Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yes, we can.

It is exciting, with Barack Obama now a hundred delegates ahead of Ms. Clinton. And that a campaign slogan has become the refrain of a music video which has been viewed on YouTube 3,650,000 times at last count (video here), well, it is all a far cry from the first American Presidential election I was consciously aware of. That one Eisenhower won; I still have the ‘I like Ike’ button, a gimmick I thought very bold and populist back in 1957. After all, I had been growing up thinking that politics was awfully serious stuff involving grandees like Eden and Macmillan.

Were I in America and entitled to vote I’d be vacillating between Ron Paul and Obama. Yes, that’s my kind of confused.

But even if critics are right when they say that Obama is style over substance and that it will take more than rhetoric to redeem the nation, I find the spectacle of arenas full of believers chanting ‘yes, we can’ inspiring. Oprah Winfrey demanded that her compatriots should ‘dream America anew’ and that is what more and more of them, in an outpouring of hyper-energized positivism, seem to be doing. Look at the faces of those who have heard him talk, see the hope in their eyes, the belief that change can happen.

I contrast this, from my current vantage point in Germany, with the faces I see on the street, in the bus and on the subway. Suddenly I had the appalling feeling that many of the faces, in particular those of young men and women in their first jobs, reflected an indoctrination not to ‘dream Germany or even Europe anew’, an inclination to chant if so inclined a very different mantra.

No, you can’t.

You can’t smoke here, can’t have different vegetables with the dish of the day, can’t have a cash refund, can’t change your ticket to a later train.

Fine, America is not without its specialists for hindrance and negation; from what I hear they are present in great number at every port of entry. But I would be cheered if I found in Germany more hints of ardent positivism. Almost twenty years half the nation chanted, full of urgent optimism, 'wir sind das Volk'. Maybe here and now there’s need for a renewed wind of change.

Oh well, in the meantime I'll vote for this guy.

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