In today’s edition of our weekly live discussion, we started where Eli Saslow’s excellent article in the paper left off by exploring whether people really believe our current economic woes are a “new normal,” and what it means that so many of us seem to think that it is. Whether it is or not, the real concern is that if we imagine that this is as good as things can be, surrendering to hopelessness about the future, it actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s pretty hard to improve a situation which one already accepts as irredeemable, right?
We also discussed how hopelessness about the future by those who are ready to call this recession “the new normal,” are more like those in the Tea Party than they may realize, simply choosing resignation instead of rage as their response to what both see as a radically damaged situation. The only difference is that one group wants to blow it up and the other has even given up on that.
Moving on, questions came in about Michele Bachmann and her comments that Hurricane Irene, among other natural disasters, was a “wake-up call” from God. Joke (as her press secretary claimed after the fact) or not, her comments were outrageous and offensive. They also point to larger issues at the heart of the coming presidential election.
Will we be a nation of absolute pronouncements about everything from the economy to abortion to the weather, as people like Ms. Bachmann favor? And how much space will there be for those who may disagree with whoever wins?
Finally, there was the issue of Mahmoud Abbas’s declaration that the world cannot force him or the Palestinian people to accept Israel as a Jewish state. Was he, as some are claiming, rejecting the notion of Israel as a Jewish state? Or, was he rejecting the notion that the world could “force” him to do so?
While the former would be problematic enough, the latter possibility is actually more troubling. How can any leader who is so locked in to issues of power and prestige that they are playing “you’re not the boss of me” with world, be expected to lead his people to create a new reality for them and for the Middle East?