Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be as cynical as you like, but I'd like to savour this moment.

A friend of mine, after hearing US President Obama's inauguration speech, commented that it was fantastic, encouraging, exciting - yet he couldn't help but be reminded of a similar great speech delivered back in 1997 by the the victorious new Labour leader, Tony Blair, who had come to save us from the horrors of the Conservatives and bring Britain into a new age of equality, health and happiness for all. Over a decade, several eroded liberties and a couple of unjust wars later, we look back on that moment and mourn. Although, that said, the introduction of the national minimum wage was a fantastic idea for which we are all grateful. It would just be so much better if our shiny amazing New Labour hadn't turned out to be 'like the Tories, but just slightly more towards the centre'.

Yes, we're a jaded and bitter lot here in Britain. Whilst Washington D.C. was swamped by millions of excited Americans chanting "YES WE CAN!", a good number of the Brits watched on reservedly and thought "... but will you?" Some noted that Obama was treated as a hero before he had done a single thing as President. Others noted dubious donations, having seen so many politicians over here engaging in underhand financial activities. Others (all white, I noticed) got frustrated at constant references to his race: "Just because his skin's dark doesn't mean he'll be any better than the white prat he beat!" (We can't even enjoy a great historic moment anymore without griping, it seems.) Still more suggested that, considering his predecessor, it won't take much for Obama to be 'better', and we should reserve our celebrations for the time that he proves himself to be more than just 'not Bush'.
Yet so far, our pessimism appears misplaced. The proposals set down on the White House's website are inspiring. The promises for transparency are encouraging. Suspending all activity is Guantanamo Bay? OH HELL, YES! The new President, whilst not perfect (not a few have noticed his opposition to gay marriage), he still seems to be more than a small improvement on the Republican administration.
Of course, it's not unknown for the new guy in the Oval Office to make big changes to mark his entry, only to dumb down or reverse things later. But for once, in spite of those who surround me, I for one would like to look forward with a little more hope. This involves attacking my inner cynic with a minigun, which will at least stun it temporarily. The Presidency in the USA often sets the tone for our Government over here. Bush helped take the world to hell, and we watched in growing disbelief as our own leaders started to imitate him. If Obama can live up to his promises, it may just put a little pressure on those in Westminster to stop messing about and treat us ordinary people like we matter too (well, one can dream, at any rate). The whole world is watching and taking note. This is big.

Besides, I have assessments to worry about without stressing over someone else's new leader. Smile, everyone!

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