State of the Union: Tradition Trumps Reality

Tuesday night marked the fifth, but most certainly not the last time President Obama delivered the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Republicans, Democrats and even some of those grave Tea Partiers packed the House of Representatives chamber to hear the president present his assessment of our country.

Apparently, it's a big deal. But the cynic in me begs to ask the question: Why?

I get that all of the big wigs who run this country are in the same room together and that alone makes it important. They even appoint a "designated survivor" who hangs out at an undisclosed location to make sure the government runs smoothly just in case of a major catastrophe.

So, the president walks into the chamber after a loud announcement by the House Sergeant at Arms and then a standing ovation ensues for about 10 minutes. Half of the people there are genuinely pleased to see the Commander in Chief, while the other half reluctantly clap, murmuring to themselves, "Who the hell does this guy think he is?"

After what seems like forever, the president finally makes his way up to the podium where he greets the vice president and the speaker of the house. Then he hands them each an envelope containing a copy of his address. As the raucous applause subsides, Obama finally begins.

The speech can easily be summarized like this: the president gets in front of the crowd, tells everyone the State of the Union is strong, outlines why it is strong, then points how it could be stronger. He then basically calls the opposing party morons and finally proposes that the two parties unite and hold hands. God is thanked and asked to bless America some more, then there is more clapping and the night is over. Well, not quite.

The opposing party gets its turn to rebut the president's remarks, playing Monday morning quarterback in the political arena. He or she presents a different vision for the country and lays the blame for our problems onto the president and his party. The only positive aspect of this address is that this speech is only five minutes long.

But, the night is still not over. Thanks to the political gods, we have another response address, this one coming from the Tea Party. Last week I told you these guys were dead, but I must acknowledge remnants still exist. Maybe it was Christine O'Donnell's witchcraft that enabled this to happen. Nevertheless, they elect someone to stand up and deliver a rebuttal to the president's address, essentially echoing their Republican friends, just with a lot more, "Wait, are these guys for real?" moments from viewers.

Finally, the night is over, and we as Americans can sit back and ask ourselves, "What was just accomplished?" The answer to that question is nothing-nothing was accomplished Tuesday night. The emotional moment where President Obama asked Congress to at least have a vote on the gun control measures, because the Newtown victims, Hadiya Pendleton and Gabby Giffords were worthy of a vote, was most likely just that: an emotional moment. Obama's plea was real, but it won't be answered, and that was the biggest tragedy of all.

This example shows the true State of our Union. There are common sense solutions to the gun violence issue that one would think both parties would be able to agree upon, but they won't.

Common sense takes a back seat to politics in this country. If the State of our Union was truly strong, one would think we would be able to protect our children. As recent tragic events have shown, we haven't been able to do that.

If we can't come to an agreement on reducing gun violence, then you can forget about unity on spending cuts, taxes and healthcare.

So, we can continue to stand up and clap and proclaim the State of our Union to be strong. But I believe voices that can no longer be heard would say otherwise. I believe the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre would say otherwise. I believe the 15-year-old Chicago girl killed senselessly by a bullet would say otherwise.

I believe common sense would say otherwise.