A couple of years ago, I got sick. Really sick. Really, really sick. And I didn’t get better until I eliminated wheat gluten from my diet. The path to better health for me has been a slow haul, a loooooooong process, with many fits and starts. To this day (and for the rest of my life) I must continually monitor everything that I put anywhere near my mouth, or I suffer a painful relapse, followed by a prolonged recovery.
I consider this condition, not a badge of pride, nor a weakness to shout from the rooftops as an excuse for why I can’t fulfill my duties, but as a fact in my life, an obstacle that I must find a way around in order to achieve my goals. I know that I am not alone—not the “other people are in the same boat, so the burden on all of us is lessened”—not that type of not alone. I know that I am not alone in having obstacles to overcome. All of us has our own form of gluten intolerance to deal with. All of us have struggles we face each and every day.
Unfortunately, there’s no one to blame for my condition, no one I can point to and say, “He did it! Get ‘im!” It just is; it’s a fact of life—of my life. Even if there were someone to blame, someone whose negligence or conscious act caused this condition, I am still the one who has to live with it. It is what it is, and I have to find a way to get myself and my condition through each and every day. And that, in a very roundabout fashion, brings us to Mr. Obama.
The one thing that Democrats in the past hundred years or so have been good at, is inspiration. They could certainly get the American populace to believe in their exceptionalism. Picture Teddy Roosevelt, rushing up San Juan Hill, or with his big stick, forging a canal through Panama. FDR governed from his wheelchair when he was unable to stand. Harry Truman made Americans think that they were so special, they were justified in blowing hundreds of thousands of Japanese sky-high. Bill Clinton, through all his hijinks in the oval office, made Americans feel that he shared their pain, and that there would be a better tomorrow. And John Kennedy-even the name stirs a chord of patriotism. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
How the political conversation has degenerated since then. Now, it is all about what our country can do for us. Low interest student loans. Medicare. Medicaid. FEMA. EBT. Unemployment insurance. Health care. Social Security. Cradle to grave, we continually ask our country what more it can do for us. Is it us? Are we so much more in need of support than we were a mere 50 years ago? As a rational, thinking, proud American, I like to think not, but oh, how the Democratic line has changed.
There are a couple of ways that we can claw our way through this short life we are given. Some people call these the glass half-full or half-empty perspectives. I think of them more as the attitude of abundance, or the attitude of scarcity. Whatever the moniker you cast upon them, the result is the same. You either wake up every morning wondering where you can go from here, given whatever limitations are currently assailing you, or you wake up every morning, wondering how you can hang onto whatever few possessions you’ve managed to grasp, and how much others owe you today. Unfortunately for those half-empty folks, the only possible path to contentment leads through the notion of abundance. Here’s why.
Under the rubric of scarcity, there is no such thing as enough. No matter how much you do, how much you accumulate, no matter how much others do for you or give you, there is never enough. At any moment, it all could be taken away, so you must grasp it, fight for it, at every turn. And, under scarcity, you must always keep track of the other person’s piece of the pie—for someone else always has more than you do. Under scarcity, fairness is the supposed method of doling out the goodies, as if there could be any objective way to determine what could possibly be a fair way to compensate each of us for our own specific burdens, our obstacles that we deal with.
Living through an attitude of abundance, on the other hand, allows you to ride the bad times out—and we all have bad times in our lives. With abundance, you realize that you have the wherewithal to come back, to build up your own self and begin your life anew. And if your life finishes itself before you manage to accumulate all that you wanted to, at least you had yourself throughout the struggle. You have the pride of perseverance, of carrying your own burden.
I grieved when I realized what all I had to give up when I had to do without wheat, how much of life’s bounty was no longer available to me. (Of course, I had long ago also had to resign myself to the fact that I was not going through this life as a world-famous dancer.) But that is the nature of our world. We all have our limitations, we all have our broken dreams. But to focus on that takes away the best part of our natures. Are we not all inspired by the child with cancer, who lives what is left of his short life with a serenity beyond his years? Do we not all feel uplifted by the single mother who works two jobs for the sake of her family? Is there not enough grace in this world, in this whole wide universe, for each of us to draw upon in taking responsibility for bettering our own lives?
After the period of grief is the time to rebuild. A few days ago, I heard some television personality (sorry, I can’t remember which one it was) say that the President has two jobs: uphold the Constitution and defend the country. I would add a third: to inspire. The President should be a leader for the entire citizenry, and indeed, the world. The job of fragmenting society into us and them more rightfully belongs to a dictator who is attempting to consolidate his base through creating a common enemy.
Of course, there are those who have burdens too heavy to carry, who are in absolute need of assistance. And if the rest of us, the ones who have come to rely on the crutches provided by a government interested in giving only in order to garner more power, would find the strength to throw off our golden shackles and stand back on our own two feet, then we could quit fighting each other, provide what we need for our own selves, and help those who really need help. Now that would be inspiring.