When Hope Collides With Truth
When Hope Collides With Truth
When I returned from visiting family in the Midwest, I found the house surrounded by McCain-Palin signs. Riding the bike out to the edge of town to view the foothills and canyon, I found a big board announcing a sprawling office complex. Not good signs.
One my not-so-neighborly McCain-Palin supporters is a black man from the Deep South; another is a former Mexican laborer who now owns several homes; and a third is a retiree from the Department of Defense. The last is understandable, but the first two are incomprehensible.
Obama has taken to saying lately “my faith in the American people has been vindicated.” That’s premature, even if he gets elected.
Let’s face it, America is a country that has gone so far wrong that not even the real Messiah could put things right. Until truth seeking supersedes myth making in the minds and hearts of Americans, the hope that Obama will inaugurate a true change in America is a childish fantasy.
Obama’s genius has been his ability to present himself as a blank slate upon which people can write their hopes and dreams, and their wishes and desires for America. Getting out of the swamp the little cowboy has driven us into however will need much more solid grounding in the underlying truths of this country than Barack has so far provided.
What does the election of Barack Obama really represent in America? At bottom, it’s denial. The leaders and followers of this country are saying, ‘see, we’re not dark and dead; we’re still the land of opportunity, where a black man with a father from Africa can be elected president.’ But a gauzy truth often covers an oozing wound.
The truth is that evil did not rise to power by some fluke in this country. And I’m not talking about the ‘lesser of two evils’ kind that so often constitutes governments and their policies. I mean the malignancy of the Bush Administration, which won’t be in the rear view mirror just because Bush is out of office and McCain isn’t in the driver’s seat.
The comforting notion that the malevolence of the Bush-Cheney Administration has been an anomaly in America should have been discarded as a childish dream after the 2004 election. But Americans are still being told, and still believe (at least on the surface) how great a country this is. And there are still too many people abroad hoping against hope that American leadership will save the world.
Even so, you get the feeling that fate has intervened in this election. The meltdown of the financial system came at just the right moment to highlight the leadership qualities of Obama and McCain. While John reached into a bag of tricks straight from the ‘50’s and pretended he was riding into Washington like Washington to rescue Washington from Washington insiders like himself, Obama let the old fart make his play. Then he quietly carried the day.
Fast forward to a few days before the election, and all the Republicans can do is bring in the brainy bodybuilder from the Left Coast to make fun of the brainy black guy’s skinny legs. John McCain, robo-man with the robo-calls, does his best Frankenstein impression on Halloween and squeezes everyone in sight, waving his arms around like a man who just had them reattached.
If Barack Obama is elected, as expected, will he measure up to the hope he has hyped? Even if he’s as good at running the government as he’s been at running his campaign, he won’t fulfill people’s hopes because he cannot awaken the sleepers, much less raise the dead.
I believe the essential meaning of this election is that sleepers are taking back the country from the dead. But the sleepers don’t really want to wake up; they just want things to be like they were a decade ago. And they’re even willing to drop their sole remaining superpower image to return to the soothing camouflage of the Clinton years.
But even if Americans are willing to let go of the glory days as the ‘indispensable nation’ following our victory over the kind of economic socialism that Bush, McCain and Obama now accept as de rigueur, history has moved beyond the nation-state. And as the global economic and ecological crisis deepens, we can’t and won’t return to the halcyon days of Clintonia.
In addition, no amount of ‘rebranding’ of America through Barack Obama can repair the damage that the Bush Administration has caused to this country’s reputation.
This election is not another pendulum swing from right to left, or back to center. There are times in history when the pendulum breaks. Then, either something new emerges, or things get much worse when the not so loyal opposition returns to power.
With his encouragement, people have projected their hopes onto the blank page of Barack Obama. The movement he leads is the last gasp of the myth (in both the good and bad senses of the word) of a bygone era, when the New World was itself a blank page. Millions of immigrants wrote their lives onto the pages of a new history, and thereby defined America, for good and ill.
But the space of that time is gone. All nations must mature, or they stagnate. All empires must radically change, or they fall. After the self-congratulatory celebrations of this election are over, what will still hang in the balance is the choice between renewal and stagnation. And that’s a much bigger question than just what happens in America.
When Barack Obama wakes up one morning and realizes that the American people don’t have the spiritual resources for him to launch his “Apollo Project” to build a new alternative-energy economy, he will face a stark choice: Stay within America in his thinking and acting, or look beyond this country and lead its people to a genuine world view.
Never more so than in our de facto global society, it comes down to ‘country first’ or humanity first. When hope collides with truth, I’m betting Barack will choose humanity, and take enough Americans with him for America to join the world.
Obama’s identification with America is not so strong that he would sacrifice humanity for it, as Bush has done and McCain would continue to do. Obama cannot lead the way to a true world order, but he won’t stand in the way of one either.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.