Tuesday, October 21, 2008

battle for the earth: Hope vs Skepticism

How many times have i said or heard said among friends that this election really feels like an epic battle between good and evil? The "battle for the earth: heaven vs hell" metaphor seems to really be taking hold as people get more and more concerned about the state of the country, and as the two candidates personalities drift farther to their respective corners (recall tina fey's characterization of barack this week: "when he's talkin' it's like an angel whisperin' in your ear," and barack's joke at the Alfred E. Smith dinner that "contrary to the rumors that you've heard, I was not born in a manger..."). But I think in all the excitement about the battle for the earth, the possibly legitimate fear that john mccain is the modern-day anti-christ, and the overwhelming desire we all seem to have to throw ourselves into this election like it's the only thing that matters, we're accidentally or intentionally overlooking a quieter but in no way less important battle. This battle is also for the earth, but John McCain has nothing to do with it - it's the battle between two Obamas - the one we hope he is, and the one we fear he is.

I like to think of this as the battle between hope and skepticism, or perhaps the battle between great and just 'good.' This article by Mike Davis does a wonderful job summing it up from an economic standpoint, but it's more than just economics: the Barack actually standing in front of us on TV is significantly more conservative, more vague, and less powerful than the Barack we see in our dreams. He promises all of these wonderful things: universal health care, fighting climate change, and a better foreign policy, but we know in our hearts that he has yet to actually make a compelling case for HOW he's going to do these things. We also know in our hearts that he's intelligent, and I think that's the crux of this less thrilling but perhaps more important battle-for-the-earth. We HOPE (and we hope that Obama's message of 'hope' is a wink in our direction) that Obama is so intelligent that he's figured out the system - that his vagueness is his way of getting where he needs to go, and once there he will make the changes we want to see: changes that, if he said them out loud now, would cost him the election. We HOPE that with the possibility of a simultaneous Barack Obama presidency and an overwhelming Democratic majority in the House and Senate, we'll begin to see this country go in an amazing new direction "from day one." But we're also SKEPTICAL because wouldn't that just be too good to be true? We know how American politics work. No one's that good. If Obama's gotten this far, maybe he's not the man we hope he is. Or as Mike Davis put it in the article linked above,
"Am I unduly cynical? Perhaps, but I lived through the Lyndon Johnson years and watched the War on Poverty, the last true New Deal program, destroyed to pay for slaughter in Vietnam."
Is it even possible for Barack Obama to bring us the change he's asking us to hope for? Or are we gearing ourselves up for a slight shift in pace that will in no way actually turn us from the collision course we're currently on with our own demise? It may be impossible to know, but as with all battles for the earth, it's certainly worth thinking about...

1 comment:

Brittany said...

sigh. this stressed me.