Sunday, January 20, 2013

Choosing the Good We Do

In a world in which so many things go wrong every day, the set of wrongs that any person chooses to try to put right are a tiny fraction of all of the possible good deeds that he or she could do. This applies to presidents and paupers alike. Indeed, the good deeds that we choose to do define who we are to ourselves and to anyone who pays attention to what we do.

So I am dismayed that President Barack Obama, the nation's first African American president, recently  decided to invest a substantial fraction of his time and his considerable influence in the pursuit of comprehensive gun control in the wake of the mass slaying of those unfortunate children in Connecticut.

Of course gun control is a good thing, something that should have been done by some president decades ago, perhaps a hundred years ago; but it also represents a choice of what President Obama has chosen not to do within his limited waking hours. To be specific, it represents a rejection of the other good things that I hoped that he would focus on when I voted for him in 2008 and again in 2012. Substantially reducing the nation's unacceptably high unemployment rates and the associated rise in poverty, which linger at record levels for millions of black Americans, were high on my wish list of the "Good Deeds" that I hoped President Obama would have focused on in each term. And, of course, there's global warming, the looming catastrophe that will greatly diminish the quality of life, if not cause premature death for millions of our great-grandchildren and their children.

But then I remember that this is the same president who "pivoted" away from the economy to pursue health care reform when thousands of Americans were still losing their jobs every month and while the felons on Wall Street who had perpetrated this pain were paying themselves record bonuses with funds they received from bailouts paid for by taxpayers, and setting the stage for an even greater economic catastrophe in the not-to-distant future. No bailouts for the poor or the middle class homeowners who couldn't pay their mortgages and were subsequently robo-foreclosed; but trillions in unsecured overnight loans for the big banks and the big insurance companies. Yes, this is the same African American president who has barely mentioned the words "poor people" or "poverty" in his previous, closely scrutinized State of the Union Addresses.

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