Time to stop admiring my fingernails and act like an American citizen

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So, I fully intended to lean back against the wall, and just admire my fingernails in cool disinterest as this election rolled past, since I’m no longer participating in Red Team vs. Blue Team charade. I’m a hardcore unaffiliated voter — allied with neither party and no longer gulping the party Kool-Aid.

Don’t get me wrong. I still feel that way. If you’ve been with me long enough, you know that my political commentary has dwindled down to almost nothing. Whereas politics were once a staple in my columns, I made a conscious effort to walk away from it. I wrote only one political column in more than a year, a humorous little romp about the Republican primary candidates, because come on — Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry all in one batch? It’s a columnist’s wet dream, that’s what it is. Even I don’t have that much self-control.

Other than that, I was pretty much done with politics. What triggered it? My extreme disillusionment with President Barack Obama’s performance in his first term. But be clear: I was never disillusioned with Obama himself. I was disillusioned with his inability to battle the Republican Goliath. But not as much as I was disillusioned — sickened, in fact — with the inarguable evidence that despite our country being in crisis, despite people losing their jobs and homes, the Republican representatives put party above country. Way above. They had one goal, and one goal only: Block Obama at every possible opportunity, regardless of consequence, and regain Republican power. The Republican behavior in Congress since Obama took office can be described in only one term: vulgar.

The Republicans had their marching orders, and they maneuver as one unit in Congress, much like a front line of Roman soldiers, locking their shields into one barrier and punching forward, literally marching down whatever stands in front of them. This is how Rome conquered the world, and this is how the Republicans are attempting to conquer our own democracy. No one human being, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how articulate or brilliant, can defeat this sort of organized onslaught. Including Barack Obama. And that’s why I lost interest in politics for a long while. It’s no fun watching a mouse take on a lion. It’s better to just not watch.

That said — who had his back in all this? The Democrats just peed themselves and ran away when the wall of Republican shields came at them. Which is another reason why I’ve been hugely disillusioned with the Democratic Party, and why I re-registered Decline to State. They didn’t know how to stand up and fight, and you can only root for a bunch of cowering, unorganized pansies for so long. But maybe that’s changing.

The Democratic National Convention revealed that the Democrats have learned that they can’t play nice with Republicans, but have learned to fight back without exchanging integrity for victory. They’ve discovered that facts are weapons, as epitomized in President Bill Clinton’s scintillating speech. Fact by fact, Clinton eviscerated Republican propaganda.

He reminded us that no president could have inherited what Barack Obama did and fix it in four years. Particularly with the congressional majority blocking his every move. They were aiming at zero success. But he succeeded anyway. Like the bumper sticker says, “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” Fact.

The Republicans keep asking “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Wrong question. Here’s the right one: “Are you better off now than you were on Sept. 11, 2001?” Only Osama bin Laden would answer “Yes” to that. If he could.

Thank you, Barack Obama.

Obama inherited the collapse of Wall Street, the collapse of the housing market, and the potential collapse of the American auto industry, hell, the collapse of the entire economy. This is what the Republicans did for us. They crashed the family car, and now they want us to give them back the keys? I don’t think so, kiddo. You’re grounded for a while longer. No car keys for you until you prove that you’re responsible enough to have them. Meanwhile, the guy who’s been trying to repair the car needs more time, and the job would happen a lot faster if congressional Republicans didn’t keep hiding the tools.

Yes, I’m speaking up again. I realize that I’ve wallowed in luscious, selfish, bittersweet disillusionment long enough. My inspiration reignited while watching Michelle Obama speak. She reminded me why I fell in love with her husband. Then came Clinton, who blew the entire election dynamic out of the water and vocalized a paradigm shift for the Democratic party. And last night, Obama himself. No flash this time — just reminding us what our values are. Every word that fell from his lips rang true and solid in my heart. Yes, these are my values. Not because the Democrats say so. Because I say so.

Obama reintroduced a quaint, obsolete word into the political conversation that we don’t hear much any anymore: citizenship.

“This country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations,” said my president. Yes. My president. I declare it proudly.

Obama may not have accomplished everything I’d hoped for in his first term. But you know what? He tried. And despite crushing Republican opposition, he wants to keep trying. I say, “Let him.”

I’ve admired my fingernails long enough. It’s time to start acting like a citizen. Obama nailed it: What’s in it for me vs. what’s in it for us. That’s what citizenship is. I know where I stand on that, and I’ll vote accordingly.

— Email Debra DeAngelo, winner of the 2012 Best Serious Column award in the National Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com

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