America 2.0 – when Generation X reaches The White House August 29, 2008Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, work/life.
Tags: Barack Obama
This is the first post in my series on the A to Z of 2.0.
Barack Obama is about to give his speech accepting the Democratic nomination to be the next President of the United States of America, an idea I find pretty exciting. Whether people like it or not, America can still impact our world in a way no other country can. True, China has the potential to do so, but it is wholly focused on its personal rise to the global stage and is unlikely to be distracted by regional conflict, preferring a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that has bit the US squarely on the ass more times than anyone would care to remember. They do after all say history is doomed to repeat itself.
Obama gets compared often to JFK, a comparison that taps into notions that aren’t uniquely American. Through the 50’s and 60’s it invented popular culture, and the gospel of the teenager spread like wildfire around the globe, reaching hundreds of millions of people who were sold on a promise, on an ideal, and only the tiniest proportion of those people would ever set foot in the land of the free to find out how the ideal held up once you got to the source of that ever-flowing river.
In the years following JFK, that dream got lost, the promise extinguished in a haze of misguided foreign policy, diplomatic arrogance and an innate misunderstanding of the global populace that began right at the top and worked its way down to the lowest denominator it could find. Actually misunderstanding is the wrong word, because you can’t be an idiot and become president of the US, despite all evidence to the contrary; it was a complete lack of appreciation for how anyone outside its borders perceived it, a point of view brought horrifically home on my mother’s 50th birthday in 2001.
That was the first time America as a whole snapped out of a haze and realised things were not as they believed they were, something anyone occupying a seat anywhere else in the Western world had accepted an uncomfortable knowledge of long before.
The American dream isn’t something anyone has talked about without a strong sense of irony for quite some time. It is a virus that infected the world more than 50 years ago that managed to wear itself out through its own self-importance, one that was caught when the world was sick and weary in the aftermath of World War 2, when the global populace was lost and ready to grasp on to anything that would lead them out of the land in which they’d lived for a decade.
And we’re back there again.
The mere idea that Barack Obama could become president of the US is an opportunity for America to light a fire under the dream again. 200,000 people turned up to see him speak in Germany. 200,000 people who have an innate understanding of what the promise of America is, despite most never having set foot there. How much more powerful could an idea be than to have had eight years of Bush’s foreign policy doing irreperable harm to global relations and opinion of America at an all-time low, yet have that many people turn up to a rally in a part of the world that doesn’t get to have a say on who the next president will be? Having been born in the American century we are products of the American ideal, whether we like it or not.
This is an opportunity for America to reclaim the dream. To elect a president who because of his childhood has a first-hand understanding of cultures outside his own, and in doing so re-ignite a long lost notion of what it was that country promised the rest of us.
Barack Obama gives Americans a new direction, and he gives the rest of us America 2.0.