My children like to play Parking Lot. It’s a great game, both as a board game and as an app for my iPhone. For those who don’t know, it’s a puzzle game where you move cars, trucks and buses out of the way to get your car out of the parking lot. It’s a problem solving exercise that strengthens the brain while it entertains. When you get stuck, though, it can be frustrating to the point of nail-biting, cursing whoever invented the automobile, or flipping the bird at inanimate objects. For the cool, calm and collected, it comes with a reset button which allows you to put everything back in place and start again having learned from your mistakes and miscues to approach the same problem.
Many of us, in the United States and around the world, are operating as if life has a reset button, too. I know personally that the President’s forceful passivity on the torture situation is causing me to raise my voice, both here and in person. The tea baggers don’t like President Obama, don’t like paying less taxes, don’t like bailing out corporations, don’t like socialism, don’t like “big government”, and I would venture to say, don’t like much of anything right now.
But President Obama appears to be working without a reset button, looking at the cars on the board (or the crises he has inherited), and making the best moves available to him. On some fronts, he is moving the cars back to where they were before President Bush came into office – rescinding torture as an American tool of interrogation; drawing down our military involvement in Iraq; allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire; repealing the ban on adult stem cell research, etc.
In other cases, he is moving the cars from the position they’re in to what he deems more beneficial positions for the future – more troops and attention paid to Afghanistan and Al Qaeda; actual diplomacy with Iran; repealing the ridiculously stringent relationship between the United States and Cuba; understanding that our economic turbulence requires both indirect (tax cuts for many Americans) and direct (bailouts of restructured companies) government interventions which are politically unpopular, etc.
In both cases, millions of us are screaming, saying, writing, blogging, thinking, critiquing, criticizing, and encouraging his moves. For the ninety days that he’s been moving the pieces, he’s made a lot of progress toward actually getting our yellow car out of its parking space, and moving it forward toward its goal. There are still obstacles in our way – nuclear North Korea; staggering unemployment; Republicants; budget deficits; over-extended military personnel and their families; corporate and other pirates; escaped war criminals, etc. But unlike those of us screaming from the sidelines, President Obama is making the moves to get us out of the lot.
And he’s doing it without the reset button.