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State of the Union misses the point

My take on the State of the Union address.

By Bob Patton
On January 27, 2011


There are times when I feel I am visiting another planet and watching another species with strange customs. I had that feeling when I sat through most of the State of the Union address. There was the man who was deeply "honored" to be able to introduce the president. Then there were those sitting in the peanut gallery looking bored or engaged in conversations with their neighbors, yet dutifully rising and mechanically applauding on cue every few minutes as if something earthshaking had just been announced.


I wondered how that might go over in a college classroom whenever a professor made a key point during the lecture. Of course the State of the Union address was a political event so perhaps this approach should be confined to political science classes. What do you think?


Then of course there were all those pundits who gathered like vultures to chew over the speech and figure out what had been said, There was a time when that sort of thing wasn't necessary. When Patrick Henry said, " I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death,"  everyone got the point without pundit analysis.


When you stop and think about it, it's rather insulting to have a bunch of highly paid performers in the infotainment industry (formerly called journalism) tell you what an English-language statement really meant. Transferring this to the classroom again, imagine a professorial assistant who at the end of each class took you aside and told you what the professor really said.


To be fair about it, Barack Obama did not invent this whole meaningless exercise. His predecessors, Republicans and Democrats alike, went through exactly the same charades. All the same it would have been really refreshing if President Obama had begun by saying something like this:


"My fellow Americans, I think you all know that our nation is in crisis. We are fighting costly bloody wars on two fronts and are looking for ways to guard our nation's security against the threat posed by new nuclear powers. Policies of the past have exported our manufacturing capabilities to other countries and close to 20% of our people are still unemployed or underemployed.


The strength of the American dollar has been undercut by generations of deficit spending followed by many trillions spent on war and bailouts of companies that pay their executives in a year more than most Americans earn in a lifetime.


And then there's the problem identified long ago by Roosevelt: the fear of what he called "fear itself." And that fear has attacked the fundamental values of our country and caused us to ignore constitutional guarantees of liberty. Fear has reduced us to the point that we torture suspected enemies and paw the breasts and genitals of old ladies at airports. Habeas corpus , although guaranteed by the Constitution, is but a dim memory and remotely controlled drones can now fly over your homes and peer into your windows without search warrants


There are no easy answers to these problems but I would like to share our best thinking on how we can begin to map and travel a road leading to an economic revival, the restoration of the American dollar, and a renewed commitment to the ideal of liberty. Because of the importance of these issues, I ask that you refrain from applause during my presentation and hope that you will give it the full attention it deserves."


Well, I can dream can't I?

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