The end of an Empire
Is messy at best
And this Empire is ending
Like all the rest
I've been told my taciturn response to the recent US election of Barack Obama is noteworthy. I naively imagined the overabundance of public chatter more than made up for my personal silence. But since silence on significant issues of the day is not something I want to be “noteworthy” for, here goes:
US Americans, I am happy for you. In fact I'm happy for everyone. I know the hip thing to do for those of us who take joy in Mr. Obama's victory is to forward a bunch of links from The Onion signifying that we know we know we KNOW this isn't as big a deal as we're making it out to be. Guilty as charged. But c'mon: this is a big deal.
Some observations from my perspective as Canadian solipsist: First, the issue of race seems like a non-issue, so long as I don't reflect on it. But if I thought of what my country might be like if our population had the moral fiber to give someone like, say, Elijah Harper the PMO, well ... that would be a very big deal, indeed. It would also be cause for considerable celebration. But things get thorny when we mull over these issues, so let's avoid them altogether and skip straight to politics.
I don't know which Canucklehead wag said it first, but the general consensus among the chattering classes up here is, “Things have finally moved from worse to bad.” Most observers of American democracy concede that in the main both parties seem to exist primarily to serve corporate interests and only secondarily to manage them. Even so, if there had been such a thing as a “global democracy,” and this fantasy global electorate had been able to exercise a vote eight years ago, George W. Bush would never have been given so much as a tourist's pass to the White House.
The rest of the world does not "get" Americans, it is true: one need look no further than the ill-fated letter campaign of four years ago for evidence of this. And I have to wonder just how deeply we comprehend our own democracies (those of us who live in them) and the leaders we elect. Last time I checked, Elijah Harper was still retired and our Prime Minister was dredging up dirty oil in his back yard. But I digress.
Jesus Christ it stinks here high and low
The rich are getting richer
I should know
While we’re going up
You’re going down
And no one gives a shit but Jackson Browne
For the last two years whenever anyone asked me who I thought the next president should be, I gave them the same formulated answer: I didn't think it mattered so much as that the next president be a clear winner. I figured the US could, and probably would, muddle through another administration of "business as usual" but I couldn't see how it would survive another hung or stolen election. This concern only grew in magnitude when Barack Obama won the Democratic candidacy.
But then John McCain brought forward his running mate, and I thought, “Just how much contempt can a person demonstrate toward voters before people start calling for the guillotine?”
Please. I hope the jaded and worldly-wise can forgive some of us our feelings of elation, even if said feelings are incommensurate with the grim “new” reality.
The man given charge of the last eight years seemed to take a special delight in tormenting not his potential enemies, but his friends: hectoring the Jew to join the Presidential Bible study, giving the German Chancellor a “friendly” shoulder-rub — and always with the nicknames. Eight years devoted to having his way with the nation that voted for and supported him, and taking the rest of the world down a peg ...
The new President will need something considerably more audacious than hope to rescue what tattered worthy scraps still reside within the catastrophe he's inherited. God help him. God help us all. And maybe, while we're at it, we can stow the God-talk for a bit and roll up our collective sleeves and do the real work for a change. Let us at least stop torturing our prisoners of war — that would be the Christian place to start, I think.
Lyrics courtesy of Randy Newman.