I am really happy that we got snow this winter. Snow in the midst of a bleak and grey winter is proof to me that beauty can emerge out of anywhere. Up until yesterday, winter in southwest Virginia had been non-existent, save for the random cold snap that would last a couple days or the intermittent snow flurries that never accumulated. It was grey and warm, like an east coast Seattle, just without the ocean and people. But the snow came and it stayed. According to the National Weather Service, we got 6.8 inches of the stuff.
Driving around town, it was a sight to see. A lot of friends have posted beautiful pictures of the snow covering trees, the trees bending just enough under the weight of the snow to make it look like a substantial snowfall, but not so much that the trees look to be ready to give way from the force exerted by the weight of the snow.
In a lot of ways, this snowfall was like the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The country had been going through GW Bush withdrawal and a bit of buyer’s remorse from 2004 – a brutally unpopular President continuing to wage two wars with a potential economic collapse in sight. Things looked bleak. The junior senator from Illinois came about, speaking in positive terms without condescending, making me believe that things could get right again if we all got in this together. I wasn’t an early supporter of Barack Obama – at the time, I thought Bill Richardson was a better candidate, fool was I. It took time for me to warm up to the man. I thought he was naïve and trying to make others buy into that naïvité. But he resistance to the notions of extending a gas tax holiday and making easy decisions so as to pass the responsibility of the crisis at hand to future generations won me over. I believe in hope and in November, the snow came.
We now have a re-election fight on our hands where the Presidents opponents cast the issues facing our country in apocalyptic terms, an us-v-them fight where the President, duly elected by Americans – is most definitely a them in this battle. Since his inauguration in 2009, the President has had to battle right-wing attacks accusing him of being a socialist secularist muslim communist fascist – a perpetual barrage of cognitive dissonance with faint grounding in reality. As unemployment gradually declines and more and more Americans find satisfactory gainful employment, the President’s opponents ramp up their rhetoric, against all reality. Firms who had farmed out their labor beyond the frontier are returning and providing Americans jobs. Unemployment has fallen from the 10% range into the lower 8% range and only looks to continue a gradual decline. Our trade deficit has shrunk from nearly $700 billion in 2008 to $558 billion in 2011, admittedly higher than 2010’s $500 billion. BUT, in 2011, the United States had over $2 trillion in exports for the first time ever, an increase of $250 billion since 2008.
This is a man who is interested in governing a great nation – and he understand that governance is so much more than the day-to-day partisan fighting that we listen to on our 24-hour news cycle. It’s not a feeling that I get when I listen to any Republican candidate, save for maybe Ron Paul. From the candidates before us, I hear mostly rhetoric to stir up anxieties about our differences, even if those differences don’t actually exist. These aren’t people who are interested in leading a united country, but in tearing down a president for whatever personal gain they can acquire by obtaining the highest office in the land. These are people who aren’t interested in avoiding going to war – excepting Ron Paul in this matter – but who are ready to lay waste to Iran, a country whose threat to us is about as real as the Iraqi threat to us in 2003. Iran can’t threaten us – it makes no sense for them to engage in a war with us when they are relatively isolated from the international community as it is. The candidates on the Republican side only see war – again, excepting Ron Paul – and see violent rhetoric as a means to getting elected.
I have no place for the rhetoric. Maybe I’m naïve, but I still believe in hope. We have a lot of work left to do.