By Lynn Paris
Here . . . or the Philippines
About a year ago my brother decided to chuck it all and move to the Philippines. He was extremely disenchanted with this country. Some of it was personal; after thirty-five years he was sick of being a salesman and with the economy so bad it seemed like he was looking for a new job every few months. That was the economy BEFORE Obama took office, the awful economic mess that Republicans love to blame on Obama but which, we all know, he and his administration inherited from the previous eight years of Bush.
So anyway, my brother did a whole lot of research and discovered that Americans could live very nicely on just their social security in the Philippines. He couldn’t sell his house in Denver, because the housing market had collapsed, before Obama, and he couldn’t get health insurance because he was a sixty-year-old man with pre-existing conditions. Even if he had been able to obtain insurance the rates would have bankrupted him--the cost of health insurance having skyrocketed out of control.
He looked at his prospects for employment, for paying his mortgage, for selling his home, for getting health care. He looked at his credit card debt, which had been mounting steadily at interest rates that were strangling him. And he looked at his country; a country he loved but which he believed had been heading in entirely the wrong direction for many years. He was an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, a supporter of environmentalism and clean energy; he despised corporate greed and the bailout of big banks and financial institutions that had been cheating and robbing us for years, before Obama.
I must admit that my brother is a fairly opinionated guy, and he had always been extremely critical of George W. He believed that Bush’s domestic policies, like tax cuts for the rich, were destroying the country, and that the Bush doctrine (you know, the one Sarah Palin couldn’t identify when asked) was ruining our reputation in the world.
Although it took him several months to get acclimated to an entirely new country, culture, language, etc. my brother actually loves life right now. He’s officially retired and thoroughly enjoying his retirement. He does volunteer work teaching art to eager young Philippine children; he rides his bike, climbs mountains and walks on gorgeous sandy beaches. He’s living a comfortable life in the midst of magnificent scenery, kind and loving people and extreme poverty, which has at times, as he says, brought him to tears. He’s also found himself among a whole group of compassionate, caring Christians who he is coming to respect in a way that would have been impossible in the states, where he thought all Christians were right-wing fanatics.
Before my brother left the country he was excited about one thing: the prospect of Obama becoming president. He believed that if anyone could bring about change, it was Barack Obama. He and I didn’t always agree on things, but we agreed on that. We agreed that it would be an awesome time for this country if Obama became president; we expected real, substantive change, change we could believe in. The only difference is my brother couldn’t wait, so he’s thousands of miles away and I’m still here. He’s reading about the Obama presidency online while I’m experiencing it.
And there have been many times when I’ve wished I could be some place else. I never thought I would say that, ever. I can’t imagine living anywhere but the United States. But it’s been a very rough year. I can’t remember a time as divisive, a time when so many trusted so few. All the exhilaration I felt on Inauguration Day seems to have disappeared into the vapor of bitter partisanship and name calling, tea parties and bizarre accusations, an angry electorate and an inept broken government. It can’t continue. The blame games, political posturing and point scoring have to stop and the business of working for the people has to begin. Right now it seems impossible to break the gridlock . . . it obviously seemed impossible to democratic Senator Evan Bayh who has said that the atmosphere in Washington is so poisonous that he’s not running for re-election.
Many say that there’s no incentive for Republicans to do anything but continue to reject everything proposed by the Obama administration. It’s worked so far because Republicans can take credit in their home states or districts for projects made possible by stimulus bill funds while continuing to condemn that same stimulus spending proposed by Democrats in Congress. In the meantime, Democrats appear to be the ones increasing the deficit. No one wants to give on anything. You can’t increase spending and cut taxes and reduce the deficit and create jobs and stimulate the economy and lower the debt and keep Medicare and condemn a public option. You can’t refuse to regulate and then criticize corporate bonuses and financial practices that need to be regulated. You can’t do it all, certainly not in the same year! You can’t do it all because many of those things contradict each other. And you can’t go back to failed Republican policies that got us in this position in the first place.
I don’t have the answers because no one seems to have them. The Democrats don’t, or they would have used their early momentum and majority and not squandered it. The Republicans don’t, or they would have shared them with the rest of us by now.
But I’m not going to the Philippines. I’m staying right here, and praying for a return to civility. I’m praying that our elected officials remember whom they’re working for. I’m praying that Obama comes through and leads us out of this, somehow, some way. I continue to believe that if anyone can bring about positive change, it will be him. And I want to be here when it happens.