I’m writing this blog on November 4th, election day in the US. I’m writing it as it were a witch’s spell, as if positive thinking might affect the outcome, or at least help to stave off the vast wave of apprehension that everyone I know is feeling today.
I’m writing this on the assumption that by the time you are reading it, Barack Obama will have been elected President of the United States.
I can’t remember an election that had everyone so terrified and hopeful and worried all at once. So many bad feelings have emerged towards my country of origin over the past eight years, feelings that it has come to represent so much that is craven, warmongering, isolated, and aggressive. And yet Obama has done that extraordinary thing — he has restored our collective hope in the possibility of redemption.
I’ve spent much of the past two weeks sweating over a fifteen minute “Emotional Landscape” piece for Radio 3 on the subject of ambition. It was much more difficult to write than I had expected, but it was worth it in the end because it forced me to face all those ambivalent feelings I have for the American values I learned as a kid – the ones about liberty and justice for all, about all men being created equal, about every child having the potential to grow up to be president. When I feel depressed about America, and about the (lack of) values that George W has come to represent, it seems to me that those days of optimism and hope are over, that only a self-serving fool with one foot in the camp of the oil lobbyists and the other in his own mouth can be elected to represent the 250 million people who make up the American electorate. The majority of whom don’t even vote, perhaps because they’ve come to feel that the process has so little to do with them, with their lives.
But things have changed over the past eight months. A man with those quaint, old-fashioned American values (like honesty, intelligence, compassion) has come to the fore, buoyed on a wave of enthusiasm and small donations and a feeling that George W’s club is not our club, that we expect more and desire more from our country.
Here’s the piece on Ambition, for anyone who might possibly be interested. For those of you with a life to lead, you might be interested in just the last line, which reads:
Like most of the Americans I know, I felt like dancing in the street when Barack Obama was elected president. His ambition, and the ambitions of everyone who voted for him, has restored honour to the word.”