I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head.
I hear the human race
Is fallin’ on its face
And hasn’t very far to go,
But ev’ry whippoorwill
Is sellin’ me a bill,
And tellin’ me it just ain’t so.
I could say life is just a bowl of Jello
And appear more intelligent and smart,
But I’m stuck like a dope
With a thing called hope,
And I can’t get it out of my heart!
Not this heart…
From South Pacific’s “A Cockeyed Optimist”
The lyrics were written in 1948 by Oscar Hammerstein and sung by a character about life in 1942. When there really WAS something big to be down about. World War II.
My parents lived through that PLUS the Depression, and still managed to hold on to their optimism.
I can remember President Kennedy on television warning us about a ‘Sword of Damocles’ of nuclear destruction hanging over us as 4,500 inter-continental ballistic missiles from Russia were aimed directly at us in 1962, primed and ready to launch.
Somehow we all got through that, too. And still enjoyed watching “The Monkees.”
Yet today, on the news, in politics, and apparently in the streets and polls, there is more human pessimism than ever before. If a falafel goes unpaid for in Greece, the stock market knee-jerk reacts dropping 400 points and everyone is moaning about doom and gloom and recession again. We are the moodiest, whiniest wimps that have ever lived. And we bear little resemblance to those who lived through far greater threats to this civilization.
Okay, I can accept that the meds everyone seems to be on are not helping anymore and things are tough all over and everyone’s in a big funk. But I also accept that perception IS reality, and that this big funk were in, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Corporations aren’t hiring because of uncertainty in the political world, and politicians are too busy playing the blame game to their own corners to instill any confidence, and all the rest of us are waiting for anyone, SOMEONE to stand up and knock some sense into everyone.
Sure, America is also becoming dumber as governors de-fund education to help create cheap labor states for service industry jobs – the only ones we seem to have left.
But where is the voice to snap us out of this funk? Where is our cockeyed optimist?
I admit to knowing what the ‘one-eyed monster’ is, and I’m not quite sure what constitutes a ‘cockeye,’ but I know we need one if it’s optimistic.
The GOP wants another Reagan. Nevermind the fact he would be considered a moderate Democrat today by tea party standards. Corporate taxes were high during his term, and he tolerantly granted amnesty to more than 11 million immigrants. But hey, he was like the nice grandfather who told us all it was “Morning in America;” the best was yet to come, and everything was going to be all right.
The group 10,000 Maniacs had a hit song calling him “The Happy Puppet” since everyone knew he wasn’t really the one pulling the strings. He just read the script like a Howdy Doody cheering up children watching television.
America actually hired a cheerleader (he called himself a ‘cheermaster’ to make it more manly) when they elected George W. in 2000. Okay, we didn’t really elect him since he actually LOST the popular vote, but he got the rah rah rah bullhorns working on the Supreme Court and won the game. George wasn’t good enough to be a jock at Yale, but he obviously developed some effectiveness in the glee club as the cheermaster. Of course, that just means he probably bought all the beer. And he didn’t bring much cheer to America. Just more wars, death and unemployment. Why does the GOP think cutting corporate tax rates will create any more jobs when it didn’t work at all during W’s eight years? Or the 40 years before that?
Now we have another cheerleader running from Texas. Another guy who couldn’t make it as an athlete, so he became a ‘Yell master” (sounds even MORE manly than a cheermaster): Rick Perry. And what does George H. Bush’s former Treasury Secretary Bruce Bartlett tell us about Rick Perry – “If he was Bush’s brother, George W. would be the smart one.” Jesus. Help us.
Rick Perry’s idea of a good cheer is to tell you to get off your lazy ass, accept that stinking $5 per-hour job he created by turning Texas into a cheap labor state, and quit your yammering. Oh, right, and pray. He’s the kind of guy who thinks God decides who wins football games. George W. was at least smart enough to compromise once and a while. This guy could win the “I’m going say no to everything any lily-livered liberal suggests and hold my breath and pray until things turn around” contest any day. Good luck with that.
So, what about Obama? Wasn’t he a cockeyed optimist when he ran for president? What happened to all that “Hope” stuff?
Obama ran on Hope, but as soon as he got elected, he was escorted into a back room and read the riot act by Wall Street and the banks, who reminded HIM who really are pulling the strings these days. A president can’t really do that much. It must have been a very sobering moment, because he’s been a little less cheerful and a little more ashen gray ever since.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a sober, thoughtful, smart guy as president any day over another blowhard bozo pimp for the corporations, but once you come to realize that maybe the only power a president DOES have is the ability to cheer us up, and you factor in that dumbing down of America; well, that doesn’t leave us many options.
My ‘hope’ is that once Obama goes back into campaign mode, he channels the fiery passion of Martin Luther King and brings back the DREAM. But if people aren’t going to buy it from him anymore, what other options are there?
Sorry, but the seven dwarfs candidates on the GOP are not going to rally one ounce of optimism, especially if they use the same mean-spirited heather cheerleader tactics of ignorant haters like Sarah Palin.
No, we’re probably going to have to look outside the usual suspects for a loving and maternal influence who will hug us and tell us everything will be better.
Maybe then corporations will stop sitting on trillions of dollars of unspent capital and start hiring and investing again. Banks will stop sitting on trillions of dollars of reserves and start lending again. And the stock market will stop knee-jerk reacting to our ever manic-depressing mood shifts.
We all need a big mom. A nice mom. Not a crazy mom (yes, that means you, Michele Bachman). And not a cynical, or severe mom (Sorry, Hillary, but your optimism days are long passed).
There was talk of the big mom running in 2008, but NOW is the more dire time for her to step up, do her patriotic duty, and save the country and the world. She can appoint Dr. Phil as her Vice President Therapist, and her first State-of-the-Union can be to sing a comforting lullaby of cockeyed optimism to the angry, whining, moaning, and depressed masses we now know as America.
Oprah in 2012.
— A. Wayne Carter (2011)