The State of the Boom

Why is it called “The State of the Union” instead of “The State of the Republic”? Maybe because we fought a war to preserve union without paying too close attention to what it means for republicanism?

This is a backhanded way of saying I didn’t listen to the President’s address last night. I never do, whether it’s a Republican or Democrat, because the rhetoric is so pretty and predictable and long. It is all theater with little substance, but it is bad theater, comparable to Breaking Bad or Mad Men.

I did read through President Obama’s address, though, and I can’t say that he led me to think that he is one of the smarter men in the nation (he may be but if so he felt compelled to sink to the level of his audience and speech writers). Here are a couple of the ephemeral bromides scattered through the text. First on American exceptionalism:

At this moment – with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production – we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.

Does the President really believe this or is he an American patriot simply going through the motions, someone who needs to get right with the United States’ real redemptive purpose?

Here is how the President concluded:

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.

I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I want them to grow up in a country where a young mom like Rebekah can sit down and write a letter to her President with a story to sum up these past six years:

“It is amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”

My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America. We’ve laid a new foundation. A brighter future is ours to write. Let’s begin this new chapter – together – and let’s start the work right now.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

I find it hard to believe that the President’s baby boomer cohort believes any of this. They certainly don’t find it inspiring or ennobling, if they are honest. Where is the old ideal of “speaking truth to power,” or being suspicious of the establishment, or how could this verbiage summon up some kind of commitment to a common purpose like the one that Martin Luther King legitimately inspired? And if a public official is going to traffic in such triteness, does he or she need to go on for close to 70 minutes (I know this because the address was still on the radio as I engaged my bedtime toilet). (And why, oh why, does the Governor of Michigan need to warble on for over an hour about the State of the State?)

Again, this isn’t the President’s fault or a complaint about policy. This is a lament about where the new order for the ages has wound up. This is what passes for intelligent reflection about important matters before the nation that is supposed to be an example to the rest of the world. But as a baby boomer who knew other boomers who thought they could do a lot better than their parents, I am still wondering when we are going to find those better achievers or find the honesty to admit we were wrong.

25 thoughts on “The State of the Boom

  1. “It is all theater with little substance, but it is bad theater, comparable to Breaking Bad or Mad Men.”

    Sigh. Hey, at least it’s not Lutherans anymore.


  2. free to write our own futures

    is that even a good thing?

    is it a possibility

    wouldn’t it be more convenient to be free to rewrite our own pasts? (of have it done for us as Reagan did?)

    lying about the past is a possible thing

    but better to learn history in order to repudiate it

    no hope but in God’s remission—-our sins not imputed to us


  3. As a so-called “Millennial,” I have to say that I feel no small amount of stress over the fact that I, apparently, have to write a “brighter future”. And I thought my days of Herculean (not Poirot) writing-assignments were over *coughGamblecough*.

    I am also not too jazzed that my fellow Millennial co-writers can barely spit up sentences that that reach 140 characters ($, #, and * included!), and somehow, somehow we’re expected to write up a “brighter future”? Absalom Absalom.

    The response to the SOTU was fairly well-received, I think, but aren’t they all? It’s sentiment, a few zingers, and whole lot of smiles and optimism. What’s not to like?

    To paraphrase Nabokov, as most of the Lesser Generation seem have been doing in regards to the speech:
    “Obama, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Oh-Bah-Mah: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Oh-Bah-Mah.”


  4. Maybe these guys bought what the President was selling:

    Though we continually sin and mess up, repentance and a communal life committed to justice, compassion and sustainability are within our grasp.

    That’s what God wants for us and it is the message we see in the witness of the First Testament prophets, the life and death of Jesus and the first century assemblies of Jesus-followers.


  5. DGH, the SotU is useful for a real President or in times of crisis.

    Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton (yeah, he’s in there) didn’t waste out time totally


  6. “… we are a people who see our differences as a great gift …”

    Huh? If that’s the case why have we been steered by so many leftists over the past several decades toward a homogenous quagmire of unqualified egalitarianism? We’re all the same, only different?


  7. Then there’s this by Kevin Williamson over at National Review regarding last year’s SOTU. Same thing still applies:

    Great Caesar’s Ghost
    On the nauseating spectacle that is the State of the Union address
    By Kevin D. Williamson

    The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

    It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

    It’s worse than the Oscars.

    The national self-debasement begins well before the speech is under way. Members of Congress — supposedly free men and women serving as the elected representatives of the citizens of a self-governing republic — arrive hours early, camping out like spotty-faced adolescents waiting for Justin Bieber tickets, in the hope of staking out some prime center-aisle real estate that they might be seen on television, if only for a second or two, being greeted by the national pontifex maximus as he makes his stately procession into the chamber.

    When the moment comes and the sergeant-at-arms utters the sacred words — “Mr. Speaker! The president of the United States!” — the chamber will erupt, as though the assembled have entirely forgotten that the mysterious entity that is the object of this curious act of national worship only a decade ago was an obscure legislator in a destitute and corrupt state, a man whose most prominent legislative accomplishment was the passage of a bill requiring police to videotape confessions in potential capital cases — in a state in which there were as a practical matter no potential capital cases. (Illinois had not carried out an execution during the century in which the law was passed and was on its way toward abolishing capital punishment categorically.)

    But they will listen, rapt, and the media mandarins afterward will evaluate each promise with great sobriety, ignoring entirely that the central promise made during the same charlatan’s first State of the Union address was subsequently labeled “Lie of the Year” by the great man’s own frustrated admirers. That an entire class of people should be so enthusiastic about being lied to, serially, is perplexing.

    And then there are the human props. This year’s victim du jour is one Jason Collins, an aging professional basketball player boasting more than $32 million in lifetime earnings who has publicly affirmed his homosexuality. For this act of courage/oversharing, he is to be seated in the first lady’s box. That there is such a thing as the first lady’s box is lamentable in and of itself. There is a royal box at London’s Royal Opera, complete with a private, Victorian-style toilet. And while the antiquated royal toilet may be a perfect metaphor for the State of the Union festivities, this is a republic, not a monarchy, and honors and offices are not accrued through marriage. Michelle Obama is a currently unemployed former part-time hospital administrator and mother to two lovely daughters. That is admirable enough, but she is a figure of public importance through marriage only, which is to say, properly a figure of curiosity, not of policy. She is not a royal consort, and proximity to her in seating should not constitute a message about the direction of government. (Even Lady Macbeth was known to dispense with such pretensions when pressed: “Stand not upon the order of your going,” she advises her dinner guests.)

    There will be other totems, of course: victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, the District of Columbia’s teacher of the year (cf. “tallest building in Wichita”), and a kid who built an “extreme marshmallow cannon” for a White House science fair — an act of engineering that almost certainly would have gotten him kicked out of any D.C. teacher of the year’s classroom, if not imprisoned.

    The State of the Union has not always been a grotesque spectacle. George Washington delivered his briefing in person, but he was dealing with a self-respecting Congress that understood itself to be his equal in government. When he wanted the Senate’s advice and consent for an Indian treaty, he visited the chamber personally to seek it — and was so put off by the questioning and debate to which he was subjected that he vowed never to put himself through that again. It was an excellent idea. Thomas Jefferson, ever watchful against monarchical pretensions in the federal apparatus, discontinued the practice of delivering the State of the Union in person before Congress, instead submitting a written report. For a blessed century, Jefferson’s example was followed, and, despite civil war and the occasional financial panic, the nation thrived without an ersatz Caesar to rule over it.

    It will come as no surprise that the imperial model was reinstated by Woodrow Wilson, Princeton’s answer to Benito Mussolini and the most dangerous man ever elected to the American presidency, a would-be dictator who attempted to criminalize the act of criticizing the state, dismissed the very idea of individual rights as “a lot of nonsense,” and described his vision of the presidency as effectively unlimited (“The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can”). A big man needs a big show, and it is to Wilson’s totalitarian tastes that we owe the modern pageant.

    The next Republican president should remember why his party is called the Republican party and put a stop to this.

    The State of the Union is only one example of the deepening, terrifying cult of the state that has taken root here. Many heads of state — and some royals, for that matter — fly on commercial aircraft. Presidents of the Swiss federation and members of the federal council receive . . . an unlimited train pass. They have occasional access to a Cessna maintained by the air force, but are known to use mass transit — just like the people they are elected to represent. An American president stages a Roman triumph every time he heads out for a round of golf. The president’s household costs well more than $1 billion annually to operate. The president’s visage is more ubiquitous than was Vladimir Lenin’s in his prime, his reach Alexandrian, his sense of immortality (they call it “legacy”) pharaonic. Washington has become a deeply weird and alien place, a Renaissance court with armored sedans and hundred-million-dollar paydays.
    It’s expensive maintaining an imperial class, but money isn’t really the object here, and neither is the current occupant of the White House, unlikeable as he is. Whether it’s Barack Obama or some subsequent pathological megalomaniac, Republican or Democrat, the increasingly ceremonial and quasi-religious aspect of the presidency is unseemly. It is profane. It is unbecoming of us as a people, and it has transformed the presidency into an office that can be truly attractive only to men who are unfit to hold it.

    George Washington showed the world that men do not need a king. We, his heirs, have allowed the coronation of something much worse.


  8. It’s not boomers, it’s Obama:

    All he wants is to create a certain response, to inspire or impress or bedazzle or placate or pacify or distract you. And nobody I know in recent history does that better than Mr. Obama. He is the man Plato warned us about in Book VIII of his Republic, the future tyrant who comes out of nowhere and ascends to meteoric heights of influence amidst the breakdown of a democracy by making empty promises he has no intention of keeping, and by keeping the ignorant masses in perpetual distraction in order to keep their minds off his machinations and increasingly extravagant personal lifestyle. Crown him Emperor? Caveat emptor.

    See how fair and balanced (all about) I am?


  9. The SOTU address is a series of clichés, wrapped in banality, buried inside a platitude. Par for the course, really.


  10. DGH – No. Worse than the day long pre-game events for the Super Bowl combined with the half-time show.


  11. SOTU addresses leave me longing for the shallow responses of pro athletes. I’d gladly settle for a SOTU that basically says, “it is what it is. Thank you my fellow Americans, and God bless.”


  12. “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.”

    Why do American Presidents imagine they have the authority to pronounce Divine benedictions at secular-civil events?

    Another example of the blasphemy of American civil religion on full display.

    So much for the third commandment.


  13. George: “Huh? If that’s the case why have we been steered by so many leftists over the past several decades toward a homogenous quagmire of unqualified egalitarianism? We’re all the same, only different?”

    Exactly! Ding ding!


  14. With all due respect to his office, our President is a narcissistic postmodernist who uses words not as a means of conveying objective meaning and truth, but as flexible tools employed by his masterful rhetoric to emotionally manipulate the masses into unquestioning submission to his transformationist progressive ideology. (Yea, I know that’s a mouthful.)


  15. Why do American Presidents imagine they have the authority to pronounce Divine benedictions at secular-civil events?
    Another example of the blasphemy of American civil religion on full display.
    So much for the third commandment.

    Our very own Rev. Rineheart (cf. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man) can and does, do as he pleases because he has sufficient authority invested in him as a Dimocrat, a politician and a minority, all of which is seconded by the socialist mainstream moron media.



  16. the “wonder working power” of the American people

    America is a strong nation and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers. Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world; it is God’s gift to humanity.

    Lying with words is not a postmodern invention…


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