Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who I Want for President

I want someone who will admit that state-sponsored aggression towards the civilian populations of countries that do not suit U.S. economic or political convenience is by far the worst form of "terrorism" in this world today, and who refuses to perpetuate it any longer.

I want someone who is less concerned about the unchallenged military hegemony of the U.S., and more concerned with the actual prosperity of its citizens and its peaceful coexistence with other nations of the world.

I want someone who rejects the definition of "prosperity" as that of unchecked consumption, and takes immediate steps to implement the vast changes to U.S. economic and business regulation policies that are necessary to address the reality of the global warming crisis, seeking ways to encourage the development of "green" technologies and ecological alternatives. (I want someone who actually enforces the regulations on pollution, production and disposal that are already in place!)

I want someone who thinks "universal health care" and other social welfare programs are a no-brainer, who knows that every human being has the right to a life of dignity and liberty in which moral and personal decisions need not be compromised in order to meet the most basic needs of health and survival.

I want someone who works to boost the economy by investing in public works projects that will improve the basic quality of life for all citizens, rather than by giving more tax cuts to the rich.

I want someone who recognizes the degraded state of our public education system and immediately reinvests in (as well as reinvents) programs to ensure a quality education for children of all classes and races, encouraging more rigorous standards in math and the sciences, more thorough study of world history, literature, philosophy, and politics, and the fundamental importance of the creative arts and music education.

I want someone who will restore and preserve the civil rights and social liberties of every individual, in particular those most vulnerable to the repression of majority rule (i.e. women, religious and racial minorities, and the gay community).

I want someone who acknowledges the importance of a balance of powers among the three branches of the federal government, as well as a balance between federal and state governments, and scales back the concentration of power in the executive branch that has occurred over the last decade (or more).

I want someone who works for the transparency of and real democratic, grassroots influence in government on all levels.

I want someone who realizes the impact of mythology on the mind and how it shapes the way we conceive of what is and is not possible; I want someone who is willing to talk and act in terms of global citizenship and ecological responsibility, who takes on the seemingly hopeless task of replacing the "American Dream" suburban consumerist mythology of unstoppable Progress, with a mythology of interconnection, effective and honest communication, celebrated diversity within a shared community, and a simplicity and work ethic that restores hope and freedom to American citizens without such a heavy cost imposed on the lives and freedoms of others throughout the world or on the Earth itself.

God, even to myself I sound like a lunatic.


  1. You may be a lunatic, but that doesn't mean you're wrong. :-)

    Actually, as a libertarian, I am morally required to point out that your list is self-contradictory. First you make a big list of things you want the president to do, and then you say you want the president to decrease the power of the executive branch back to balanced, constitutional levels. According to the constitution, the president really has almost no power at all, domestically. And the more legal power you give the presidency, the more likely it is to be abused.

    Your last item about understanding myth... I think this country has been cursed with too many presidents who HAVE understood the unique position of the president in the collective mythology of the United States, and have used that mythological position ("Father/Sky God") to further their political ends at the expense of the constitution and the world.

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  3. You don't have to be a libertarian to realize the contradiction (I'm already well aware of it ;). On the other hand, I happen to think that most Americans actually agree about these very basic goals, and downsizing executive power (which for a long time now has been directed heavily towards military domination for the sake of economic exploitation) may actually further these goals more than any other kind of executive action that could be taken. In that sense, a president could work very effectively towards these aims within that balance of power.

    Your comment about the mythology of the Father/Sky God President is exactly my point. This is only one kind of mythology. Is there any reason why our current form of government must inherently be associated with this mythology? I don't think so... Assuming that the only alternative to Big Brother government is no government (or, on the other hand, Creepy Uncle capitalism) is, it seems to me, just a failure of imagination. The idea that we "just can't" have a president who redefines his or her position in the government as something other than Father-figure is itself part of the current mythology that needs to be changed.

  4. Cool. So I think we're in agreement on all the goals you listed. And we agree that a reduction in executive power & influence could do a lot to further these goals. I was confused, I guess, because it seemed that you were specifically saying you wanted a president that would do all these things, as opposed to a president that would step out of the way and allow these things to happen. From the tone of your post, it seemed to me that you were talking about the president in a way that reinforced the "Great Father" role, stepping in and leading the country toward these great goals; but I could certainly have been reading into it something that wasn't there.

    It would be fascinating to think about an alternative mythological role for the president. What do you think? Maybe a sword, a shield, or other instrument of protection or enforcement?...

    By the way, I hope you didn't take my mention of the "Father/Sky God" archetype as a jab at monotheism; it wasn't intended that way. The "Father/Sky God" archetype, when equated with a society's leader, has wrought havoc in plenty of polytheistic societies (Rome comes to mind). I fear that whenever a government has a lot of wealth and power, it's a natural target for people who would exploit our human myths for their own ends.

  5. Jeff, O don't worry, no offense taken about the Father God comment. :) I know exactly what you mean. That's why I happen to like the term "Big Brother" as coined by Orwell, because it has similar connotations (though perhaps not as extensive mythological roots?) with the added subtle implication that its an imposition of power, an elevation of one above another when the they should be equals, e.g. siblings. (I just made that up on the spot, though, so don't worry if it doesn't make any sense. I've been out walking in the snow! so my brain is a little flakey at the moment. ;)

    I don't think you necessarily read too much into my original statements about the kind of president I would like... The truth is, a part of me really does want someone who could swoop in and make sweeping changes for the better. "I'm not immune to despondency," as the Bad Religion song goes. But I also know that no one person can really do such a thing without making other moral compromises that I'm not willing to make or support.

    On the other hand, I don't think government in general should be scaled down, but rather more thoroughly diversified and democratized. As that same Bad Religion song goes, "I'm not inclined to enjoy my dream"--that particular dream being the happy faith (sold to us through the TV) that capitalism and the imaginary Free Market will somehow magically step in to fix the problem (that's probably where I disagree with you, since I'm almost completely opposed to that aspect of libertarianism). So we agree on the goals, with some debate about the practical means to achieving them. :) I'm okay with that.

    Perhaps exploring the question of alternative mythologies and metaphors for the president might help to direct and shape that debate about means, too.... Man, wouldn't it be great if people actually had such conversations!

    (Ali goes off to think about alternative metaphors.)