Religion & Politics

A Reflection on Modern Presidencies

To even point out anything that even remotely challenges, our dominance or supposed “good doings”, is labeled as “Un-American.”

By Sean P. McKelvey

As the celebration of our cold, calculated, violent, racist, sexist, xenophobic, entitled, ethnocentric, arrogant, privileged, genocidal, and disgustingly imperialistic leaders quickly approaches (President’s Day, as it’s commonly referred to); I find it a moral imperative and obligation to write this. There will be plenty of celebration of our country’s accomplishments and a sickening amount of gushing about our past presidents’ “greatness,” honorable ideals and accomplishments in the next day or so. I believe, however; in keeping with the American attitude and ideal (that sets us apart and makes us, truly; something to aspire to, given the nobility of our true purpose; which welcomed and celebrated, dissenting opinion and viewpoints, and the free exercise, thereof), the more dark and sad truths of our history, must also be shared. Our society must never forget that although we have, very much indeed, come an incredibly long and very honorable way; we still, and will always have much room for improvement to realize, the true promise of our great nation. That we all, regardless of our individual circumstances, or literally, anything else, at all, are equal, as Americans, and are all on an equal footing to start out. That we, and only we create our own futures and destiny: not, our class, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or any other factor beyond our own control.

Since that is simply not the reality, at all, in our country; I have trouble blindly celebrating the absolutely broken promises that President’s Day represents. I will always have a big fat bone to pick with anything that feels like bullshit patriotic propaganda. Indeed, we ALL should take issue with any narrative being spoon fed to us, as if it’s the only way we are really allowed to view or understand something, without being ostracized and told we’re “splitting hairs,” and only looking for the negative. “This is a day, time, month, week, hour; what the fuck ever, for us; as Americans, to celebrate, the actual good, we, or our nation, has done. To even point out anything that even remotely challenges, our dominance or supposed “good doings”, is labeled as “Un-American.” This attitude and lack of analyzing complex thought is precisely the overall issue, the world at large, has with our country. And here we are; proving we ain’t learned a damn thing and are still clinging to incredibly antiquated ideals, that chain us to an unsavory and honestly, awful past. That which we maniacally defend, for no real reason and, even further; no quantifiably good reason, at all. Our country has willfully and very purposefully left well over half of us so far behind. It is tragically pathetic that we still hold onto the delusion that we matter, at all, to the corporate juggernaut we call America. Needless to say; in “honor of,” President’s Day, I present you with just a very small taste of the really awful things, our presidents have done, on our dime, and in our name, too…

We all know that plenty of our past presidents were incredibly racist, sexist, and so on. We know plenty of them owned slaves and fought to keep slavery going. We know they carried out the genocide of the Native Americans. Since, these are the well-known points in shameful presidential history, I’d like to focus on a few examples of shameful presidential policy from more modern presidents. We will start with Ronald Reagan.
There are many, many things I could use to illustrate a much darker picture of Reagan, than the one we commonly think of, but, I’ve decided to focus on one, truly abhorrent part of his presidential legacy. The Iran Contra Affair, where Reagan gave the CIA the go ahead, to sell cocaine to the ghettos of especially Los Angeles, and use the drug money to buy weapons to exchange for hostages taken by Iran. It was basically a right-wing social engineering, wet dream, come true. It helped create one of the worst drug epidemics the inner city has ever seen and helped arm and train the folks in Iran that would later become members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. The negative effects of this horrible ordeal are still lasting today. They can be seen in the despair and desperation of inner-city crack addicts, or in the grief of those who lost someone on September 11. 2001. The Iran Contra Affair, alone, is reason enough to at least think twice before blindly celebrating this presidency.

Now let’s focus on everyone’s favorite “liberal” president, Bill Clinton. There are, as with all American presidents, many policies and actions one could use to paint a very dark picture of his presidency, so I’ve chosen to focus on a few points of policy that were terribly ill advised and their negative effects still last, to this day. The Three Strikes Law was one of the most racist pieces of legislation in modern history and led to the creation of what can be referred to as the “prison-industrial complex” that we have today. The law has been found to unfairly incarcerate minorities and has strengthened the shift to the privatization of our prison system. People were getting 25 to life sentences for crimes as petty as shoplifting small amounts of food, when this policy first passed. This policy was bad enough; but apparently that wasn’t enough, because Clinton also brought us Welfare Reform. His reform was cruel and unfairly targeted especially single mothers. (Ironic for a man raised by a single mother, himself, who was on welfare). Welfare Reform kicked tons of people off welfare and forced many more into below poverty level wage jobs, that were not full time, offered no benefits and offered no upward mobility whatsoever. People were forced to work these low level, crappy jobs, in order to collect welfare; however, the minute these people made even one dollar above the cutoff amount, they were ineligible to collect welfare, at all. Basically, it forced them to work low level, crappy jobs to collect welfare, but took it away as soon as they were working. That is just plain cruel. There are many other examples from Clinton’s presidency that show he was not this champion of the people he’s regarded as. I simply don’t have the time or space to delve into them, here.

Finally, we get to Barrack Obama. I fear that, since our current president, Donald Trump is so bad; so far beyond the pale, that Obama will basically get a free pass from history on anything, not so great, is his presidency and that bothers me greatly. There are examples from his presidency that show that he is just as much a part of our political establishment as any other member of it. He promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay; it is still open. He signed the Whistleblower Act, then exiled Edward Snowden, arrested Julian Assange and kept Chelsea Manning in Guantanamo Bay for years. Then there were the drone strikes. He authorized and carried out countless drone strikes over the course of his presidency, that killed thousands of innocent people along with the one target they had. He was very much a defender of the surveillance state, that is rapidly eroding our reasonable expectation of and right to privacy. Finally, he didn’t have the backbone to insist upon a public option in the Affordable Care Act. Had he done so; it would have taken care of a lot of the problems with healthcare.

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