Politics is interesting to talk about, but usually not very inspiring. Or, more accurately, looking back at some of my earlier political posts, it looks like politics inspires cynicism, incredulity, anger, and pit-of-your-stomach, world-is-going-to-hell depression.
I’ve always believed that you have to be an egotistical asshole to be a politician, and I still think that’s by and large true, but one thing about last night’s historic election of Barack Obama to the Presidency was that it was the first time in a very long time that a political event had inspired a positive feeling.
From the beginning it was clear that there was a fantastic opportunity after eight years of Bush, terror alerts, the politics of fear and hatred, war and invasion, that there was a chance that the American public would be ready, in sufficiently large numbers, to change the tone of their political discourse. Probably the only silver lining I can think of to the horrific eight years of Bush’s administration is the fact that it so sickened people that they were ready for a new message, and I would like to thank Barack Obama for consistently sticking to his principles, staying “on message”, and trusting that people would respond.
Hope. It sounds so corny. It’s so cliche. It’s vague and unquantifiable. It sounds like something you say to dodge a tough question instead of answering it. But the truth is that hope has been in extremely short supply in America in the first decade of the new millenium. We started off with the hangover of the dotcom bust, then 9/11, then Iraq and it’s poisonous progeny Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, then the financial meltdown… the hits just kept on coming. Most Americans this year faced higher prices for food and gas and a shrinking economy and with it uncertainty about their job security.
What I am most happy about with the result of this election is not that we may have banished some demons about race relations in America, but that we have chosen, as a country, and convincingly, that we want our leaders to show us a vision we can feel good about, a vision that inspires us to take the hard steps to make reality, and that brings us together in a common cause that is greater than our individual differences.
I have high expectations for Barack Obama, and it may be unfair to pin so much on any one person, but that’s the exceptional leadership quality that he has, and although I wouldn’t be surprised if we are a bit disappointed when the rubber meets the road and reality constrains some of the loftier campaign promises, I will still consider it a net gain that we have turned the corner on hatred and division and fear and have embraced a new way of treating each other.
My best wishes for the future of America and its people.