August 14, 2009
The People's Genie Is out of the BottleBy Lee Cary
Obama and Democrat Congressional leaders uncorked the bottle and the peoples' Genie is out.
He's not happy, this Genie. In normal times, he sits there quietly inside the bottle. Sometimes watching. Mostly not. He finds politics boring, if not disgusting.
He sat and watched in silence as the TARP bill passed. Told the sky was falling, he looked up and saw it wasn't. But he shrugged, trusting the bipartisan nature of the effort. Then, as TARP rolled out, he stood up. The bailouts plowed a furrow across his forehead; his eyebrows lowered; his gaze intensified. But he stayed inside the bottle.
Along came the Stimulus Bill. Or, in the language of the big spenders, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Genie smelled the bacon through the glass bottle. He heard the squeals coming next from the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. Another stampede of pigs.
Inside the bottle, the Genie's leaned forward, pressing his hands and nose flat against the glass. As he watched banks and car companies yield to government control, his jaw slid up. His lips pressed tight. His breathing shortened. But he stayed inside the bottle.
In his peripheral vision he saw a dancing troupe dressed like Cossacks enter the side door of the White House and disappear within. The Czars had come. The Genie watched, and wondered.
Events outside the bottle picked up speed. More crisis talk was in the air. He checked the sky again. Still no signs of a falling.
Then, ever heavier and more complicated legislative tomes rolled out of Congress in carriages drawn by hubris and arrogance. Cap & Trade and Healthcare Reform. Their long official titles no longer impressed the Genie. But their huge price tags did. As did the mounting federal budget deficit for 2009. Now at $1.84 trillion, with more to come.
By this time, the Genie was rocking his bottle back-and-forth. He tried and failed to get the big spenders' attention. His mouth moved, but no sound escaped his bottle, at least in the ears of the big spenders and the old news media, becoming ever more irrelevant with each news cycle as they peddle into obscurity.
The people felt powerless because they were. They had no voice that carried. The big spenders pretended to listen, but then condescendingly told the people that everything happening was for their own good. It was meant to be, they said. Doing nothing, they said, is worse.
When the people protested, they were called rightwing extremists, disruptive malcontents, organized mobs, Nazis brown shirts, and other names which they are not. In fact, they're average American citizens in a nation where nothing is average about them. On the planet, they are the most extraordinary of citizens.
Calling the people names was the last straw. The Genie tipped the bottle over, put his feet against the cork, and kick his way out. Beware of an uncorked Genie.
As this happened, the people started coming to town hall meetings, meant mostly to convince them to go-along to get-along. They held the heavy healthcare bill in their hands. Dog-eared from having been read.
The big spenders were shocked to learn that the people had taken time to do what they, the professional legislators, had not done - they'd read the bill! The people came armed with enlightened questions, reasoned arguments, and impassioned opinions. All things the big spenders lacked. In some cases, numbers were handed out at the entry door to qualify and order those who could speak. Then, one after the other, questioners asked clear, targeted questions. Sharpshooters picked at random. Remarkable.
The people stood, a furrow plowed across their foreheads. Their eyebrows lowered. Their chins up, lips pressed tight, gaze intensified. The Genie was out. When the big spenders told them that their reading of the bill was incorrect, the people found their voice. And, though some quivered with nervousness, they pushed against the glass. This time their voice was most definitely heard.
Obama and the Democrat Congressional leadership let the Genie out of the bottle. It was an unintended consequence of their crass and heavy-handed methods of leadership. They forgot, if they ever knew, that Americans can be led, but they cannot be herded.
Obama and Friends though it possible to ride roughshod over the Genie's people. They remembered the swooning crowds seduced by the oratorical skills of their leader. They assumed his charisma would carry the day, again. The people would fold and comply, even if they might not commit. And, for those who would not fold easily, there was always the muscle mustered from Obama's acolytes and allies. There was always the hype served up on demand by the old media. There was always the cumulative ridicule and name-calling spit from the lips of their Party leaders. These things would deflect the people's skepticism and temper their anger. So they thought.
They were wrong. All these things did was make the people angrier and harden their determination to be heard, and more - to be heeded.
One young woman at a town hall meeting said that, for the first time in her life, she was taking politics seriously because so much is at stake. Her freedoms mostly. Her children's future, too. She said the effort to force the healthcare bill on the people "had awakened a sleeping giant." She could have ended her sentence with the words Admiral Isoraku Yamamoto spoke after the Japanese attacked on Pearl Harbor: "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
We are watching each other stand up in town hall meetings and face our representatives. Those politicians with the courage to attend anyway. We watch live, and we watch on that most sensational and powerful new medium of the web: YouTube. The peoples' articulate and courageous statements procreate exponentially, multiplying like amoebas on steroids, as we feed on the resolve of others. A resolve only terrible to those who would silence dissent. Wonderful to the rest of us.
So the Genie is out of the bottle. And it'll be a good while before he thinks it safe to crawl back in.