Magical words. That is all we need. This seems to be the message I am hearing at every turn lately. The president of the USA used them in his state of the union speech Wednesday night. A fluctuating percentage of the population parrot those magical words to improve our national image worldwide, provide complete, low cost health care for everybody, create new jobs while increasing taxes and restrictions on businesses. Clients used them during counseling last night. Citizens writing to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser use them. The judge quoted on the front page of today's paper used them to make violations of the "sunshine law" disappear.
Most of you who are close to my age probably know the word "abracadabra" and the word magicians shouted with a flourish when something was made to appear or disappear. If you look a little farther back, it was apparently written in an inverted triangle and worn as an amulet to ward of evil spirits and disease. Sounding a little like an idol, faith was placed in a magical charm to provide protection. Of course, in 2010 we are FAR too sophisticated and intelligent to fall for such silly superstition--right?
Hmmmmm, I am not so sure. Please, please understand. I, too, like the idea of a nation that once enslaved a majority of a race passes through decades and centuries of granting, freedom, rights, help, and eventually preferential treatment to members of that race to the point that education, intelligence, integrity, and abilities are achieved and acknowledged enough that we elect a man of mixed race to he highest and most respected office in our nation. I love that story, I really do. Here, it the rub for me, however. Although I marvel at President Obama's oratory abilities and his skill at framing a conversation to suit the outcome he desires, we have to maintain the ability and right to not accept that a word spoken it the same as an act completed. I think I will say that again; a word spoken is not the same as an act completed. If you don't stop and think about that for a minute, I might say it a third time! If it were the same, I would already be slim, strong, and athletic. I would be doing 100 mile bike rides at 20 mph. I would be completing sprint triathlons in a little over an hour. The reality, though, is that my sincere desires and intentions--even if well-stated and warmly received--do not translate into achievements until much work is done. Having attempted to reach goals over several decades I realize that often the image never materializes even with hard work. The goals and priorities of others, conflicting goals of my own, and laws of nature are a few of the obstacles that can cause visions to go unrealized.
Why, then, do we accept what a charismatic, powerful individual says at a realized truth just because it sounds desirable, without realizing there are costs to be considered and conflicting goals and priorities ALWAYS present for all of us?
This is not an attack on the president. I like the guy. I would have him over for a burger and enjoy a chat with him. Really. This is an attack on YOU and me. Why do we continue to fall for "us vs. them" perspectives whenever discussing important issues? Why do we tolerate a two-party system? Why do we allow race relations to be the 300 pound gorilla in the room? Why would we ever accept any statement, no matter how eloquently presented, without question and honest debate. I am going to try it one more time. ABRACADABRA--I have ridden 35 miles already!
Shoot, didn't work again.