National Commentary

The Culture War Vs. Raging Egos

President Obama has kicked off his second term with a bang, beginning with the highly inspirational Second Inaugural Address. He took the gloves off with that speech, announcing to the world that he is prepared to take the initiative and strike mighty blows for social and economic justice and the process of peace over aggression and war.

He has thrown the right wingers controlling the Republican Party back on their heels. He said emphatically that he would not negotiate an increase in the debt ceiling, and the GOP swiftly relented on that, a far cry from the kinds of bullying and brinksmanship games it had been playing before.

He pushed aggressively for reasonable gun control, rejecting the equivocating and trembling of the past. If the fear-driven modes of the past still persist, it is solely due to congressional elements, and not the White House. It is long past due that elected officials who know better (which should be all but the right wing fringe) should develop some backbone to stand up to the loud and angry but empty threats of the gun lobby.

As former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords appeared before a Senate committee yesterday it is astonishing that no action was taken by her congressional colleagues after one of their own had been shot through the head and only miraculously survived. It took the Sandy Hook shooting, and President Obama’s resolve, to begin the stirrings of change.

On immigration, the President went to Las Vegas to drive home the pragmatic need to address the issue with the self-evident interest of guiltless victims as valuable and potentially even more valuable contributors to the vitality of the U.S. culture and economy.

On social equality, the President said it all in his Second Inaugural Address. He affirmed his commitment to the full enfranchisement of lesbians and gays in our society, removing this final class of citizens denied those rights from the discrimination.

On defense and foreign policy, the President has pushed ahead with the nominations of Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, whose confirmation hearings begin today, and Sen. John Kerry as Secretary of State. Kerry has been overwhelmingly confirmed by the Senate, and while Hagel is the more controversial candidate, the President did not back away when the right wing tried to mount a cascade of protest.

Indeed, the President’s theme in his Second Inaugural Address about the nation’s legacy of turning enemies into allies undoubtedly sent the right wing “neo-conservatives” and their military-industrial complex backers into conniption fits.

Hagel and Kerry are the perfect choices to move the world from guns to butter, beating swords into plowshares, even as we’re all aware how difficult such a process is.

We don’t expect the President to let up, to ease his foot on the pedal (and on the throats of the radical right wing). His decisive electoral win in November, and the fact that over a million more votes were cast in the nation for Democrats than for Republicans running for congressional seats (deterred only by the effects of gerrymandering) has provided an overwhelming mandate.

All that’s been missing up to this point has been the courage and resolve to press ahead decisively, and if you hear all the right wing pundits, they’re howling that this is just what the President should not do.

But by the tone and eloquence of his Second Inaugural Address, President Obama has signaled that he just might become one of the greatest leaders in our nation’s history, the kind of bigger-than-life figure of a Washington, Clay, Lincoln or Roosevelt who bore the mantle of leadership at just the right time to avert the disintegration of this nation’s great experiment with democracy, and thrust it ahead to a brighter, more secure future.

On a fundamental level, the nation needs to be cured of the poison of cynical, selfish postmodernism in its many forms, essentially boiled down to the raging egos of stupid white men demanding their privileged entitlement to do as they please.

Unchained by the “Reagan revolution,” these creatures of the id almost destroyed us, but there’s reason to hope they’ve met their match in the second Obama administration.