though, preach the same thing: take the long view and don’t get caught up in the crisis of the moment.

The Red Sox lost the first six games they played this year and they were 2 and 12 shortly thereafter. And there was Terry, required by custom, by the region where he works, and by the times we live in, to explain to us, through the news media, what he is going to do about the problem and the anguish it caused us all.

And Terry would explain that he is mindful of the problems, he sees what is happening and he will do what he thinks can reasonably be done to make things better. It is a long season, though, he would remind us and it is never a time to panic. You cannot fail to adjust to realities, he told us night after night, but you cannot swing back and forth making radical changes. You need to have patience, he told us, no matter what everyone around you is yelling.

The Red Sox are now one-half game out of first place. There will be more problems to come (the team has too many lefties in its starting lineup and two of its five starting pitchers are injured), but we know now, as we should have known then, that a calm, sustained approach to what faces the team, will serve us much better than the screaming into the night that many proposed.

Osama bin Laden was found because the President we have today, and the administration he heads also believes in patience, in doing what can be done today, but always with an eye toward what might take longer to do. And in both his case and in Terry Francona’s plans are one thing: execution is another. Terry has 25 guys on his team. The President has many more and we are part of it.

Let us begin.


A couple of  other random thoughts, one of which could cause yelling, and the others too trivial for such an august site as this, are posted here.


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