In North Carolina this week, a young man named Mostafa Kamel Hendi hit upon a plan to make ends meet in this rotten economy: He decided to knock over a local gold store. Tape shows this determined and enterprising flower of American youth strolling into the store, hoodie over his head, and then gesturing to the clerk, Derek Mothershead, to shove some money in a plastic bag.
Mothershead, however, not being a member of the liberal effete class who believe that all robbery is a noble redistributionist impulse, had an unexpected reaction. He handed Hendi some money -- and then, as Hendi bent to put the money in the bag, Mothershead clocked him with a tremendous left. Hendi went down, bleeding profusely. "There was just an opportunity there where I thought that I could actually do something and justice could be served," said Mothershead, "and I thought that's what needed to be done." This tough Mother then forced Hendi to clean up his own blood with paper towels and cleaning solution. "If he wants money," Mothershead added, "get a job. Work like everybody else in this world."
Poor Hendi. If only he had worked for the government, none of this would have ever happened. Unfortunately, it seems there's simply no way to fight back against a government full of Hendis hell bent on taking our money at the point of a gun -- for our own good, of course.
When 2011 dawned, it seemed a year of hope and change. After all, at the end of 2010, we elected Republicans in a Congressional landslide. President Obama was on the rocks thanks to charting a committed course of spending, spending and more spending. Most of all, the voting populace seemed to understand for the first time in 60 years that not only is there no such thing as a free lunch, but the man who offers the free lunch expects your firstborn child in return. Government, we realized, was Rumpelstiltskin rather than Santa Claus.
As the year progressed, however, it became clear that no matter who we elected, they were unwilling to say Rumpelstiltskin and make the greedy monster disappear. Republicans collapsed not once but twice on the spending issue. First, led by hack Speaker John Boehner, they imploded in April when, to avoid the dreaded "government shutdown" -- a shutdown which, by the way, would essentially impact nobody except those on government benefits -- Republicans agreed to cut a mere $38 billion from the 2010 baseline budget and keep funding to Planned Parenthood flowing. As it turned out, that $38 billion wasn't $38 billion at all but actually $352 million.
Then, in July, Republicans caved again. This time, they agreed to raise the debt ceiling so that Obama could continue his Mary Kate and Ashley Olson style spending spree, complete with Rodeo Drive montage. What did they get in return? A big, heaping bowl of nothing: A promised $2.2 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years that actually amounts to a cut of $7 billion in 2012 budget authority and baseline cuts that actually allow Obama's plans to move forward. And, to top that off, Obama got to push the debt crisis down the road past the election so that he wouldn't have to discuss his shopaholic problem until after his re-election. Oh, yes, we were also downgraded, to boot, on our national credit by Standard & Poors. So that worked out well.
The Republican Party has responded to all of this chicken-heartedness by feting Boehner as a great leader and proposing that conservatives nominate one Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. Romney is clearly to the GOPs liking -- he fits the profile of the tough-talking scalpel-wielder and the in-office wimp. And we've been told that he's inevitable, like death and taxes. Meanwhile, Iowa Republicans, in the apparent grip of rabies, are now considering nominating Congressman Ron Paul, who is a real scalpel-wielder on domestic policy but has his cannon fixed on self-slaughter on the foreign front.
To no one's surprise, with the GOP offering a contrast like this, many Americans are content to settle for the real thing: a second Obama term. Despite a list of scandals that would have sunk any Republican president, despite leading America to the worst economic performance since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, despite crippling American influence in the Middle East for the next two generations, Obama rides high with a 44 percent approval rating. All he needs is to split the independent vote evenly to win re-election.
So what will 2012 be like? It depends on whether Americans are willing to punch back -- not just at Democrats but at Republicans as well. It depends on whether they are willing to tell their fellow citizens to stop leeching off of the 1 percent and start working for themselves rather than the great collective.
When Mothershead investigated Hendi's gun after K.O.-ing him, he found that it wasn't genuine -- it was a pellet gun. The truth is that if we stand up to it, our government is armed with pellet guns, too. Let them shut down the government, other than essential services. Good riddance. Let them warn of dire economic consequences if they're unable to send billion-dollar checks to abortion clinics. Somehow, we'll deal with it.
If we want 2012 to be a year of freedom, we'll have to stand up for it rather than settling for an agenda of half-freedom. Half-freedom is no freedom at all, no matter who is in office.