The 2008 election year revealed a lot about the future of the United States, and potentially the globe. We face hard economic times, I know, but I am optimistic because the fundamentals of our shared social-political future are bright and forward-looking. A few observations:
1) A growing portion of the public cares again about collectivism, social justice, and social change after the complacency of the 1980s and apathy of the 1990s. The emerging activism is not at the level that I would imagine it was in the 1960s, but it is refreshingly better than in decades past. The youth is stepping up, as are many older activists who are re-engaging; and they share no love for the archaic ideas of Republicans;
2) Being environmentally conscious has now moved from the margin to the mainstream. Consumer products – old and new – exploit the word “green” for the sake of making a buck. Most Americans now support alternative sources of energy that protect the environment and their pocket books;
3) The economic crisis, which we quickly learned was largely caused by the Right’s fanatical worship of laissez faire capitalism, continues to fuel a rejection of the Republican party as a suitable ideology, or a relevant political apparatus, I hope for most of the 21st century.
4) And finally, public support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, once taken for granted, has been convincingly eroded, and the critique behind what led up to them is awakening more Americans of how unsustainable these wars are. Once treasonous, calling for an end to both wars is finally sensible and widespread.
Civic life in the U.S. is being revived, and the new generation of players is driven by an underlying discontent and a full-bodied rejection of the past 8 years. Despite the crushing effect of the worsening economy, there remains optimism in the air, and the hopefulness built by Obama’s victory last year does not yet shine less brightly.
In about a week or so, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. There is a lot of interest in Obama’s inauguration, which I think has already broken a fundraising record, according to a recent NY Times article. But the high degree of interest is not what is noteworthy to me.
As a Filipino American, as a non-White American, what is more noteworthy to me is the symbolism of this upcoming inauguration. We are not simply swearing in the first non-White US President. We are not only swearing in the most progressive-thinking US President in at least a generation. We are swearing in a symbol of humanity’s best intentions.
Obama is “Mr. Step in the Right Direction” for many in the world. Now synonymous with the word “hope” and that old labor chant “Yes we can,” our next President represents more than a people, more than a country, but an idea. He represents bright possibilities. In a period of economic and growing military turmoil around the world, Obama could not have arrived on the world stage at a better time. After all, we all breathe easier in fresh air.