I grew up during the turbulent 1960’s amidst Vietnam War demonstrations, George Wallace racism, and the age of Rock and Roll. Then, coming of age in the mid seventies, in the wake of Watergate, I was influenced by skepticism about the trustworthiness of our government. Yet, I have fought it back in a kind of religiously driven hopefulness that great leadership could yet arise and together we could fix what was broken. I’ve involved myself a bit in party politics and government, supporting the candidates and causes that reflect my values and passions.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama gave me such outsized hopefulness I felt as if heaven and earth had touched. I was sure a new era of good governance, values-driven leadership, and true compassion (as opposed to the previous administration’s rhetoric) was beginning. Everything felt possible.

It has been downhill from there. I am not one to place the blame on the president’s doorstep even though he has made some mistakes. I find the public impatience to be depressing and troubling. What’s worse is the hostility and obstructionism of the opposition party in Congress. Their behavior is shameful.

Writing in the New York Times on February 8, Paul Krugman (America Is Not Yet Lost) spoke the cynicism and disappointment and fear that I have been feeling. He began with strong words: “We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end…we’re paralyzed by procedure.”

Many judicial and governmental positions have been blocked or frozen – holding the government hostage to personal peeves and demands. It’s a grotesque form of individual entitlement that is the antithesis of leadership.

The use of rules to put holds on essential business is making the nation ungovernable. Krugman writes,

“How bad is it? It’s so bad that I miss Newt Gingrich.” Could it get any worse?

Our healthcare system in this country is terribly inefficient, wasteful and flawed. The employer-based, profit driven model of American healthcare serves the needs of the wealthy and those lucky enough to have jobs that include it. Obama’s election brought great hope that we could actually fix the messy problems of healthcare in America. But progress was halted by political sniping. What about offering some principled alternatives instead of throwing tantrums?

Our country and indeed the entire world are facing serious problems and tumultuous change. And our senate is stuck in procedural wrangling and supermajority requirements. Krugman observed, “The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government.”

I am fighting despair by meditating on the hopefulness and joy that buoyed us just a year ago. I hope to recover hope. But we have a lot of work do it to fix these problems. We can’t let obstructionism ruin our country. As Krugman said, “Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it.”

Time to rise up to stand for what is right. That’s a lesson I learned from growing up in the 60’s.

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