Did you feel it? Are you noticing? The new has fully arrived to replace the old, and the old is going to have to take a long nap under a tree and watch what happens while the new delves in even deeper and does the best it can under the circumstances.
There is much talk, for example, of the man known as President Obama, of his effect and impact so far, his supposed lack of marked accomplishment lo these first dozen months of this most historic and revolutionary of presidencies -- a period, by the way, I am absolutely convinced we will all look back on in 10 or 20 years and go, oh my God, there. Remember that? That was a time, wasn't it? We will sigh and smile and point at the historic pictures and say, dear God, how incredible that was. It was a difficult time, there was much acrimony and resistance, but it was amazing. And it changed everything.
But not so fast. Back here in the dwindling twilight of the '00s, there is much puling from the liberal left that Obama has not done nearly enough, quickly enough, that his list of accomplishments is no list at all and is more of a giant, infuriating shrug. Many are saying he's not all he's cracked up to be because he has yet to completely revolutionize every aspect of human life as we know it by instantly turning everything organic, curing all diseases and setting all gay military personnel free to romp in the fields of boot camp.
Where is the complete ideological overhaul of the entire federal government? Where is the Gandhi-like pacifism? Why are we sending 30K more troops to Afghanistan? What about my new job, my single-payer health care and my tiny car that runs on sunflowers and hemp popsicles? Indeed, rabid impatience has combined with impossible expectation to give many liberals a free ticket to the land of nonstop bitching. Alas.
Conversely, there is all manner of incoherent noise spewing like radioactive urine from the far right, a nonstop wail of childlike panic claiming that, because Obama behaves with unnerving calm, shakes hands with foreign dignitaries and doesn't seem interested in bombing everyone in a turban, he must be a socialist Muslim Nazi hell-bent on banning machine guns and killing all old Republicans in their sleep and replacing them with French-speaking hip-hop jazz musicians.
The good news is, both sides are wildly, fantastically, delightfully wrong. As Slate's Jacob Weisberg rightly points out, Obama has had a very first good year indeed, spectacular even, far better than most in major media acknowledge (but they will, they will). In fact, assuming health care passes, Obama will have accomplished more in his first year than any president in the history of the world, ever.
That might be an exaggeration. But I'm OK with that, because the basic idea is something that needs to be declared a bit more loudly. Nearly everything Bush tore down and decimated and humiliated to its very core, Obama has either restored, is in the process of restoring, or is set to restore. Even Afghanistan appears to have a coherent framework now (we shall see). And that's just the beginning.
Make no mistake, it is not all wine and roses and classy poetry slams in the East Room. Personally, I'm far from the nice swoon for Obama that I experienced when he swept to miraculous, world-altering victory, a swoon born in large part from the nearly unbearable sense of relief that Bush was finally gone. My appreciation is now tempered with harsh reality, as well it should be.
Then again, during the campaign, Obama admitted this exact fact himself, saying he was sure to make mistakes, that you would not agree with every decision, that there would be more bad news before we got back to the good. What a jerk. Oh wait.
Regardless, I had an ambitious idea, way back at the beginning of Obama's term, to keep a loose, running catalog of all his accomplishments, every announcement and policy shift, legislative act and executive order I could find that either reversed a toxic Bush agenda item or put into motion a progressive idea he'd mentioned during the campaign, everything from science to emissions, stem-cell research to women's rights. As the stories came across the wires, I'd grab the link and keep a master list. Just to see.
Ha. It didn't take long before I realized the utter futility of this plan. I simply could not keep up. There were too many, coming too quickly. What's more, many of the changes were not widely reported, were not shouted by the White House by a president seeking applause or a boost in poll numbers from a mal-educated, reactionary "base" who wouldn't be happy until every Planned Parenthood clinic was burned down and Jesus' face was on the dollar bill and the Indy 500 was declared a national holiday. For example.
The good news is, others took up this noble task, have tracked most of Obama's rather stunning, unsung achievements and policy nudges to date. And those changes are voluminous. Here's just one handy list, a quick rundown of about 90 of Obama's more noteworthy accomplishments, right off the top. Can you read it and not be impressed? Or do you get stuck on those handful that you disagree with, personal hot buttons that negate and blinder everything else? Shame.
The amazing thing is, this list is far from complete. Obama has actually accomplished even more, and shows no signs of slowing down. The Washington Post just reported, for example, that the Obama administration is now beginning to ban all lobbyists -- hundreds if not thousands of longtime influence peddlers -- from serving on federal advisory panels. Did you know? Probably not. It didn't get much coverage.
Huh. That's funny. I'm out of room. When I started this piece, I intended to mention Obama only briefly, just one example in a larger list of evolutionary energies that was to include music and food, technology and cars, love and sex, all sorts of myriad evolutions taking place in my world and probably yours as we dance down this wayward road.
But somehow, as I delved in a bit more deeply, as I scanned those lists and noted all the changes in a single year, I found myself reenergized, invigorated, slapped awake at the new tone and direction, the sheer scale of all the changes, and how we are no longer the rogue macho cowboy laughingstock jackass of the world.
Sure, there's still a long way to go. Yes, we're still invading Afghanistan. Wall Street is still packed with jackals and demons. DOMA still exists. All is far from perfect. But times have changed indeed. Things are most definitely not what they once were. I can think of no better news to report.
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