Monday, January 07, 2008

American Dream

Originally uploaded by Saint Anselm College
There are moments when I would just love to be American. Like right now. I know it is a bit nerdy social scientist sort of thing but I just love elections and the buzz around them. I still remember the heated atmosphere at Columbia University's campus in 2004 when I joined a screening of an Edwards-Cheney debate. US elections are of that scale that even if you do not have the right to vote, you still need to have an opinion.

If the elections would be now, I would vote for Clinton. She is a realist and knows what she is talking about. I watched parts of the ABC-Facebook debate on Sunday and felt that she was right on the mark: actions are what counts in change and she has a god track record. And I would love the US to be led by a woman.

However, I find myself having warmer and warmer feelings towards Obama. He is a magnificent speaker (just check his speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004), he wrote a compelling piece on the future to Newsweek and he talks of unity as Americans. The last thing that pushed me closer to him was that the widow of my political idol, Ethel Kennedy, endorsed him. And don't get me started again on Oprah.

Edward Luce wrote well on Obama in Sunday's Financial Times:
"But Mr Obama has succeeded in converting his mixed ethnic background into a novel persona in which he can remain black while appealing to the whites without - in the words of one commentator - reminding them the whole time that they are white."

In general, I have been excited about the US lately. Last week's Newsweek was entirely dedicated to giving advice to the US. If you can still find it, I would purchase it. Here are some of the best parts:

"Europeans tend to criticize the United States. They are much less good at offering alternatives." - Timothy Garton Ash

"Finally, don't hesitate to stand up for our values: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. But remember that the best way to get others to share them is by example, not coercion. Close Guantánamo. Join the International Criminal Court." - James Steinberg

"My father crossed an ocean to seek the dream of America. As a boy, I played barefoot with children in Indonesia. As a young man, I worked in the forgotten corners of America, where people struggled with violence and hopelessness. Whether I am at a G8 summit or in Africa, I will speak not just as someone who mastered my brief, but also as someone whose grandmother lives in a hut without indoor plumbing in a Kenyan village devastated by HIV/AIDS." - Barack Obama

"Overall, there is a widespread failure to manage people and their careers by strategically moving top performers to where they can learn the most and have the greatest impact." - J. Frank Brown

"Americans tend to understand who they are in terms of what they believe and who they believe it with. (...) Those who dismiss America as "behind" Europe on social issues often fail to appreciate where America is coming from, and how far it has travelled. Where gay equality is concerned, you can call the United States the most laggard of major secular societies, or you can call it the most progressive of the great traditionalist cultures." - Jonathan Rauch

"Like many young immigrants I never really understood what America meant beyond the oft-sung phrase I heard from my parents: we are lucky to be here. But in the last few years I've become less certain. I find myself loving America the way one does a sick parent. I pore over pictures of how she once was: never perfect, never without her conceits and cruelties, but still vital and pretty, a real smile at the corners of her lips." - Gary Shteyngart

I think the future of the US - and linked to that our future - seems brighter. Democrats are in better speed and we are doing rather well either with Obama or Clinton. The sick parent just needs some rehabilitation, soon. This 8-year stay in this hospital is not meant for people who come in to die.

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