Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope. Uncynical.

For me, the inauguration ceremony was beautiful. I will probably never forget watching the most important event in America's political system and feeling truly humbled and full of awe. For those of you who know me, I'm not exactly the type to wave flags around singing the star spangled banner and proclaming the United States to be the best country in the world. But yesterday I felt proud of my country. My country. It even sounds strange for me to write out, let alone say. For much of my late teens and early twenties I was disgusted and disillusioned by the actions of the US government and wanted to distance myself. The ignorance and indifference of many Americans to what exists outside their borders contributed to the curent state of the world and I wanted no part of it. Part of the reason I ended up in the career I have (besides getting to travel around the world which is just wicked) is that access to products, services and information that will make people healthier is a global field - it goes beyond the hemming and hawing of domestic politics and can be applied anywhere. So in order to escape I happily left my dreams of working for the State Department behind and embraced my new identity as a citizen of the world.

Fast forward five years later to watching the 44th Presidential Inauguration at the US Consulate in Juba, Southern Sudan.

To me, the most beautiful thing about the inauguration was a point so completely missed by the US media coverage but picked up immediately those of us watching CNN in Juba. It was those few moments where the Obamas walked the Bushes down the Capitol steps to said goodbye making the phrase "transfer of power" literal that struck everyone the most here. Because RW is right - in the "real" world things like this just don't happen (seriously people, go to that link and read the brief post. now. it's what i want to say here but much better).

A peaceful transfer of power is taken for granted in the US but seems like a fairy tale, an ideal that can't exist, for so many people in the world. When Obama said, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist" it drove home that he knew that he was talking about. He understands that elsewhere in the world people die, dreams are shattered, and nations crumble because of men with large power and small minds who decide to hold their fellow citizens hostage to feed their own ego and own lust for money and power.

But it is sure nice to think it possible for more people to share the hope and joy that exists in the US and there *might* be a point, after all, to people trying to make the world a better place.

Tears rolled down my face when I watched that man speak because I finally realized that I have the right to hope, and always did have that right. I have the right to hope and I refuse to accept the cynical view that my hope is merely being taken in by the rhetoric of a well oiled political machine. I refuse to believe that it is naive to want so badly for the wrongs done over the past 8 years to be undone and for the world to be cleaner, healthier, gentler, better, than it was before that I will actually spend my life working towards that goal. I claim my right to believe for once that maybe, just maybe, world leaders can eventually internalize the statement "know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

Of course one man can't just skip around sprinkling magical fairy dust and solve these problems - it will take 8 years and more. But there's nothing like a spark of hope at the start and let's hope that momentum will help with the rest. There is no reason for the Obama Administration to change their campaign slogan now that he is in office: Yes. We. Can.


Page Lambert said...

Petunia, this is a beautiful post, and especially moving because you point out that the peaceful transfer of power we in the US take for granted, is not the norm around the world. I saw that in 1964-65, whe I had the amazing opportunity to step foot on the soil of 27 foreign countries. We are all grateful to President Obama for returning hope to the world. As Americans, a nation rich in opportunity, we must carry that beacon. You are doing important work, Petunia!

sligo said...

having discovered you/your blog via your comment to RW, i'd actually like to point out that in so many resepcts, you represent what is so right, and, occasionally, taken for granted by us, which is that we are fortunate that we can indeed dare to hope, go off and do whatever the heck we want to do and accomplish whatever we want, because we come from a country where that sort of thing is encouraged. and, more often than not, our own 'damn the torpedos and full speed ahead' lives are put on hold as we witness a momentus example of what we, as Americans, are really about.

i'm thankful for yesterday, and for a future that feels promising.

we can be Presidents, we can be whatever we want, and some of us can make a difference in people's lives, knowing that no cameras will ever be there to capture what we do, and being too busy to really think about it.

so, my hat's off to us, yes, but my hat's really off to you, Petunia.

i'll be visiting your blog often.

M.Lane said...

I've been reading your blog for some time and it is always eye opening and important to me.

This is your best work so far. Very very well put and I couldn't agree more.