The world can certainly do better than this. Here's why.

Monday, November 3

Remember, Remember

So it is that I am not very concerned about the events to come of Wednesday, November the Fifth. Any time I pause to contemplate that date, I have to sing back to myself the old rhyme: "Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot." It is, after all, going to be the fifth of November at around 3 pm local (GMT +9) time that the "results" of the "election" in America will be announced. What will happen? What, indeed.

The gunpowder treason. I think of it as an attempt by an individual to speak truth to power in a way that has persisted as being impossible. Actions speak louder than words and, had the British Parliament been blown up that day in November of 1611 (I'm guessing? Oops, wrong, 1605), the world would truly never have forgotten. Now, it is a catch-phrase from a Natalie Portman movie, from a graphic novel (V for Vendetta), and only to those who've seen fit to remember it, from British history.

What actions have been undertaken since that time to reconcile the vast imbalance. Few that have stuck. Yet now, against a great many odds, the world hopes that a single election will turn the tide, that Barack Obama will make good on the promise that has held him aloft for so many months. That despite the collapse of the economy, despite racial tensions and whisperings of assassination, despite the slander and libel perpetrated against him, despite his youth and "inexperience," despite voting machines that tend to favor the powerful and influential, despite his celebrity status, despite a disastrous legacy to be handed to the next President, he will win this election and help to remake the world. To remake it stronger, fairer, and safer. Can one man do this? I have my doubts.

The gunpowder treason. Much like the other acts of violence, acts of terrorism, acts of an absolute nature, it could not remake the future in the eyes of all. It could only serve as a call-to-arms, an alarm call, a siren, a warning light. It could only motivate others to think for themselves on the underlying issues. It can only serve to set principles for further action. As with other acts of an absolute nature, it is the effect that it has on the population at which it is aimed that matters most. The power against which the act is aimed will do everything possible, and often succeed, to entrench itself further.

What if no-one responds? What if nothing changes?

It is up to the people. This election is as much a popularity contest as any other. Should he be elected, it is still up to the American people, their allies and friends, to fulfill the mandate he sets. It is up to him to fulfill the mandate set by the people who helped him to be elected. Should he be elected, he will preside alongside countless others, now not standing head-and-shoulders above the rest of the world, but, in accordance with his perspective among the other nations. Shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Does this equate to a fall in prestige? Does this do harm to the image of America? Certainly. But the damage has been done already. Afghanistan. Iraq. Corruption in public offices. Withdrawal from the Geneva Conventions. Guantanamo Bay. Extraordinary Rendition. Black Sites. Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. Predatory lending practices. The Mortgage bubble. The Housing bubble. Oil prices. Mounting national debt. A failing Global War on Terror. Emboldening of strong-man politics. A resurgence of the Cold War. It goes on.

It is up to the people. The people must follow through. They must demand what is possible. Better yet, the people must demand what is deemed impossible. Impossible to go away from fossil fuels? Impossible to rebuild the energy grid from the ground up for renewable energy resources? Impossible for universal health care to exist in the United States? Impossible to withdraw from Iraq without inviting retaliatory strikes? Impossible to heal the wounds of poverty, malnutrition, and strife that make ripe the ground for new enemies to grow? All impossible? No, not impossible. Just unlikely. It is for people — not one person — to undertake and to understand. It is for people to make possible.

It often starts with a single person. A beacon for others to attune themselves to. One would hope that such an extraordinary person as Obama is would signal such immense new possibility. A scholar and teacher, a visible minority in a nation with slavery at its foundation, an intellectual, a student of history. What more can be asked for in a guide?