The starkest evidence of how conservative southwest Missouri is didn’t come from the Interstate 44 roadside ads for Fantastic Caverns, the constant reminders of how much “MoDot cares” or even the billboard proclaiming “Government control is not the answer. Self-control is the answer.”
No, it was the banner set on the roadside edge of an open field just east of Lebanon, Mo., with black hand lettering reading “Obama is destroying USA.”
It wasn’t as jarring as it was saddening.
The continued vitriol aimed at the president, so much of it just because he is, contributes nothing toward solving national problems — paying down the debt, putting the unemployed to work, cleaning up the air, making health care more affordable, bringing order to an irrational immigration system, the kinds of things that federal government can do and should be doing better than it is.
Four, six, eight years ago, the protest signs were portraying George W. Bush as a neo-Nazi or the anti-Christ. The divisiveness then was disturbing, too, with its perverse sentiment (seemingly even more prevalent these days) that the president is only president for some Americans, not all.
Maybe it’s because politicians spend too much time in a confined space that they forget how interdependent we are in the real world.
Sure, at Cowboys-Giants games or Alabama-Auburn, the fans want nothing to do with each other. But most of the rest of the time, we can’t live our lives turning cold shoulders, ignoring those who don’t think or look like us or snarling at our neighbors like angry opposing demonstrators on opposite sides of a police line.
I was keenly reminded of this last weekend when a family visit turned into many hours at the hospital when my mother-in-law suffered a stroke.
Her care depended on the nurses, doctors and other staffers at St. Mary’s Health Center in St. Louis who didn’t get time off.
Were the cooks and waiters at a Ruby Tuesday not working late on Christmas Eve, dinner for my husband, kids and me might have been sandwiches from the QuikTrip, which never seemed to close.
On Christmas morning, Linda at the Best Western made sure the breakfast bar was filled with fresh scrambled eggs, sausage and biscuits. It was amusingly ironic to hear one of the guests complaining to her that McDonald’s was making employees work so the restaurants would be open on the holiday. I told her we certainly appreciated her being there for us.
And, of course, it took many hands to conduct Christmas Mass at the church we visited for the first time.
But if you pay attention to politics or those who immerse themselves in it, you’d think that doom is at hand and we should all have our dukes up for the 2012 conflagrations between those ludicrous “liberals” and those confounded “conservatives” — one of which threatens everything you stand for, depending on where you stand.
It’s too reminiscent of the “Twilight Zone” episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” When all the power goes out, residents of Maple Street start getting suspicious then paranoid, then convinced that someone among them is really an alien come to take over the town. Eventually, one man kills another, and all sense of unity and order is lost.
Turns out aliens really are watching it all unfold — but letting the townsfolk cause their own undoing.
It was dismaying to hear that the petty partisanship emanating from Washington has gotten so absurd that pasty, portly Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin was telling constituents first lady Michelle Obama has a “big butt” as he complained about her healthy eating initiatives.
Still, there’s hope in the collaboration of another Wisconsin Republican, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, on a proposal to save Medicare from its unsustainably spiraling costs.
In a nutshell, they would have the federal government provide seniors with subsidies to buy insurance, with Medicare one of the available options.
A Los Angeles Times editorial called the plan “a much better version” of Ryan’s voucher system that Republicans love and Democrats hate.
If those two don’t succeed in pushing Congress toward reforming a vital but flawed program because of slash-and-burn politics, we’ll all end up singed.
There’s no escaping the reality that we’re all in this together.
• Campbell is a columnist and editorial writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to her at 400 W. 7th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.