Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Notes before finally blacking out, Pt 3

I spent much of the day watching CNN. Even before I began, my optimism for a Democrat victory was high—witness the hay(na)ku in the post below, uploaded an hour before the first state closed its polling booths. My optimism grew as the results came in, but one is never sure of such things. There was the classic Dewey "win"; &, closer to home, I remember an election here in 1974 where the Labor Party's lead which, shortly after the beginning of the counting, had seemed impregnable, was slowly whittled away & it was only in the wee small hours of the morning that it was confirmed they'd won. So it came as a relief when one of the anchors, in response to a Dorothy Dix question from their on-air partner & using the quite remarkable technology on show all day, demonstrated that there was no way, from that point on, that McCain could win. Shortly after, the polls in California closed. One minute later, Obama was unofficially named as the next President of the U.S. From then on in it was like a rerun of West Wing. McCain gave a remarkably eloquent, gracious & inclusive concession speech, Obama a Presidential oration, also inclusive, very little use of "I" —if any; lots of "we". No hubris or arrogance. A down to earth speech that evoked memories of orators of the past who put their actions into words, & the speech of a man who obviously is not going to shirk the enormous task he & his fellow politicians &, indeed, the entire U.S. population have in the upcoming years.

Since the rise of the U.S. to the status of the world power, an always significant but, dependant on the current realpolitik, shifting number of nations &/or political groups have used the U.S. as their muscle. There are subsequent trade-offs—economic, military, political, environmental—as payment for that "assistance", not all of them popular, & the perception of the world—friend or foe—was of an U.S. that was arrogant, self-righteous &, always, moved to act by self-interest. Sometimes that self-interest coincided with the self-interest of others, & so.......

Bear in mind that it's the political rulers that I'm talking about here. No matter how many Dylans or Pollocks or Miles Davises the U.S. produce—or Paris Hiltons or Sons of Sam, for that matter—it's the actions of the Administration that shape the geopolitical landscape.

For better or worse, nearly all previous Administrations had the interests of the nation—or at least their vision of it—at heart. What George W. Bush did was to introduce personal greed & a level of hypocrisy never seen before to the mix. No longer "My Nation 'tis of thee" but "My Cronies 'tis for thee". Make no mistake about it: the Bush years have left the U.S. morally bankrupt in the eyes of most of the world. & now, economically bankrupt as well.

What the election of Barack Obama has done is restore much of the U.S.'s reputation instantaneously. The Democrats would probably have won no matter which of the two main contenders for the nomination had been chosen. I have no doubt that Hilary Clinton would have been a good President, but the need, & the universal mindset & necessary momentum, for major change would have taken longer to address, to bring about, perhaps eight years. The immensity of Obama's win has swept those eight years away. The symbolism of Obama's election cannot be overstated. It's not just the winds of change, but the winds of goodwill that are now blowing towards the borders of the U.S. from all directions. I have known only one act of similar symbolism in my lifetime; the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

With Obama's victory speech, I felt two circles were finally complete. You could hear echoes of Martin Luther King Jr. resonating in the words, made more poignant by the sight of a weeping Jesse Jackson in the assembled crowd. The dream may not have yet become total reality, but it has a whole lot more substance.

& the last time I saw footage of people of goodwill gathered in Grant Park, just over forty years ago, they were being brutally dispersed by the billyclubs of Chicago's finest. Don't tell me it was coincidence that Barack Obama chose this venue.

Today I saw demonstrated the true meaning of e pluribus unum.

Finally, with the results of three states still in doubt, but with Obama leading in North Carolina & so likely to pick up at least another 15 electoral college votes, let me just say that I'm quite pleased with my predicted outcome.

1 comment:

artandmylife said...

The Jesse Jackson footage moved me too. I clearly remember his run for the democratic nomination in 1984.