By Laura Flanders
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
President Obama is going to deliver the annual State of the Union address tonight, and if I were to make a wild guess, I’d say he’ll declare the union strong. The economy may be troubled, perhaps the United States is facing challenges, but if history’s any guide, the President will say the union is special, blessed by God, and strong, and there will be applause – no matter that it couldn’t be less true.
Politically, the nation is split as dramatically as it was before the Civil War. The Republican/Democrat divide reflects almost exactly the borders of the old confederacy, and there’s no sign of it shifting any time soon. And economically, we’re as divided as can be.
Take our supposedly representative Congress. In a middle- and working-class nation, Congress is a gathering of millionaires, multimillionaires and billionaires. While working-class people are a majority of our labor force and 90 million people strong, they can’t afford to run for office, and fewer and fewer rich people have ever held a working-class job. Duke University Professor Nicholas Carnes has found that since 1998, the average member of Congress has spent just 1.5 percent of his or her adult life doing any sort of service or manual labor.
Domestically, we’re divided; go global and it’s worse. In sharp contrast to the situation at his first State of the Union address four years ago, Pew Research reports that global approval of President Barack Obama’s international policies has declined significantly since he first took office, along with overall confidence in him and attitudes toward the United States. “In nearly all countries surveyed,” writes Pew, “there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes.”
Yup, killing people via robot-in-the-sky, without trial or warning, is not only, as a New York Times headline put it recently, “hazardous” for US policy goals and America’s global effectiveness, but also, as it turns out, for human life. Drones kill people and make others hate us. They’re bad for our union with the world, and it’s not just the drones, the entire war on terror has done a job on our world relations.