The Good Book admonishes us, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Do grievances count as treasures, and in which pocket ought we to pack them? A man’s grievances can be mighty powerful, after all. Some people hold them close, as if they were members of the family to be nurtured, cared for, and raised to glorious and independent strength. I should confess that I’ve got a little collection myself, and I’ve been known to take them down from the shelf from time to time and wipe the dust from them, restoring something of their original color. It’s a vice, of course … an unhealthy, darkly edifying thing.
“Once bitten, twice shy,” so the saying goes. The garden variety idiot who wanders into a tiger’s cage and survives the adventure, isn’t likely to try it again. Come to think of it, he won’t try it again if he doesn’t survive it either, but that’s not my point. For there’s a fine line between learning life’s hard lessons and nurturing a bellyache, a line I’ve been known to occasionally obliterate. But how do we know when we’ve stopped being the sum of our experiences and instead become the sum of our grievances?
Perhaps we’ve crossed the line when we no longer see those around us as individuals who deserve the benefit of the doubt and, instead, morph them into faceless groups whose members have or have not aggrieved us previously. I suppose this explains the popularity of lawyer jokes, for example, and my contention that 95 percent of the lawyers out there have given the remaining 5 percent a bad name. But when it crosses from general humor and instead becomes the defining feature and outlook of a person, we have a problem. And when that person goes on to become the President of the United States, we have a disaster.
How else to explain the comfort with which Barack Obama resided in the pews of Trinity United, where he heard an ostensible reverend of the Gospel invoke The Almighty’s damnation of America and preach, “… It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere … That’s the world! On which hope sits.” On the contrary, it’s not hope sitting there, but rather a monumental pile of grievance. Grievance over injuries real and perceived, and grievances that no longer inform the man, but have instead become the man.
It is, after all, a short day-trip from the indiscriminate indictment of “white folks,” to the wholesale condescension toward job creators embodied in the statement, “You’ll still be able to ride your corporate jets. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.” The young man who wrote of smoking pot, ”…in a white classmate’s sparkling new van,” goes on with ease to tell a plumber how he’d like to spread his earnings around. His grievances replaced “hope” as the “fundamental transformation” of America.
And so it is that a man of talent and intellect, who overcame the obstacles in his life to reach the pinnacle of political leadership, chose not to celebrate and inspire the nation that made his meteoric rise possible, but chose instead to grind his axe upon the citizenry and deliver the nation its comeuppance. Our country is in decline and its divisions have deepened while the mistrust of fellow citizens grows daily. Instead of encouraging excellence and achievement, the president’s policies encourage resentment and dependence, pitting one group against another. Long-term unemployment breaks post World War II records while household income has fallen over 4 percent and food stamp enrollment has risen 34 percent. The GDP barely limps along while the deficit, as a share of GDP, rockets up. With the Mideast in flames, American embassies under siege, and an American ambassador and his staff murdered in a terrorist attack, Barack Obama manages to garner the endorsements of Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin, who know a bargain when they see it. Why exert the effort to take the United States down when an American president so enthusiastically does the work for them?
It is an awful drama when one becomes the sum of his grievances, but it is made more awful still when the drama unfolds at our expense. It’s time to politely show the President the exit and allow him the time and space to work out these issues in private.