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Foundering Ship of State

Foundering Ship of State


The largely ceremonial and usually useless State of The Union (SOTU) speech finally lived up to expectations. It was a surprisingly accurate assessment of the state of our ever-more tenuous union.

I don’t write to join the nearly unanimous praise (relief?) over Biden’s performance. He did indeed step over the rather low expectation bar that preceded the event. Even critics had to admit that he was not comatose.

Every SOTU in my lifetime – and I blush to admit that I’ve watched them all, at least since adolescence – has included the bold assertion that “the state of our union is STRONG!” This claim has always been questionable, but is utterly laughable now.

But the true assessment of the state of our union was easily observed during the proceedings. Beginning with Biden’s interminable amble down the aisle.

There was Marjorie Taylor Greene in her bright red MAGA hat, defying the rules of decorum in the chamber, and confirming her status in the political firmament. She is a garish buffoon of such little consequence that Biden was able to dismiss her grandstanding with a brilliant expression of astonishment, rather like any good grandparent would make when encountering a pre-pubescent granddaughter with lipstick smeared all over her face.

Speaker Mike Johnson sat and smirked like a high school sophomore who had been made Principal for a Day by virtue of his unblemished attendance record at after-school Bible study. The state of our union was revealed in part by the pairing of an accomplished woman of color towering over the petulant Johnson, making him look as insignificant as – well – he is. I don’t know if it was intentional, but Biden launched his rhetorical rocket without the traditional intro from the Speaker. That made me happy.

There is always a contrast in reactions from the opposite sides of the chamber, depending on the president’s party. The party controlling the White House will give a standing ovation to nearly any platitude. The opposition will sit silently, unless the declaration from the podium is irresistibly meaningless. But this opposition sat in glum unanimity no matter the matter. Biden could have said, “We will stand united against the evils of Communism!” and the GOPers would have remained with buttocks firmly on their hands. It does leave the unpleasant thought of what exactly those hands are doing.

And speaking of hands, the state of our union was wonderfully represented by Representatives Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert sitting side-by-side, raising the can’t-be-unseen memories of Boebert groping her date’s crotch during a Beetlejuice performance at the Buell Theater in Denver. Perhaps she didn’t know that the Nutcracker is performed in the neighboring Ellie Caulkins Theater. I’ll leave a moment for that gratuitous remark to fully sink in. . . . . .

They were also vaping, singing, and “causing a disturbance,” thereafter “escorted” from the theater.

Like Johnson, Gaetz and Boebert present as naughty teenagers, ready to mock any school assembly, cocksure (there I go again) that they are soooo much wiser than the adults in the room. Had the seating been bi-partisan, and they were positioned behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I am confident that they would have put gum in her hair.

The piece de resistance of an already memorable evening came in the form of a simpering, breathless, vice-presidential audition by the heretofore unknown to me Senator Katie Britt. The performance was embarrassingly bad, and largely dishonest, probably making it irresistible to the carnival-barking former guy whose only life success was on reality t.v. While some commentators suggested that she’s not really that bad, I prefer to think that she might be the one to finally make Sarah Palin look majestic.

So no, our union is not strong. It is arguably weaker than at any time since the Civil War and Reconstruction. There are faults in the bond throughout the nation around issues of rights, race, religion, guns and more. The differences among us are often sincere, but reconciliation is impossible because the vast majority of Republican legislators have sold their shrunken souls to the fraudulent, felonious, convicted sexual deviant who has somehow emasculated an entire political party.

Our ship of state has become a Carnival cruise vessel, with equally bad entertainment.

I fear it’s sinking.


Steve Nelson
Steve Nelson is a retired educator, author, and newspaper columnist. He and his wife Wendy moved to Erie from Manhattan in 2017 to be near family. He was a serious violinist and athlete until a catastrophic mountain bike accident in 2020. He now specializes in gratitude and kindness.

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