Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome to a New Era: Viva Obamastan

Allow me to take a moment to welcome the new President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, into office. I voted for the man, and although a majority of my Budapest based international journalist buddies told me I was naive and he "could never win" he did. Not only because the Republicans showed themselves as the morally corrupt band of criminals that they are, but because Americans - the majority of Americans - are not as cynical and childish as they were thought to be by their own entranched cabal of leaders. Americans have grown up as a nation and can no longer be led by an outdated, Lee Atwater-Karl Rove-GOP policy based on an ancient legacy of divisive American racism. Children are easy to control, but children grow up. Still... I tend to think of our new President in these terms:
It is hard to express the relief that I feel - we feel - at being present for the change of a regime that began with the theft of the 2000 Presidential election in Florida. the Bush administration is destined to go down in History as the absolute worst in American history. On January 21, 2001, the American satirical newspaper The Onion published this:
WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."President-elect Bush vows that "together, we can put the triumphs of the recent past behind us." "My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."Well, we have put that behind us. Obama faces challenges in his presidency comparable to those faced by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932: a shattered economy, a rising fascist-nationalist-terror tide of world politics, a loss of orientation between philosophies that guide the practice of governance. Unlike Bush (or Bill Clinton) Obama is not a longstanding creature of the poltical environment. He's fresh. He hasn't lost a sense of a vision for the greater social good. I think it is obvious that down the line Obama will dissapoint us in many ways. And I am ready to deal with that. At least I can not predict what the disappointment will be. I was raised during the 1960s. I remember where I was on the day John F. Kennedy died. I remember the TV news on the night Martin Luther King died. I remember watching the sense of loss and the rise of a sarcastic cynical tone in public debate: it won't get better from here. That tone lasted forty years. And I welcome the fresh air that I breathe today. I am amused by the sullen tone of the right wing media in America today. There is not much they can say: the majority of Americans are glad to see the back of the Bush administration. And finally, I should mention that I am overwhelmed that the USA has finally looked its legacy of racism in the face and rejected it by electing a president who is not lily white. So far, the closest I know of anyone who is not white was vice president Charles Curtis, Senator of Kansas and a Kaw (Kansa) Indian, who served under - urk! - Calvin Coolidge. He was the first person with acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach either of the two highest offices in the United States government's executive branch (and the last until Barack Obama's election as president in 2008).President Obama's inauguration has galvanized Black Americans in a way not seen since the civil rights era. A Black president! A Fela Kuti album voted into reality! This is a time to reflect on the long road American history has taken over the last two hundred years. Give a thought this day to all the descendants of slaves who have become America's real middle class. Harriet Tubman sleeps well tonight. We here at this blog have been lazy lately, but we will be back with more on Moldova... strudels... and Hungary... after we celebrate our new President.

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