Saturday, November 8, 2008

Making Ready: Cross Quarter, the Election, and Saecular Winter

Christine over at The Thinking Mother made the following suggestion in her post Election Outcome a few days ago:

"Now that we have elected a new President I have an idea. How about if we all write down our thoughts about our futures and our hopes or worries?"

In her post, she says that is is not necessary to blog it, but just to write it down for our own future reference. I am going to blog it, though I certainly understand why Christine and others might want to be more circumspect.

I have not been paying much attention to the news since Wednesday. The Engineering Geek and I have both caught rather bad colds for the first time in three years. We believe it is a function of the Boychick's return to school and my return to work. More contacts with random people means more viruses we haven't yet had.

But I have been paying attention to the light and the turning of the season. Winter is coming to Sedillo, and Thursday night was the last cross-quarter day of Common Era 2008. Friday morning, the temperature at 5:45 AM was 16 degrees F.

As the sunrise appears to move south of east, the meadow grasses are dried and waving in a cold north wind.

And just as we go through the seasons of the year, our civilization goes through cycles and seasons: summery seasons of civic and economic growth, and winters of civic and economic crisis. In their book The Fourth Turning, Strauss and Howe predicted that at about this time in our history, we'd be entering another winter in the cycle, another crisis in our history, comparable to others such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, or the Great Depression-WW II.

We have elected a new president, and his election is historic, not only because he is the first black president of the US, but because he has been elected at a crucial moment in our history. It is a time of war and economic uncertainty, and a time when our Constitution is in peril. The problems that he has inherited are grave, and they are not the result of the trends of the last eight years, as the campaign rhetoric would have us believe. the man we have elected to this office is relatively inexperienced: he has no executive experience and served in the US Senate for less than one full term. His campaign rhetoric about foreign policy was naive at best, and his progressive economic ideas are unseasonal and out of step with the reality that the Federal government is not only broke, but the valueof the dollar is in question due to the printing of billions, and the economies of developed nations across the world are in trouble. He is, however, a good orator, and he gave a good speech in Chicago on the night of his election. In it he said:

"And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too." (B. Obama, Nov. 4, 2008).

I am one of those Americans whose support Obama has not yet earned. I am waiting to see whether this high-flown rhetoric is real, or whether the nastiness of his supporters towards those who disagree with them is going to be the order of the day. I hear the words, but I am waiting to see how well Obama can work within his own party to quell the "partisanship and pettiness . . . that has poisoned our politics for so long", (ibid.) as well as how readily he will reach across the aisle to work with those who have different ideas. Will they be supressed or will debate be allowed? The Democrat majority in Congress has, during the last two years, been every bit as willing to supress debate as have the previous Republican majorities. And we are going into this new administration with the same leadership, only more so, of the most disapproved of Congress in the history of the United States.

Here, I need to clearly state that my concerns and views have not been represented in this election by either major-party candidate. The disenfranchisement that I feel comes from the fact that other voices were shut out by the press and the major parties, and that many important issues were not discussed. We got sound bytes and debates in which the argument was about who did not vote or did vote for specific bills, but with no indication of which earmarks or unrelated language decided their votes. Thus the trading of accusations was meaningless. And I was further unimpressed by the treatment that Sarah Palin received from the Obama supporters. Although I disagree with Palin on many issues, I was apalled by this kind of behavior. It makes me wonder what Obama means by the word 'unity.' Does it mean forced, lockstep agreement, or does it mean bringing consensus from varied viewpoints and within the mandate of the Constitution? I hope for the latter, but given the vituperative nature of the campaigns, I am prepared for the former.

As an American who loves and respects the Constitution of the United States, I accept Obama as the Constitutionally elected President of the United States. However, my loyalty must be to the US Constitution, not to his person, or the person of any president or government official. Government is our servant, not our master; the duty of government is to protect our rights, not to save the world. I am uncertain as to whether Obama and his supporters understand this. (I am certain that his predecessor did not). I will know by what he does and not what they say. At his inauguration, he will swear to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in this duty I wish him success and resilience. The Presidency is an awesome job and a great responsibility, and so I wish him health, long life, and good courage. But I do not promise him unquestioning loyalty or unwavering support. That would be inappropriate. I am a citizen, not a subject.

I believe that the crisis that is coming could not have been averted no matter who had won the presidency. As I said in response to a comment on a previous blog entry:

"Sooner or later you have to pay the piper; he is at the door, bill in hand."

The longer we try to stave off the pain, the worse it will be when we finally face it. So, just as the birds are gathering their seeds for the coming winter, we have been preparing for the coming hard times. Not with panic, but with purpose. We have stocked up reserves of food and other necessary items, in case the current printing blitz at the US Treasury leads to inflation. We have moved investments out of the country, because Obama has promised much higher capital gains tax rates. Such high tax rates have historically supressed investment, profit-taking, capitalization, and trade. We have also purchased a hunting rifle and ammunition for the Boychick, because Obama has promised to raise taxes on them. Hunting is a good way to supplement the food supplies if the recession deepens or a depression comes. The Boychick has passed his BSA badges for the rifle and the shotgun. The Engineering Geek, being a veteran, already has a rifle and a side-arm.

Frankly, I remember the Carter years, and his economic policies (which were a deepening of Nixon's and Johnson's) led to stagflation and misery for the middle class and working people. Obama's economic plans are very similar to Carter's. So I am expecting an economy like the '70's or worse.

But even though I am expecting hard times, I am not unhopeful about the future of the country. My hope does not rest upon the president, nor upon the leadership of the government; rather it rests in the wisdom of our forefathers and in the Constitution. As Thomas Jefferson said:

""It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights... Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power... Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:388

And so, as we pass the fourth cross-quarter, and move into this year's winter, I believe we are also passing into the Saecular Winter, a time of testing and crisis. The Spirit of America has been there before, and has come forth stronger.

As Judy Aaron says in the sidebar of her blog, Consent of the Governed:

"The answer to 1984 is 1776. Teach your children well . . ."

Our Constitution is in peril. If we are to emerge from the hard times ahead with our values in tact, our children must know what the Constitution says, and they must see us prepared to act upon threats to it. The greatest threat to it is the unqualified trust we have put in our government of late. We must let them know who is the servant and who is the master. It may be that the historic nature of this election can be useful for teaching our children more carefully about their rights and the proper way for Americans to secure them.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I am sorry you've been sick, Elisheva. I am bracing myself for the same thing when *my* teen goes to school in January. Yikes! Hope you're well soon.

Second, I always enjoy your reflections on the cycle of the seasons.

Third, I loved your post-election thoughts. You are a wonderful thinker and writer, which is why I always enjoy coming here. Although I am an Obama supporter, I agree with many of your opinions. And I agree that hard times are ahead. This is inevitable and -- as you said -- it would be true no matter who had been elected. We are dealing with the fruits of economic and foreign policy problems that go back for many generations.

I have always been saddened by the fact that we don't have a viable multi-party system. It disenfranchises libertarians and many others as well. It certainly limits voters like me. I think of myself as an independent (though I vote Democrat most of the time), and I certainly don't feel either major party represents my views. Yet people like me don't vote for third party candidates, because we *really* want what we see as the better of the two choices that are on the table. (Think of all the liberals who voted for Nader in 2000 and scored a win for Bush.) I really don't know what the answer is.

Thank you for your thought-provoking discussion.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks for good wishes for recovery, Mama Monkey. The second day, they say is the worst! I am hoping that is true.

I do disagree with you about third party votes. You have no way of knowing how many of those who voted for Nader would have, in fact, voted for Gore in 2000.

It was easy for the Dems of 2000 to blame everyone but themselves for the loss they suffered by running someone who was fundamentally passionless and unelectable.
They hounded the Green Party activists unmercifully after the election, as if their party somehow owned the votes of the people.

As for me, I believe that it is wrong to excoriate a person who votes his or her own conscience. That is what we are ultimately required to do in the voting booth. This is part of our heritage as the descendants of 1776.

Amie said...

I do think a big problem is that children are not taught much about the constitution, and what is so important and unique about our constitution and why our first priority should be to uphold it.

I remember in high school, one of our teachers asked if we really needed the constitution anymore, and the general attitude of students was "no, it's old and out of date". Of course, there was no attempt by our teacher to show us why that was SO not true.

Melora said...

Good post! The way the government has been handling the economy is infuriating to me and scary and, as you said, I don't see how Anyone could easily fix it at this point. I am reading aloud the last of the Little House books to Travis and Katie, and in the book Laura's husband just bought sheep from a man who is worried about what will happen to the country as a result of a recent presidential election. Travis is worried (thanks to a dramatic and indiscreet mom we know) that our country is headed into another Great Depression, and I think he found comfort in the idea that people have had these worries before and life has gone on. Like your ecomonic cycles, only not as elegant. Anyway, I enjoyed your post & also wanted to mention how often I have thought about how the cracked vessel is the one that the light can get into which you posted about a while back.

christinemm said...

Fantastic post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I have been asking also what can I do to prepare for the coming recession or depression?

Since we have lived with unemployment and underemployment we've been strapped and not living 'typically' for a number of years now. We have not been riding high as so many of our fellow Americans have been since they were 'doing well' in these last few years.

I also am not in the camp that many find themselves in with financial problems due to their choice of spending, over-spending, so on and so forth.

I heard a news report today that 12 million Americans still have credit card debt today from last holiday season's purchases.

I just hope that my husband's job is not impacted in the future.

I'm trying to figure out what to do to buckle down further and spend less but we've been on such a small budget for so long that there isn't much leeway unless I cut out the couple of paid class things that my kids do as part of their homeschool plans.

We haven't started stockpiling food.

Some friends of mine have bought wheat in grain form and are hand milling it and making bread. I'm told but have not verified that the full grain wheat can last ten years.

I have had trouble finding a couple of necessary things in Wal Mart such as contact lens solution and 'feminine products'. I have been thinking if a recession hits and there are supply issues that maybe getting things that we need like that may become difficult. Maybe I should start by stockpiling supplies for personal care first.

Who knows maybe being thrifty will soon become "cool"?? A few months ago it was considered "low class".

Shez said...

I linked to your blog post. I have been trying to write down my thought in response to Christine's challenge but stopped when I read your eloquent post. You've said I all wanted to say, so much better than I ever could.

Activities Coordinator said...

Well, now I know where I caught the cold! :)

With regards to the content of this post - Yes! Exactly! Nail on the head!

As my Greek studying preteen would say, "Logos!"

christinemm said...

Here is an article dated 12/06/08 talking about how President Elect Obama is already breaking his word on his vow to not have lobbyists who have worked in the last year in his administration.

This is a very conservative site but the facts are facts.

This explains the details.

I wonder how many of the 'change' vows and promises will be re-negged even before he takes the oath and becomes our President?

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


Thanks for the link. As you said, facts are facts.
One month after, I do not think that the progressive wing of the Democratic party is going to get the "change" they wanted, but the predictions many of us had before the election are happening: the Obama administration is shaping up to be Washington politics as usual, but with a progessive spin.