Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A New Day Dawns...Maybe

Well, it happened. Earlier this week, American history was made. Barack Obama becomes the first African-American President of the United States, and the first true Progressive for a good long time. After the hard-fought campaign, the landslide victory, and the inspiring speech, it's hard not to feel elated. It's hard not to get caught up in all the jubilation and optimism. Hope is rekindled. Change has come. Progress will continue.

But I think it is both wise and appropriate to temper optimism with realism. Sure, call me a spoil-sport if you must, but I like to keep things in proper perspective. Obama's victory owes more to the failures of Republican leadership over the last two terms than it does to the ideals he represents (though I do share those ideals). A declining economy and a grossly mismanaged foreign conflict were more pressing concerns. Change was needed. ANY change. And while it's somewhat heartening to realize that racism was, for the moment, put aside - failures in leadership so blatant that they finally trumped any fear of the colored guy with the funny name - we must remember that the choice between Obama and McCain was pretty much no choice at all. And the American people finally realized that.

Nevertheless, we must not mitigate the achievement this represents. Barack Obama, young and impressive, full of energy and ideas and drive...he is the New Boss. The one to lead a people desperate for dynamic, proactive leadership, and lead them from stagnation to a new prosperity. He almost reminds me of a Kennedy (John or Bobby, that is). And a man who can give a speech. Like an orator from a lost age, he can push all the right buttons and make his case with sincerity and passion. His victory speech was his Henry the Fifth moment, his rallying cry, his call to his people to join him. And by God, I would have followed that man into Hell after it. In Obama, we see the triumph of new over old, of sincerity over jingoism, of hope over despair. It's hard not to get wrapped up in the enthusiasm, to believe that we can change the world for the better, by the sheer power of our faith in ourselves. That here, now, in this moment, we can do ANYTHING.

And that's all well and good. But it will not happen overnight. Obama was honest enough to admit it in his speech. Getting elected was the EASY part. Now the WORK starts, and it will be an uphill battle. There are many messes to clean up in the United States: socially, economically, politically. And it will take a lot of time and effort on EVERYONE's part to do so. How successful Obama will be in fixing things, in creating a new America from the ashes of the old, remains to be seen. Considering that the Democrats picked up a tidy majority in both houses of Congress as well, his work will perhaps be easier, but there WILL be speed bumps. Obama seems to be surrounding himself with experienced advisors, which is always a good thing for a young leader. And he genuinely seems to WANT to change things. And of course, for that I wish him the very best of luck. I think he will need it.

But then, adversity is where we shine. Not only as individuals, but as a nation. It has always been in our darkest hours that we have shone the brightest. Our greatest Presidents - Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson - have presided in times of crises, and it was through their leadership that we survived as a nation. More than survived; became stronger through our survival. And perhaps that time has come round again. A chance to face adversity with a fresh face and new ideas. A chance to shine once again. A chance to grow stronger as a nation. A chance to once again be the greatest nation on Earth. It's a tall order, but I believe it can be done. And if President Obama believes it too, then I will follow him.

Only time will tell if a new day truly has dawned. But right here and now, we have something we didn't have before: change. And with change comes hope of a new day. And I will take that for now; it's more than I had before.

My congratulations, Mister President. Go forth and be righteous.


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