Like a pop single from 1962 (or 2002, for that matter), it didn't age very well.
But, then, nothing seems to define our era quite so much as license.
We give ourselves license to incur fantastic levels of national debt, and hand the bill to the next generation.
We give ourselves license to invade other countries on the most patently bogus of pretexts, bringing disaster upon them and us.
We give ourselves license to spend half again as much as any other country in the world on healthcare, only to be ranked 37th 'best' by the World Health Organization, just so we don't have to do the simple work of writing corporate predators out of the parasitic cash cow booty feeding troughs in which they're entrenched.
Meanwhile, a bullet is heading toward the heart of the body politic in the form of global warming, and we give ourselves license to pretend that the threat isn't even clearly defined, lest we should have to relinquish our precious Hummers.
The list goes on and on. I regret to say that history will not judge us, here and now, a serious people. Nor should it. I certainly don't either.
Indeed, even when we get serious, we don't. Barack Obama was supposed to be the antidote to the excesses and negligences of the Bush years. In fact, nearly a year of his term has now gone by and he has almost nothing to show for it. Which means that neither do we. When Saturday Night Live parodies you by having your character claim "jack" and "squat" as your administration's two greatest achievements -- well, that's never a good sign.
Nor does Obama appear to have a lot of intent at accomplishing much, either. At least anything that requires the ruffling of a feather or two -- which of course includes just about anything that matters. For any given question put before this president, it seems that his position can safely be estimated to fall square in the middle of the road, right there alongside Jim Hightower's proverbial yellow stripes and dead armadillos. In reality, though, that's actually an unfortunately generous estimate. Obama's politics, if you actually look at them -- rather than at most people's false impression of them -- turn out to be remarkably similar to George Bush's on everything from the fiscal stimulus to big corporate healthcare initiatives to escalating war policies to eroded civil liberties to unequal treatment for gays.
And yet this milquestoastiest of presidents generates the most outrageous volumes of the most egregious vitriol in our public discourse, as if he were wrecking the country through disastrous wars based on lies, unprecedented constitutional shredding, or massive fiscal hemorrhaging. Oh, wait -- that was the last guy. Never mind. Somehow those travesties didn't precipitate much noise from the cave-dwelling set -- unless you count deafness-inducing cheers of approval, or enough slurpy mass salivation to befuddle and alarm Dr. Pavlov.
I could keep going forever, and it would actually be pretty entertaining, if only the real world effects weren't so bloody destructive. One of my favorites, though, I have to say, is the riff on responsibility. You know, as in, they're the ones who have it. Remember when the Bush crew came to power, literally saying "The grown-ups are back in charge"? I can think of a lot of things I would call George W. Bush, but "grown-up" is more or less last on my list, right there after "brave", "articulate", "compassionate" and "thoughtful". In any case, these guys always fancy themselves the mature, reliable, responsible stewards of American government. That's more than a little scary, isn't it -- to think that these are the nation's best and the brightest? To imagine that Bush and Cheney and Rove represent the crowning achievement of six or ten millennia of civilizational development, topping off millions of years of genetic refinement?
Wuuuuhhhh. That lurching twitch you just felt was a serious shudder going down your spine, your body's involuntary reaction to perceptions of sheer horror. But, meanwhile, did I mention that the real story of responsibility is slightly different than the regressive version?