25 November 2008

Thanksgiving Eve, New York 2008

   After a decade of living in this city, its pulse and mine have become one.  Like too good friends who even have their periods together, our moods and temperament are the same.  That being said, when New York worries, I worry also.  That is the subject of this entry.  For the first time I can remember since 2001, there is a sense that the Big Apple has a big worm eating at it its core.  Sitting on the B train, passing under the familiar landmarks above, there is lacking the sense of revelry that normally permeates New Yorkers at the holidays.  There even seem to be fewer tourists this year (or do they all just look as beat down as we do?)  None of the adults seem ‘in the spirit’ and the children, held too tightly by the hand, seem strained, older than I remember ever seeing them before.  Is this what it felt like all those years ago, when we had another very unpopular Republican president who had launched us into economic oblivion?  Is the glimmer of hope I feel akin to what so many felt right after they went to the polls and pulled the proverbial lever for FDR? 

Even our evening news is strained, where before there was a ‘half full’ approach to reporting, currently it is ‘half full’ of violence and terrorism in India’s financial sector.  This continuing saga of terror has even the most optimistic of United States citizens wondering if the Bush Administration has pissed off the rest of the world so badly that there is no return from the precipice of self-destruction.  On the other hand, I wonder sometimes if what we are witnessing is simply the result of a hugely manipulated mass media.  Add into the equation that bio-terrorism that is projected to hit the U. S. in the next decade, and the politics of fear plays its role full on.  The presumptive nomination of Hillary Clinton as President-Elect Barack Obama’s Secretary of State has done some to alleviate the collective fears of those who fear that the international reputation of this nation has gone completely to the dogs.  With Obama’s star power and Clinton’s ability to seal the deal, hope is not completely dead.  Instead, we are reminded of the first bud of spring pushing through after a long cold winter, reminding us that nature comes in cycles, and that after the cold and dreary, comes the warm and bright.

President-Elect Obama has called the United States to action, advocating for a new generation of public servants.  While I think this is an amazing call of duty, it is also slightly dangerous in my opinion.  The call to action issued by FDR during the early days of his New Deal assisted in bringing about the spirit of isolationism that followed the end of WWII.  Granted, the late 1940’s and the 1950’s as a whole were truly a ‘golden age’ for the United States.  The postwar economy was booming, and the Cold War was still an embryo.  Yet the mindset of the nation in those decades helped lead to the fear-mongering of McCarthy and those who would have had us fear the ‘godless’ communists rather than embrace our differences in an air of acceptance.  Is it possible that this president can learn from the mistakes of his predecessors, and not lead us into another isolationist nightmare?  Can a Christian president, who was born to a Muslim father and atheist mother, be a beacon for acceptance and tolerance, or will he become the focal point of every jihadist and radical racist on the planet?  Is this president doomed before he ever takes the oath of office?  Have we simply created another martyr in electing him to the presidency?  Or can we, as a race of beings striving for enlightenment, rise above our violent and intolerant tendencies and stand beside Barack Obama and work hand in hand to make the United States again the land of promise?

These questions and more have raced through my mind as of late.  On the news this morning, there is a story of a man trampled to death by overzealous Wal-Mart shoppers trying to rush in to the hottest Black Friday deals.  Will we ever learn?

Hope springs eternal.

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