Looking on the Bright Side

One of my dad’s favorite poems began with the assertion:

It’s easy enough to be pleasant when life flows by like a song but the man worth while is the one who can smile when everything goes dead wrong.

Oddly, it was written by an American poet, and my father wasn’t a fan of American literature. In Jamaica, in the Colonial culture of my childhood, “literature” was assumed to be English. Even more oddly, my mother wrote a line in my “autograph book” from the same American author, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, that imparted much the same message:

Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.

I suppose my parents needed that kind of philosophy trying to maintain a middle-class life in Jamaica back  in the decades before and after World War II, especially with the disparity in their ages. He was in his mid-forties when they married, a “confirmed bachelor.” She wasn’t yet 18. He had come home from World War I and his adventures in places like Costa Rica and Panama, probably planning to coast through the latter half of his life in a modest government job.

She was ready to take on the world after a sheltered girlhood in places like Guy’s Hill (with brief episodes in Kingston to attend school or visit relatives).

It was not a recipe for a life that flowed by like a song.

But they persevered, and raised their four children in relative comfort and security, smiling through the good times and the bad. When they wept, as they must surely have, they wept alone.

I am reminded of those parents of mine when I see President Obama flashing his beguiling smile on TV as he tries to fend off some vicious new assault. For everything seems to have gone dead wrong for that well-meaning man in 2013.

Ironically, the year began with so much promise. Despite the avalanche of lies and dirty ricks unleashed by his Republican opponents – make that enemies, for they were never just opponents – America’s first black president won a second term. And in re-electing Barack Obama, America rejected the mean-spirited policies of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

The President seemed to have a mandate to implement the agenda of hope and change that he was prevented from implementing in his first term.

But Republicans stubbornly refused to play along. Their only goal has been frustrating and belittling this President.

To achieve that goal, they have been prepared to sabotage their country. Nothing has been too dastardly for them … damaging America’s credit, shutting down the federal government, blocking any programs to create jobs or boost the economy …

They are even doing whatever they can to undermine the health insurance program that they themselves had devised.

So why is the President smiling?

It may be that he can see a glimmer of hope after all.

The Republicans have done their worst. They have lied and connived, spent billions of dollars on propaganda, brought the nation’s business to a wrenching halt. But they have not managed to bring down the Obama Administration.

True, some of their mud is sticking. President Obama’s approval rating has taken a beating.

But more of their mud has stuck to them. The vast majority of Americans recognize that this has been the worst Congress ever.

And increasingly, the voters are figuring out why.

As the mid-term elections approach, the President’s opponents are being revealed as dangerous, self-interested schemers.

By November, the nation might be fully awake to the ominous threat they represent.

Things may not go dead wrong in the coming year, after all.