I was in the US Air Force stationed outside of Madrid when John Kennedy was elected. I can still remember the hope and excitment he generated. I can still remember, and yes still cry, when he made his 'ich bin ein berliner" speech. I still remember as does anyone over a cetain age where I was when he was assinated. In my case I was on an airplane on my way back home to the states when our pilot announced the news. Welcome home!! To this day I can't remember the trip from New York on to my parents home in California. I can still remember my shock to discover how many Americans did not like John Kennedy. You see, he was idolized by Europeans and non-Americans around the world. I just couldn't believe it.
I quickly found out how polarized our country was politically. There was or seemed to be no middle ground. You were either against the war & a left wing hippy or you were for it and a member in good standing of the John Birch Society. There was no room for a balanced political attitude. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. I didn't want to bring my daughters up in such an atmosphere and was lucky enough to move back to Europe where I stayed for 15 years.
My point is that it seems to me that in many ways we have a parallel situation today. The politics of polarization are back. The middle ground seems to have eroded away. People seem anchored into their positions. There are a lot of 'true believers' out there - on both sides. George Bush will leave a terrible legacy that will probably take years to overcome.
Now, Barak Obama seems genuine when he talks about change and about bringing people together. I wish him luck and goodwill; he will need both to unite the country. If, that is, its even possible. What I fervently wish is that he can capitalize upon the unprecedented goodwill he has with people around the world.
This is where I see a real opportunity. Like John Kennedy he has the opportunity to change the world for the better. Kennedy never realized his promise because his life was cut short. Obama assuming that he survives (I hate to say that, but assination is a real threat in my eyes) has a similar opportunity. The world is hoping for a better day; it is hoping that Barak Obama can lead the changes necessary and hoping that America can be in practice what it promises in theory.
I won't presume to tell him what to do. Some things are obvious. Close the horrible prison, get out of Iraq as gracefully as possible, leave Afganistan to the Afganistanis, stop Iran & North Korea's nuculear ambitions. Those things are obvious even though not easy. For the rest he will need to try to persuade Europe to step up to its responsibilities (for too long they have tried to have it both ways.), practice some tough love with Mr. Putin, encourage the Chinese to take on a wider positive role in the world (probably only they can really bring North Korea to heel), stop most of the ridiculous positions past policy has had in the Western hemisphere (its long past time that Cuba was treated like a neighbor.) and do whatever is possible to bring Africa into the modern world politicially. (tough one I know). Its a huge agenda, but most of it can mainly be accomplished by just sticking to what's made him so popular in the first place. A clear message for change, for inclusion, for a degree of humility on America's part and constant & clear communication which will abet the goodwill he has accumulated.
Barak Obama, like John Kennedy before him, has the gift of gab. He is a suberb orator, his words have the power to move people. I hope he will use that gift wisely.
That's my political post. I'll probably do no more. As an American abroad I have high hopes that with our new President we can once again begin to become a positive example. I'm heartily sick of having to apologise for my country.