In HuffPo Latino Voices: “The Gran Desencanto”


I still have not invented the gadget that will keep Yellow from shedding his entire coat even though I just brushed him (I still don’t know how he is not bald although to be clear, I nor the Golden, are nudists).

I have not figured out how to pull 26 hours out of a day.

But it was nice to make history.

OK.  Maybe not 1492 HISTORY.

More like historia with a small “H.”

The Huffington Post Latino Voices asked me to write the “curtain-raiser” previewing President Obama’s first, live online town hall with Hispanics.

And although a feat of nature given all that happened within the last seven day period, I got to work.

The varied questions on jobs, continuing foreclosures, education, immigration, and Washington political paralysis were not united by an idea, but a powerful emotion.  Americans are deeply disappointed with this President’s leadership.  To be fair to Mr. Obama, he inherited perhaps the worst economy in U.S. history, a poisoned political well from which the water to make the Kool Aid our lawmakers are drinking is drawn, the longest wars in U.S. history, all within a fragmented, mushrooming information culture feeding our collective ADHD at the speed of tweet.

President Obama's 1st Hispanic Online Townhall

President Obama's 1st Hispanic Online Townhall

Still, the President traded in the currency of hope which millions of Americans purchased, just to see their investment’s value plummet.

Millions are struggling with desencanto.  This unchecked, profound disillusionment represents a significant political liability for the President because it is rooted in a reality that is only getting worse.

As it appears in the Huffington Post Latino Voices:

The Gran Desencanto

“Yes We Can” is one of the most powerful messages in modern U.S. politics, at once encompassing the possibility to better our social contract through “change” and realize the American Dream.

It is simple, participatory, and ambitious.  Unlike the rallying cry of Cesar Chavez’s ¡Sí se puede!–Yes It Can Be Done!–Yes We Can offers a grammatical throwdown: it is a first-person challenge that assumes we can perfect our union–together.  It is more than the audacity of one to hope.  It is the conviction that we have skin in this game therefore let us unite to accomplish goals for the common good.

It is within this context that the questions about the economy, health care, education, immigration, or jobs for the first, live online Hispanic roundtable with President Obama are so heart-wrenching:

Milt Espinoza, one of the more than 14 million out-of-work Americans, reminds the President in a comment, “Those of us, who are unemployed, are not looking for “welfare” checks catered to long-time out of work white collar professional..no..we want to get up in the morning, get back to the office, utilize our talents and educational backgrounds to the max, and live the American dream.”

@hwsanchez tweets, “Mr. President, if you are committed to immigration reform why wasn’t it done when the majority in Congress was democrat?

In an email, Yolanda asks about the banks not helping homeowners with options such as re-financing to avoid foreclosure: “I promise you it will help put more food on the table for persons like myself and my husband, both with serious illnesses.”

The underlying theme in these questions is not the ideological anger behind, for example the debt-ceiling showdown(s).  It is not the corrosive cynicism that settles once the curtain is pulled back and political Wizards of Oz are outed as sad, small, sorry little old men who tweet naked pictures or use campaign funds to support mistresses.

Rather, each question reveals that these Americans are struggling with desencanto, a disillusionment born of a broken spell.  Like millions of other voters, they buried political apathy and exhaustion after eight Bush years to vote–many for the first time–for “change” with the tangible hope that President Obama would apply a tourniquet to stem the hemorrhaging of the global financial that started in the U.S.; that the stalled economy would re-start, lubricating different sectors to put Americans back to work; that we would narrow the gaps of inequality exacerbated by growing poverty; that we would see our political divisions like houses in a subdivision: we may live in individual homes and be drawn to different interests, but all of us make up this neighborhood.

The President is not the One (nor is he Anti-Woman or Dr. Spock).  If Mr. Obama has painfully learned that campaigning is different than governing, millions don’t have that luxury: a father worries about being labeled “unemployable” because he has been out of work for six or more months; a family has asked the Bank of America for a loan modification, only to be told that if approved, it is reported as being in default, thus ruining credit for seven years which will make re-financing harder; an illegal immigrant mother lives terrified that at a moment’s notice her family will be smashed to shards for something as innocuous as not signaling a left turn with a blinker.

The housing crisis will one day bottom out.  The economy will eventually recover.  But will the dashed hopes of recession battered Americans that underpin these questions be restored?

Do you feel desencanto?  How can the President reverse it?

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2 Responses to “In HuffPo Latino Voices: “The Gran Desencanto””

  1. Great article and questions. My thoughts:
    “…each question reveals that these Americans are struggling with desencanto, a disillusionment born of a broken spell.” I believe the desencanto also comes from a belief that Obama was someone who, because of his single parent childhood, minority status,grass roots affiliations, etc., could identify with Latinos and other minorities…he achieved the American Dream, he’s somehow like us.
    Add to that his oratorical prose of Yes We Can that is very close to Si Se Puede. It carries the meaning of a historical struggle of the underclass and is a rallying cry for change. The slogan carries with it the connotation of a fighter.
    The desencanto then comes from a failure to fight, to make the promised change. His actions are construed as weak, sin ganas, and that adds to the desencanto. We wonder then did we make the wrong choice, is he like every other politician, and we get angry and further disillusioned with not only Obama but also all politicians and government.
    We have to see a fighter, see action behind promises, he has to win a few rounds before any trust can be restored or else rhetoric will fall on deaf ears.

  2. Patria Julnes says:

    Great article.
    But I think the person who wrote the first comment as well as millions of Americans (and Obama himself when campaigning) had the unrealistic expectation that a president could change it all by himself and at once! Our system of checks and balances doesn’t allow for that to happen. It’s a painful realization that Obama himself has come to live in carne propia. Yes, there is desencanto; but unfortunately that desencanto is targeted to the wrong person, the wrong American government institution…

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