Those were the days. Different say, from the steadfast idealism of a recent university graduate. You know the type, those bright eyed buggers, that think they have it all figured out, because their textbooks told them so. But nothing is black and white in high school. Most things were still viewed through rose colored glasses. Things could still very much glimmer with false Hope. It was still OK to believe that things could Change.
Almost 20 years later, in the winter and early spring of 2008, I was backpacking through Europe. Throughout my travels, I noticed an excitement, a feeling of relief, a definite positive energy in the air. Whether I was in the UK, Ireland, Austria, Germany, or Belgium, there was this sense that things were finally going to get better. Thousands of miles from The United States, still months before a Democratic nominee would be picked, the world knew that something profound was about to happen. If I had, had a scribbler, or a three ringed binder, Obama's name would have been scribbled all over them. He became the new symbol of peace. He was both yin and yang. He was more rock star than politician. In 2008 Barack Obama was the true American Idol. Whatever happened to that David Cook guy, anyway?
I had never felt this strongly about a politician. I grew up in a household that was very pro-Trudeau. Trudeau however, was the Canadian Prime Minister, when I was too young to give a damn. I missed out on the buzz that was Trudeaumania. JFK's assignation was 10 years before my birth. He was of no influence, other than that of an iconic historical symbol. I consider myself a cynic, the guy that consistently votes for the 3rd party, if I even vote at all. I have always thought that it was best not to trust folks in positions of power. Idolization of a politician therefore, was brand new territory for me. Even still, I road the Obama wave, and man was it fun. Cowabunga dude!
Excitement reigned. On June 3rd 2008, Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton, winning the Democratic Presidential nomination. Our guy was on the ticket. Peace signs, yins and even yangs. There was no stopping Hope and Change now. Barack the Mighty was going to crush that old Maverick McCain, even with his sidekick, the Bimbo from Wasilla. BAM, POW!
Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20th 2009, becoming the 44th President of the United States. I teared up during his Inaugural speech. The world was finally rid of the 43rd President. The Dread George W. Bush was leaving Washington. Neoconservatism, the Bush Doctrine, Cheney, all that we on the left, had deemed wrong with the world, was finally coming to an end. The storm was over, sunny days were here again. Yes We Can!
Or can we?
It wasn't long until the rose, on our collective glasses, began to fade. Reality bites, and it bites hard. Banks, considered too big to fail, were failing. Car companies, as American as apple pie, eagles, or flags hung from front porches, claimed bankruptcy. America was broke. Houses were being foreclosed, jobs were being lost at a record pace. Obama's feel good agenda, that Hope and Change thing, was put on hold. There were messes that needed cleaning. The previous management had left America in tatters. Bold actions needed to be taken. Banks were bailed out, as were a couple of car companies. America's now infinite deficit ballooned, ever more, ever more. POP!
Healthcare reform would have to wait. As too would the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the pulling out of troops from Iraq, and the investigations into allegations of torture. Obama first had to right the American ship. The good ship America had been sailing rudderless for 8 years. Surely Captain Obama could steer her out of troubled waters. This was the man that battled pirates, racism, allegations that he was a Communist, claims that he wasn't even an American. Find him a cape and a phone booth.
PoliFact (link) has a list of where Obama stands as far as keeping or breaking promises. His stats are good when viewed as a whole. It took him forever, but he did manage to pass a new (albeit watered down) healthcare bill. That said, he isn't doing all that well, when it comes to the big promises, the ones that would truly differentiate him from his predecessor. That hopey/changey stuff. Thanks to the Bimbo of Wasilla for that one. I wonder how that drill baby, drill thing is working out for her? Sorry, I couldn't resist.
I might simply be too impatient. I am a product of the fast food culture. Gimme, gimme... Maybe I expected too much. I could have been hoodwinked by Obama's charm, and his perceived intelligence. Maybe it was naive of me to believe that one man (even if he is the most powerful man on the planet) could have a positive influence on the world? Perhaps it is the American dream that is a lie?
The forces of evil, complacency, the horrible demons of past administrations, and global economic turmoil, have conspired against the man that was supposed to renew my Hope in politics. I believed Change to be inevitable. Instead, like Jana in my grade 11 history class, I have once again been dazzled by symbol (and oh what great symbols she had), not substance. Instead of following my gut, I blushingly embraced the romantic notions of Hope and Change, the new yin and yang. That will teach me to dream big. That will teach me to doodle in class.
Prove me wrong Mr President. There is still time. Part of me still believes that there may be some Hope, that you can still be an agent of positive Change.