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American Class

Obama and Seeger: yes, they're better than we are

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

It was a surprisingly upbeat and thoroughly invested President Obama at the State of the Union Tuesday night. Insofar as these things mean anything at all, the President on display was nothing if not persistent and certainly not the beaten politician that Republicans like to imagine. The GOP fielded four silly responses from its members, although one was lifted from another with some tweaks to apply to the new responder and read in Spanish.

The common thread between all four was that Obamacare had failed and been a huge disaster, but there is no evidence of any such thing absent the first days of the Affordable Care Act website the feds set up for the states that wouldn't cooperate at the time. Sign ups are increasing before various deadlines, and the president wheeled out anecdotal but evidenced tales of people grateful for the opportunity to afford medical insurance. Kentucky, which leans red, has just announced expansion of Medicaid services in conjunction with Obamacare and this was publicly announced by their Democratic Governor to the Republican legislature, which of course on paper is against the Socialist Kenyan at every turn otherwise. Kentucky officially hates Obamacare, but their uninsured numbers have dropped like a paralyzed falcon since the end of 2013 as they sign up. People LIKE being covered, unsurprisingly.

His is a class act. Obama focused everyone on the military and its wounded vets coming home in need, and he recalled for us that the Iraq War is over and Afghanistan near over, two promised adjustments he's come through on. People stood and applauded a badly wounded Army Ranger sergeant, as all should, but it's hard to tell what Congress is applauding: the wounded or their own public display of concern. It goes on too long, and people ought to consider adopting a more British habit of short, loud cheers, thus avoiding the desultory fade out. Obama also took issue with the concept the US has to be at war so much, which is not calculated to appeal to the Chicken hawks and their lapel pins and their favorite political party but to the general population, near all of which know a military casualty in our recent conflicts.

Afterwards, a further casualty was avoided when Congressman Michael Grimm from Staten Island didn't come through on his threat to break a young reporter in half by throwing him over the balcony. The very young reporter had inquired about the federal investigation into Grimm's campaign finances from 2010, which resulted in the arrest this month of a former girlfriend, and that following the arrest of a foreign national. Both are accused of using straw donors to cover up violations of the maximum donation statutes, along with a visa violation for the foreign national. Grimm is the only Republican Congressman from New York City. Given the case as known, it doesn't look good, but no charges have been brought against the Congressman, a former Marine, FBI agent, and lawyer. One with no class.

On Sunday last, Pete Seeger died. He did not go before his time, and I agree with Garrison Keillor: the death of an old man is no tragedy. I'll let others discuss his music.

Seeger was not born in, nor educated in a log cabin, and he didn't work in mines or chain gangs. He was born into the Boston establishment, his family schooled and taught at Harvard, his father was a famous musicologist that taught at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. His uncle Alan was among the first Americans to die in World War One, fighting for the British, a poet held in regard by T.S. Elliot. Seeger was born to a higher economic class than most, and although he lived his life as a nearly poor man, he radiated a superiority in outlook, knowledge, and experience - let's call it wisdom - that set him apart. While six foot two he was not a towering visual presence, but he attracted your eyes and ears by gravitas and energy.

Seeger had courage, a great deal of it, in life, on stage, and before Congress. That alone bestows class. When Pete Seeger took the stage or mike as a soloist, he deployed an invisible cyclorama of culture and history about him, and his presence calmed, encouraged, and led large groups of people in song, story, laughter, and pleasure in sharing each others' company. He was a gift, always, once treated poorly by power, then tolerated, and finally admitted to be what he'd always been: both a Rebel and Patriot of the first water, the first rank, and first class.