Obama and the 3 curses
Recently, I came across something spooky. Composing a political comment to share with friends, I referenced the putative ancient Chinese curse may you live in interesting times. It's an old saw of unknown provenance and authenticity, but one that has gained enduring currency in the English language and seemed to capture the bitter lesson Americans have learned since falling for Barack Obama's frothy promises of hope and change.
After all, what could be more interesting than watching a young and inexperienced President set out to transform America, empowered by electoral mandate and his party's control of Congress? And President Obama did not disappoint. He boldly borrowed $5 trillion dollars to spend on bailouts and stimulus and government programs on a scale unseen before. He took over health care, auto companies and student loans. He used the power of the purse and an army of regulators flamboyantly, to recast the United States as a socialist country. How exciting to live in these most interesting of times!
And, of course, the promise turned into a curse. We have worse than nothing to show for record government spending and debt. Unemployment is stuck above 9% and we lose jobs "unexpectedly" with monotonous regularity. Gas and food prices are skyrocketing. We've extended jobless benefits into another welfare entitlement and 46 million people are on food stamps, another record. The economy has stalled and teeters on the brink of a disastrous backslide into a recession we never really escaped. And let's not forget America's historic credit downgrade and the waves of foreclosures. In Washington they talk of economic "uncertainty," but across the land there is the unmistakable stench of fear in the air.
Satisfied with my commentary, I decided to look up the Chinese quote to make sure I got the wording right. It turned out that there is no known Chinese language version of the quote, nor a definitive Western source. But what stopped me in my tracks was that this is the first of three apocryphal quotes of increasing severity, like the circles of hell. Whether genuine or not, all three contain nuggets of rueful truth that explain their enduring currency. And to read them today is to experience a shock of recognition - they are the three horsemen of the Barackalypse.
The second curse: May you come to the attention of powerful people. How apt is that? We are a nation crying out for out-of-control government to leave us alone. What misfortune to come to the attention of tax collectors and regulators who squeeze the life from all they touch. The EPA's destruction alone is a nightmare. And how many people, professions and industries have been demonized and punished after falling under the gimlet eye of government? They attack bankers, doctors, insurance agents, jet owners, millionaires, billionaires, people who earn over $200,000, pharmaceutical and oil companies, the food industry, small businesses, Cambridge cops and on and on. How would you feel if the Obama Administration or his government minions picked you out of the crowd? Chilling thought, right?
Then there is the third curse: May you find what you are looking for. This brings us back, full circle, to the precipice of hope and change where in 2008 we launched ourselves, lemming-like, into the abyss. Remember how it was then? We needed a historic figure to bring big changes to the country! No more George Bush and his war-fighting, oil-sucking, tough-talking, environment-stomping, grotesque-profit-making America. We were the ones we'd been waiting for! And in our euphoria we wanted a President who promised to sweep the old, degenerate America from the stage and replace her with something new.
We got what we wished for and now we are thrice-cursed. Interesting indeed.