Straddling The Line In The Fiscal Sand

December 31, 2012

As we await the 12th hour theatrics of a do-nothing Congress and a holier-than-thou White House, I could only shake my head at the feeling of deja vu.  I offer for you consideration a "" blog that I authored nearly four years ago, shortly after the last presidential election, on the cusp of yet another fiscal crisis.  Eerily and sadly, little has changed.

Written: February 23, 2009

By Bill Singer,

Today marks the auspicious beginning of the legendary battle for the Alamo, which began on February 23, 1836, 173 years ago, only to end tragically on March 6th.  It is the stuff of myth and history that has become woven into the fabric of our nation. We are told that Colonel Travis unsheathed his sword and drew a line in the sand before the men.  His challenge was clear: Those willing to die for the cause should cross the line and join with him.  We are told that all save one crossed that line--even the feverish James Bowie, who was reputedly carried over by Davy Crockett.  While it was a gallant gesture, it proved a fatal one, as all of the defenders were wiped out.

It is not an uncommon story. Sometimes it is told about Texians. Sometimes about Spartans. Sometimes about a Light Brigade. Sometimes about a Band of Brothers. Nor does history much care, generations later, whether it was a just cause or sensible decision--those issues fade from importance. It is simply a universal string in our hearts that resonates.  This is about bravery and sacrifice.

As the choice was given some two centuries ago at the Alamo, it still remains a stark one:  Stay there or come here.  There are no alternatives. No other options.  You don't get to stand on sidelines. You don't get to straddle the line. You get to do one and only one thing. You get to choose. There or here. It doesn't even matter if you like or respect your commander -- Colonel Travis would not have won a popularity contest among his troops. Again, it's beyond debating tactics. Step over and join us, or stay where you are.

I long ago gave up any past allegiance to the Republican or Democrat party. Instead, I now see them both as fungible, unprincipled, and corrupt partisans of whatever cause serves their personal needs. They blow with the wind and seek no glory other than staying in office as long as they can.  Chameleon-like with their morality and ethics, they will say what they think we want to hear and do what they think we want to see.  And with all the slavishness of a sunflower, they track the light of the nearest television camera for those precious minutes of air-time--but that they were as attentive to the pressing needs of their overwhelmed constituents. 

I am disgusted with the Republican opportunists who refuse to cross the Travis-line and bash everything that the Democrats propose. They say that they want Obama to fail. Would they have whispered the same about Colonel Travis? Worse, the transparency of what they are about shames them as much as it shames our republic. This is not the time to jockey for command. The leaders for this battle were chosen in it or not. This is the time to agree to shoulder your musket, take your position, and do your duty.

What a majestic moment it would have been if the congressional Republicans and their state counterparts had simply said to the nation: We lost the last election, we know that we are largely to blame for the failed economic policies of the last eight years, but notwithstanding our sincere reservation about the bail-out plan, we have decided to cross over the line and stand with our Democrat brethren. But, no, that's not quite what we got.  I look back and see far too many GOP folks smirking from behind the drawn line.  A woeful next-generation of patriots?

And the Democrats are no less immune from criticism. Scrape the bottom of the barrel as he will, President Obama can barely find a Democrat candidate for a political post who knows how to pay his taxes or avoid the taint of corruption. You are a party with hands out for hand outs.  You offer quips and bluster in lieu of workable solutions.  You promised vision and hope and a new tomorrow, and we got little more than old wine in new wineskins -- not exactly the biblical proscription. And amidst this historic catastrophe, you now call for investigations of the Bush Administration? Are we to be confronted with more Clinton-era Whitewater circuses? Does this nonsense never end? Will you continue to drive us forward while looking backwards in the rear-view mirror?

Throughout our brief history, we have often taken that fateful step forward--Save for a few: the perpetual nay-sayers and prophets of doom. 173 years ago, facing certain death, en masse they stepped forward, shoulder to shoulder, facing a common threat. Today we can't quite draw the line, much less find the conviction to step over it. 

Do we have one more moment of greatness left in us as a people?  Or is the best that we now hope for is that some of us will at least straddle the line?