By Nicholas Allanach
“Obama!” I yelled between claps, “Wooooz!”, and “Awww Yeaz!” I felt like some die-hard sport’s fan, celebrating the win of a team whose victory had truly been - a long time coming.
While walking through New York’s Canyon of Commercialism this past Election Night, I thought about “teams” and what “games” they play. The team I celebrated with in Midtown was just as loud and enthusiastic as the one I later pounded drums with while howling in the streets of East Harlem. However, I tried to push away the comfortable illusion we were all in this together and that all teams were celebrating tonight. No, despite the giddiness of the crowds and love within the hugs and claps from friends, I knew such sentiments were not shared by all and that the President-elect (as well as those who voted for him) had a lot of work ahead to bring any significant “change” to Washington.
Obama brought-up a lot of good points in Chicago’s Grant Park the other night, but the one that resonated the loudest with me was that – “the true genius of America is that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.” …Nice. But now that the campaign is done, what will this “change” be and how will our union “be perfected”? After all, one team’s idea of “what we…must achieve tomorrow” will not be the same as others. In fact, some teams will flat-out reject another’s idea of “perfection”. Does this mean one team is more correct than another? ...Definitely, especially if they have the interests of the total human population and planet in mind - but only time can tell for sure.
I realize there’s currently an environment of cynicism and distrust of government, and rightfully so. After all, much of the emotional catharsis witnessed on election night is much because of people feeling a sense of relief that these past eight years are now behind us. Unfortunately, all of the problems that administration created will not go away come January 20th. One of the first concerns of the new administration (arguably caused and left over from the current) will be the economic “crisis” and, of course, there will be opposing teams vying to define how this issue should be resolved.
This past weekend, I got into the middle of a heated debate between one player for the capitalist’s team (i.e. “Obama rules!”) vs. a player for the communist’s team (i.e. “Obama's fake!”) regarding Obama’s recent vote in the Senate to “bailout” failing Wall Street investment banks. The Communist believed government should let the failing firms bottom-out so as to illustrate the failures of laisez-faire capitalism. Whereas the Capitalist, believed a bailout is necessary to bolster investor confidence and prevent any further damage to an already vulnerable economy. I support Obama, but count myself as one who supports him would like to to think "change" is coming to Washington, and it will be a change that finally curbs the capitalist's highly destructive greed. Unfettered Friedmanite capitalism, operates under the foolish assumption it can continue to exploit and consume human and natural resources as if there will not be any reprecussions - this is suicide. We must curb our greedy appetites.
Of course, I’m not surprised by Obama’s vote for the bailout; after all, he plays on the team of the capitalists and has a history with investment banks. Accordingly, it may have been political suicide for Obama to vote no. Unlike my more idealistic friends, I suppose I can imagine the limitations placed on anyone in his position of power. I do not pretend to be privy on much of the esoteric rhetoric of the economy; which is why I hope we will begin to not only deconstruct it but redefine it.
Sure, like many ignorant Americans, I “hope” our elected officials make prudent decisions for us all. I realize this is naïve. A diet of “hope” will not satiate the challenges we face. For now, "hope" is all we got.
What I find exciting about such debates, and the current political climate, is that these discussions are happening. It's refreshing to hear discourse emboldened by strong ideas. I am relieved to see the potential for a pragmatic discourse, energized by a new President, concerned with solving more problems in Washington, instead of creating more.
Obama’s campaign stirred-up a lot of emotions and passions; accordingly, such an environment can be exciting, but also dangerous. Debate is how we establish greater and more evolved understandings. Obama’s election talk of “change” was intentionally left open-ended. "Yes We Can!" can mean anything and also makes the speaker feel good. The electorate can project their own ideas of "change" onto a much broader campaign. Now that this campaign is over, there'll inevitably be a lot of disappointed people. But heh, are we really so naize to think this new opportunity to change history is going to be easy?
I voted for Obama and, like many, am extremely inspired by the idea and possibility of beneficial and peaceful “change” coming to Washington. Nevertheless, I will still try to be as critical of this administration as I would any other.
A former professor used to say, “politics is like sex: either jump in bed with who you want, or jerk-off!” An admittedly crude way to suggest - “pick a side”. I suppose I'm in bed with Obama. Does this mean I do not have criticisms of my partner’s performance? Or that I will blindly support any and all decisions this new administration makes? No. That’s not how my team plays the game.
Although I’m excited, inspired, and relieved by the upcoming Obama presidency, I realize he's just as involved in the larger machinery as any other politician. But I look forward now to the future with less fear, (which is more than I can say for the future I might have had had this election gone to the McCain/Palin ticket). I’m also looking forward to the debates, because I realize this discourse is essential to a true democratic society and integral to our evolving consciousness of this world and the role we play in it.
I welcome the evolution of not only our nation’s identity, but my own as it is challenged and redefined with each new day and new debate.