William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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Thoughts on the Inauguration

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
             -- The Speech, transcript available here

Aside from the perceived slight at the atheistic crowd (“non-believers” makes it sound like there’s some common virtue to belief that we’re not participating in), I liked the speech. And while I didn’t like his choice of words, I liked the idea, and I hope that the words “as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself” are the final nails in anti-globalization’s coffin. I don’t mean to say that we have a sacrosanct right to sweatshop-made running shoes, more that our borders should eventually be dissolved, as that’s probably the only way to even begin to ensure fairness for all. It’ll mean those Chiquitas and Asics will cost more and we’ll have to consume less of them, but in the long run fairness is the only way to ensure peace and therefore survival.

Warren? Well, it wasn’t as much of a train wreck as I feared it would be – though as he told his imaginary superbeing that history is His story, I blurted out “No, history is our story!” To say that the sacrifice and toil and suffering and hardships of people since time immemorial are the property of an imaginary superbeing is, frankly, downright insulting.

What really bugged me was the rhetoric (from reporters, too) about the “peaceful transfer of power,” as if this were a democratic revolution, as if a military junta was giving way to the agri-peasants. Give me a break. It is what it is. One rich man’s friends and associates and acolytes are giving way for another’s. I’m overjoyed that Obama may have kicked up a new appetite for grassroots democracy, but if it weren’t him it would have been someone else – Howard Dean was trying to do the same thing leading up to 2004, and maybe he was just a cycle ahead of his time.

Not only that, but all the harping about the “peaceful transfer” and the “supremacy of the ballot” (don’t we all realize that elections are a banal, one-dimensional method of reading the will of variably-informed people?) sounded to me like a not-very-well-veiled <snicker> message to observers in certain countries in Asia. As if they could put out ballot boxes (with the requisite armed guards and international observers) and magically solve their problems. Here’s an interesting excerpt on this topic from the latest Maclean’s:

In contrast to W.’s election-focused “freedom agenda” (which handed Hamas the keys to Gaza when it won a free and open 2006 vote), [diplomat Richard] Haass and his co-author Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, argue for a “more sustainable balance between U.S. interests and U.S. values.” The right answer for the Middle East’s problems is not shock democracy, they say, but an “evolutionary process of liberalization,” focusing on game changers like judicial independence, freedom of the press and governmental transparency.
             -- “Can Obama Win the Middle East?” (Jonathon Gatehouse Maclean’s January 26th, 2009)

In other words, “liberating” a people and allowing them to donkey-vote their next poison isn’t the complete answer. I thank these diplomats and reporters for putting words to an uneasy feeling I’ve had ever since seeing those hopelessly optimistic news reports showing Afghans and then Iraqis streaming to the ballot boxes. Somehow, it didn’t smell right. And the wars rage on.

* * *

Now that the U.S. debt is over ten trillion dollars, one wonders when the house of cards is going to collapse. I mean, how much money is there in the world? Worse, they spent their way into this mess, and, in an amazing affront to good sense, they seem to be intent on spending their way out of it.

Obama, to the terrorists: “We will defeat you.”

Not if you’re broke.

Then again, it’s hard to imagine a devastated, emaciated, dystopian United States being a particularly lucrative terrorist target. Even Al-qaeda won’t kick a dead dog.

Imagine that on Sept. 12, 2001, [George W. Bush] had put the economy on a war footing, raised taxes, and asked everyone to sacrifice in order to catch Osama bin Laden and dismantle al-Qaida. The whole country would have rallied behind him. Instead he said: "Go shopping."
             -- Electoral-vote.com (yep, it’s still going!)

* * *

The Souris Library was open today, so I went in to pick up a transit hold from Murray River. I found a few other things there, like the extended edition of Return of the King, which I tried to watch in Japan but the second disc of the rental copy wouldn’t work in any player I tried it in, and nobody else in town carried the extended edition. So finding that was a big yay, and I’ll watch it one of these evenings – PEI’s library policies are quite different from Halifax’s – the fines for everything are less, the loan periods on videos are longer (I get a week instead of three days), but you are only allowed one renewal instead of two.

But yeah, I’m in the library, carelessly flipping through a book, and this woman comes up and asks the clerk, “Did you miss the inauguration speech?”

“Yes, I did, but I’m sure it’ll be on TV… I’ll catch it… Was it good?”
“Oh, yes! Boy, I wish he was our Prime Minister!”

I was behind a bookshelf, so they couldn’t have seen me roll my eyes. I mean, OK, Obama’s awesome in his way, sure. But he’s, um, an American. (A religious one at that, all too quick to invoke faith as a virtue. But he’ll do for now.) Wouldn’t, erm, um… now I’m just stepping out on a limb here… a Canadian be better suited to the job? Obama’s job is to look out for his country’s interests, not ours.

So, here’s the challenge. Let’s see if we can find a leader for ourselves that’s better than Obama! I bet we can do it! Of course, my idea of “better” is probably wildly different from that of others. But hey, let the contest begin!
Tags: democracy, inauguration, libraries, obama, politics, rhetoric, speeches, united states of america

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