Road day #2: Nation in crisis, sweatpants

The view from the last service area in Ohio. This was the prettiest composition I could assemble.

The view from the last service area in Ohio. This was the prettiest composition I could assemble.

Greetings from Room 128 of the Microtel in South Bend, Indiana, where the coffee is free, the children are obese, and my next door neighbor loves TV. This is the real America, unfettered by government, unsupervised by bosses, and unable to eat M&Ms without dropping them in the hallway. I’m just saying—we all live in this Microtel, and we all get to choose what sort of environment it is.

As usual, my suggestions have been overruled by the forces of democracy. Perhaps, though, another nerd will fare better with America’s heartland. While the rest of us while away our time in the Microtel, ordering micro-prostitutes and then being too scared to answer the door when they arrive, Barack Obama will be on Capitol Hill trying to convince Chuck Grassley to pay for treatment of our micro-gonorrhea. This guy and I are on, like, the same star path or something.

The President of the United States of America will address the 111th United States Congress tonight, and ideally tell them to stop playing grabass and serve the American people. Depending on whom you ask, the fight for health care reform is either basically okay or a complete, pun-riddled clusterfudge.* In either case, it’s Go Time for Barack Obama. We elected this guy on the promise of real change, and health care reform with a public option is it. The American people did not run out and vote for this guy because we wanted real, systemic change in our foreign policy. Over the last thirty years, the United States of America has become a plutocracy, in which the price of everything—health care, housing, frickin’ food—has risen steeply while real wages remind stagnant. Someone is making money on our bold new American economy, and it’s not the hoi polloi. It’s the Aetna Corporation and corporations like it, and they’re pumping that money back into the economy in the form of undue influence on American politics. This summer, the American people turned out in force to protest against the government competing with or even further regulating private health insurance. Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure the same people who were okay with Bush’s prescription drug benefit or two simultaneous land wars in the Middle East have been acting entirely unguided in this matter. Corporate interests have hijacked the national debate over health care reform, and whether the President can metaphorically kick in the cockpit door and seize control of the national political 747 like metaphorical Wesley Snipes will tell us a lot about the future of this country. Hopefully, he can. If he can’t, we may have to reconcile ourselves to a system in which corporate money, public ignorance and political gamesmanship conspire to leave Americans with a democracy in name only.

If there is a man for that job in 21st-century America, Barack Obama is it. If there’s a good public speaker who epitomizes the hopes of a generation but can’t provide more than symbolic resistance against the forces that made us need him, Barack Obama is it, too. Tonight and the weeks of legislative sausage-making that follow will probably settle the question either way. I hope he’s the real deal, because if he turns out not to be I’ll probably get depressed, and no one will pay for my pills. I’ll have to sit in the back of my pickup truck in the rural midwest, self-medicating with a joint and a poorly-written folk song about a change that could have been. Lord knows, the last thing we need at a time like this is more hippie. Please make a good speech tonight, Barack Obama. Please make it super-mean, so it convinces rich guys to set aside some money for sick people. Another decade of watching homeless people’s feet rot off in the subway while our elected representatives argue passionately about whether gay dudes should get married, and this blog will be 100% about ice cube trays.

* Once again, Maureen Dowd seems to have researched her column by looking at the preview window of her Google Reader.

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