Friday, November 07, 2008

FLYING COLORS

I wept with joy on Tuesday night. I expected President-elect Obama to win, yet I was surprised at how much emotion I felt when, finally, the minute the polls closed here in California I heard Jim Lehrer call the election. Expecting it all night, I was prepared to shout my joy aloud.

Instead, and to my surprise, as the words "Obama wins" scrolled across the screen, I sat down and found myself out of breath, dizzy, overcome with emotion that I did not expect to feel. "It really just happened" I kept saying to myself. My wife was popping champagne, but I had to take a moment first.

Thanks to Phil Carter for making it possible for me to play a small part in this defining moment in history. And thanks to him for continuing to serve the Republic with his work on the most impressive and professional campaign in a generation, possibly in history. But the joy I felt was not partisan. It was more than that. It was not about red versus blue, or even defeating the movement that gave us George W. Bush, the most despised president in our history. It was not even about the majesty of a nation founded upon slavery electing a black man as our leader in a time of crisis. It was all of those things, yes. But it was even more than that. It was about, as the campaign slogan said, HOPE.

I have been reading about FDR and the Great Depression recently, from William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream. As an employment attorney I knew the market crash was coming for some time. Many of my peers knew it too. We began to use the phrase "over the cliff" last year when referring to the economy. We knew the house of cards was coming down.

We face the very real possibility of the Second Great Depression. There is sure to be much more pain to come. Even with the hyperbole of the 24-hour cable networks, the true extent of the economic disaster is not yet fully understood by most. It will be worse than most people fear.

But with smart, honest, dedicated and idealistic people working to make America better, we will come through this challenge stronger, and with more freedom, than before. It will not be easy. All of us will sacrifice. But I am confident in the United States of America. I have hope.

Nobody knows what the future will bring. We face economic catastrophe, xenophobia, isolationism, famine, global climate change, resultant mass migrations on a scale never seen in human history, and the age-old scourge of war. Not the "war on terror." WAR. War between nation-states. Not because we want it. Not because others want it. Because when resources become scarce and people become afraid and xenophobic, when people are hungry and angry, they tend to fight. It is a flaw in human nature - an evolutionary survival mechanism gone awry in our modern industrialized world. There will be war - hopefully not involving us, but probably it will. World War I appeared to many at the time to have put an end to war. Europeans, people knew, had learned how horrible war was and were determined to avoid such disaster in the future. As the "Lost Generation" came to power they knew better than others how terrible war truly is, and they would not repeat the mistakes of the past. And then came the Great Depression. And then came xenophobia, instability, revolution, nationalism, and eventually the bloodiest conflict in the history of man. And only a generation after the previous bloodiest conflict in the history of man.

Now we face the Second Great Depression, global climate change, the end of the age of oil, and most of all, fear. Fear in third world nations. Fear in modernized, western nations. Hatred of the "other." Changing climate patterns resulting in famines in some areas, bounty in others. And a power vacuum left over by the end of the Cold War that has yet to be filled. And America herself, the "hyper-power," is facing the same scale of economic crisis that led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

But given the tears of joy on November 4th as our system gave voice to a people choosing hope over fear, I expect we will remain true to the ideals of our Revolution. As we did on Tuesday, as we did in 1941, as we did in 1932, and in 1860, and in 1776, the People of the United States will choose the hard right over the easy wrong. We just did so again. We will address the many challenges we face and we will come out stronger. Better. Of course not all of us. In 1860 many of us chose the path of tyranny. But as a People we will choose to reform ourselves and to do what must be done. Democracies don't necessarily make better decisions than other forms of government. Our strength is that we can change without blood in the streets. We can experiment. We can change our minds. We can replace our most powerful leaders simply by choosing to do so. And on Tuesday, the 4th of November, 2008, we did just that. Our Revolution again impressed all of humanity. We changed.

Shortly before the economic crisis became news I decided to re-read Manchester and see what we did right, and what we did wrong, the last time we faced a crisis similar to what we face now. And it was exactly on point. And scary. And yet, with the election of Barack Hussein Obama, comforting. He is not FDR, but he may be in the same league. And he needs to be. And I think he can do it. But if not, we will be ok. Because if he can not be transformative figure that FDR was, if he can not do what FDR did, we will simply get somebody who can. That is the magic of democracy. It is not about any one person. It is about the power of all of us.

If George Washington had fallen in battle, our Revolution would simply have replaced him. The People fought our Revolution, not just General Washington. He had only the power we gave him to do what we were ordering be done. WE can. Not just president-elect Obama. All of us, the American People, can and will do what we need to do. We recognize the greatness in our greatest presidents, but all power comes from the People, and if presidents, or Congress, fail us, we replace them. Our nation has decided on a different path, and we have chosen president-elect Obama to lead us there. And he will lead us there. Or we will get somebody who can. Yes we can.

In 1932 FDR was the president-elect of a bankrupt nation. As he took office the foes of freedom gathered enormous strength and prepared to attack. And we were attacked. The entire world went up in flames and evil appeared to triumph. Democracy was seen as weak and inept - because some democracies were weak and inept. Yet by the time he died in office in 1945 our nation was the richest, most powerful nation in human history - and for the most part we held true to our ideals in the midst of the worst crisis since the threat of the traitorous Confederacy. We came out better than before. We defeated Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan - and the Depression. We had the New Deal rewrite the social contract and improve the lives of the average American. The cost was staggering, in pain and in blood and in money, but we came out better than before. Yes we did.

This current crisis, while certainly the worst in our lifetimes, is not on a par with what FDR faced, nor Lincoln, and certainly not George Washington. The next few years will be terrible in many ways - many of them unforeseen and horrible - but we will come out of this crisis better than before. We will hold true to our ideals. The nation spoke on Tuesday, and our experiment with self-government passed yet another test. There will be more to come, and we shall pass those tests as well - and with flying colors.

With flying colors.

I put out the American flag today. I haven't done that for a while. Too many people attempted to make that flag stand for something I did not believe in - hate, fear, jingoistic nationalism, xenophobia. I became reluctant to fly that flag I love because it appeared to send a message I was not in agreement with.

But today it seemed to stand for only what I always thought it should stand for all along: the Republic, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I am flying that flag today. Long may she wave.

17 comments:

FDChief said...

More power to you, J.D. You HAVE fought the good fight, and you deserve to enjoy the sweet taste of redemption.



Okay, we done?

Good. 'Cause we've got a LOT of work ahead of us..!

Kidding! Good post; thanks for letting us savor a little of your election experience...

basilbeast said...

I spent some time campaigning for a friend who tried for a state senate seat. We walked, put signs up, went out to the smaller burgs in the county, and lost 3 to one.

We lost a Dem. Rep, Nancy Boyda, when the rest of the country was knocking off Republican Reps. and Senators by the buckets-ful.

I voted for Obama but Kansas went for McCain by 16 points.

I could cry for different reasons, JD, but I savor each and every Obama vote Kansas gave him to increase that vote total to tell those ********* ( Charles G. can fill in that for me! :) ) remaining Republican office holders that there is a substantial majority in this country who support Obama.

They best consider that when legislation starts coming down the governmental tubes.

..

seydlitz89 said...

JD-

Nice.

I didn't have quite the same response, rather I only felt relief and went to bed (2:45 AM local time) when Ohio was called for Obama.

The proof is in what follows and while I see the results of Obamamania all over Europe, I must stick with that view. How much have we gained back in regards to all that Bush has squandered?

It is though a fresh start and that should not be underestimated . . .

At the same time maybe all of us are only good for one positive political epiphany . . . and I had mine 19 years ago tonight, in Berlin.

Aviator47 said...

Much like seydlitz, we went to bed with some "warm fuzzies", and awoke at 6:30 AM or so, switched on the TV and the minute we saw the look on John McCain's face, we knew we were watching his concession speech. Not exhilarating as much as a wave of relief. How sad to think that relief can overwhelm excitement, but much like Pravda said, "It is the end of eight years of hell". As a long time Pravda watching friend said about that statement, "I never thought I would find my very sentiment about an American event best captured by Pravda!"

I don't envy the tasks ahead of this young man. When he has his first meeting with GWB, we has every right to quote Stan Laurel, "It's a fine mess you've got us in Ollie", but I am sure he will be much more refined.

On his behalf, we have been privileged and humbled to receive the gracious thanks of our various European neighbors for our electorate's "gift" to the world.

Let the hard work begin. Ardy & I do not agree with 100% of Sen Obama's platform. But our agreemnts far outweight our disagreements. May this young man be successful, for if he is, America is successful and the world is successful. And in every task in which he is successful, we will experience something that we have not seen in the past 8 years - a president and his government actually accomplishing what he said he was going to do.

Good riddance to the Gang that couldn't, wouldn't and didn't shoot straight. A hearty welcome to hope.

Al

sheerakahn said...

I have several thoughts which I've taken stock of, and will review as the time comes.
For the moment though, I think Obama has inherited a huge, unsifted pile of oiled owl shit that has been leaking out to every aspect of American life, and that is going to take some herculean effort to find the pearls and toss the rest out.
the economy is a huge aspect of it, and I can only say that JD, my coworkers buddy is a private hedge-fund manager who has been betting against the US market for two years...this year he's cleaning house, but this is what he told us.
This current problem...is nothing compared to what is coming due in three-to-five years.
He likened it to the tsunami where everyone is wowing at the fifty footer that just came sweeping through the streets, and they don't even know that there is a hundred footer coming in right behind it!
Our economy is bad, and after I got a quick lesson in how Wall Street works...yeah...holy shit! is all I can say about that.
Obama is going to have to drop the proverbial hammer of regulation on the markets but even that won't undo the past fifteen years of wanton financial gluttony that has been going on.
On the international front, I'm getting the sense that not all is well in Afghanistan, and there is a damn good possibility that the excrement will be hitting the rotating oscillator within year, if not sooner.
Also, to add insult to injury, the world economy is going to be threatening a lot of countries economic and social stability, which in a climate like that...well, read the lead up to WWII...not just the diplomacy, but world economy at the time...we live in dangerous times.
Obama...well, he is now captain of a listing warship of state that has a lot of demoralized crewmen, an unsteady engine, near empty magazines, and a waterful of attack subs looking for easy pickings.
Interesting times is bout the only good thing I can come up with that is positive right now.
Well, that and W. and the Republican party won't be driving us into the shoals anymore.

mike said...

Happy 233rd to Aviator, Seydlitz, fasteddie and others. Here is hoping an invite was sent to Mr and Mrs O for the HQMC Birthday Ball.

No fancy doings for me and the Mrs though, we are too far out in the sticks. But I celebrated this AM with a hearty breakfast of SOS.

Tomorrow for veteran's day I will be selling Buddy Poppies. Drop a double sawbuck in the tin if you pass me or another VFW guy by.

Aviator47 said...

And a Happy 233rd back to You Mike.

Our celebration mirrored yours, a hearty breakfast and thoughts of those who have, do and will serve, followed by e-mailed Birthday wishes to fellow Marines. Funny thing, I sent them as individual messages, not a mailing list. Nov 10 is far too special for that!

Semper Fi!

Al

Publius said...

JD, you done good, my man. Enjoy the moment. You've earned it.

A great sigh of relief. I frankly don't know if the nation could have weathered four or more years more of the madness that's ruled the land.

Hope, too, but that's tempered by the reality that we've managed to dig a very deep hole; Obama may be good—as we hope—but boy, is that there a lot to be done. We have to always remember that hope is not a plan. At my age, I've gained a healthy skepticism for politicians of all types and I don't rule Obama out of that class.

Ever since I was finally able to get myself pretty much reality-based, I've tried to operate by these words: "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." Usually pretty good advice, IMO, but it could actually backfire in these strange times. Who isn't putting off a new car purchase? Good-bye GM and Ford. Who isn't passing on heading down to the mall? Good-bye retailers. Who among us will be the first to resume free-spending ways, even though that might be the best thing for the overall economy?

Obama and the Democratic Congress have a tough road ahead and I don't expect progress to be easy or to come rapidly. And that's another issue. Absent discernible signs of progress, will the notoriously fickle American public turn on Obama and start searching for another Bush-like faith-healer peddling magical nostrums? And you know they're going to be there.

One thing I intend to do is keep a close eye on Obama and pray he has the strength and discipline to slap down those members of his own party who are just dying to advance the causes of their particular pet rocks. He can't let everybody scratch their itches; he'll be lost if he does.

Basil, South Carolina is pretty much like Kansas. But I'll tell you, my doofus (R) Congressman actually had a fight on his hands, and that was from a kid, a Marine Iraq veteran, who was not particularly appealing and who also ran a poor and mostly self-funded campaign. I voted for him, but I really wished the guy he beat in the primaries—a retired AF officer—had been the one in the general election. He just might have done it. My county—Beaufort, the wealthiest in SC—is changing rapidly, as is all of the coastal area.

Times are changing and if Obama and company can pull some rabbits out of the hat, they'll keep changing.

seydlitz89 said...

Semper Fidelis Gentlemen-

I had a friend of mine, WWII Pacific war US Army vet, talk to 60 young Portuguese students of Enlgish yesterday. He was the first WWII vet they had ever met. When he told them that he thought the dropping of the atomic bomb was a good idea for that time and place, since he was earmarked for Operation Olympic, their eyeballs almost popped.

Exposure to new and different ideas leads to critical thinking which leads to new and different perspectives, at least in theory.

Which leads me to the next topic. Like Publius I come from a really RED state, possibly even Redder than South Carolina, that being of course Northeast Texas, up by the Arkansas border. My county gave Obama 38% which was something of a high for my neck of the woods. The low among the surrounding counties was 23%. Our useless former Blue Dog, now turncoat Rep Congressman (courtesy of Tom "Ratcatcher" Delay's gerrymandering scam) was re-elected with 69%. Not of course that I hold any grudges ;-)>

My father told me he was "disappointed" in regards to my voting choices and my best friend told me I had "lost touch with the country". Our President Elect has a large part of the nation standing their with their arms crossed, and none too happy with the results. I wish him the best, but have no illusions as to the obstacles in his path.

Aviator47 said...

Seydlitz-

Our President Elect has a large part of the nation standing their with their arms crossed, and none too happy with the results. I wish him the best, but have no illusions as to the obstacles in his path.

The example I always have tried to set for my offspring is that whatever political philosophy they might adopt, once the votes are tallied they should wish the winner success, as failure will only hurt the country. Since politics are basically off limits in our family discourse, I can only hope I succeeded.

Ideological zeal is dangerous. My sister is a rabid "Pro-life" person, and has said she will be a Republican to her dying day, because the party will always represent her values. It took all the self discipline I could muster to refrain from sending her a variety of articles where senior GOP leaders have pondered dropping or seriously softening the strident anti-abortion and anti-gay planks of the party in order to "regain power". Are they saying that power trumps values? Is she capable of dealing with such an idea. When a political party becomes a religion of sorts, it's gonna be a real shocker when you find out your religion is willing to abandon you & your values to reach out to more people in a quest for power. While individuals may accept martyrdom, political parties do not.

Yes, President Obama is going to face a lot of obstacles. But, as I have with every other person who entered the office, I wish him a successful (for our country) term of office.

Al

seydlitz89 said...

Al-

Agree. I got kinfolk exactly like your sister and for exactly the same reason. The church I used to go to as a kid now has a gravestone along one of the walls dedicated to aborted babies. Needless to say it wasn't there when I attended that same church in my Winter Service Alphas back in the early 80s when visiting on leave for Xmas mass.

Failure at various levels: First, where exactly is the political for these people? They shrug their shoulders about what Bush has done, what they in fact have allowed him to do and then go on about about whatever their pet whine is.

As to being responsible for the exercise of political power within their community - be it village, town, city, state or country - they claim to be powerless. Without any guilt at all in regards to what has been carried out in their names . . . they prefer to fain ignorance, as if stupidity were the cardinal virtue of citizenship.

So, ever so ready as they are to flush democracy down the shitter, they then lurch into what they really are all about, that being engaged in their own self-gratification, by simply making a "moral statement" once every four years.

Voting for McSame & slutty librarian, or Idiot Bush & shotgun Dick, does the trick since their leaders of course can be counted to drag out that same red meat issue which the manipulators have no intention of ever resolving . . . be it guns, gays, aborted babies, "socialism" . . . or whatever.

I'll be traveling home soon. It'll be fun . . .

FDChief said...

Al, Seydlitz: The really frustrating thing about all this political zealotry is that the very fundamental notion behind this country, the ideas that motivated the Founders, were the antisectarian ideals of the Enlightenment.

To think that the nation for which people like Ben Franklin, the Adamses, Washington and Madison pledged their lives, liberties and sacred honor for is being driven into simplicity and stupidity by the theological obsessions of a group of poorly-informed fundamentalists is both risible and infuriating.

I'm starting to think - big shocking reveal here, guys - that we have managed to empower a citizenry that is determined not to keep the Republic that Ben and the boys of '83 gave to us by their sheer folly and pursuit of doctrinal moral rectitude as the expense of sensible government.

Well, shit.

WASF

seydlitz89 said...

FDC-

Agree, and would add that it all comes down to Republic versus Empire as you have said often in the past.

On the one hand we have a large portion of the population who don't really care about politics, but rather see it all as an empty once-every-four-year-rehash of whatever their pet peeve is.

And on the other we have a political elite which consists of different shades of "Empire" with the Clintonian version now in resurgence. As William Pfaff writes, it's enough to make one wonder what the whole election was about anyway . . .

http://www.williampfaff.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=357

Not that there wasn't a difference between the two versions of "Empire", but then that wasn't what either side ran on was it . . . ever get the feeling that we have been had?

Publius said...

Something for FDChief and Seydlitz (and anybody else, of course) to chew on while you're condemning the whole "empire" deal.

Although I think it's been long established that I agree with you both on how "empire" has manifested itself in our nation, especially in the past few years, I think it might be useful to revisit the Founders. Does anybody truly believe that they intended this nation to be just another one out there in the herd?

Think about it. Through force of intellect, some military prowess and a lot of luck, they managed to throw the preeminent world power out. They had an intelligent, industrious and ambitious populace as well as a huge continent available for expansion. And, yeah, they had slavery. You don't really think those guys thought the nation they formed would stop at being Denmark, do you?

Empire was always there. But it was a different kind of empire than we've experienced. It was an empire based on reason, moral suasion and economic superiority. And, let's not forget that our forebears were not pacifists: they were ready to bear arms whenever necessary to defend the Republic. Note those words in the Constitution: "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The Founders expected the U.S. to become a big, badass nation willing to be friends and trading partners with everyone, but also very much willing to whup up on anyone who transgressed against our interests.

Check our history. We've never been Plato's Republic. And we've never been a particularly peace-loving people, either.

Just saying.

FDChief said...

Publius: no argument re:

1. The Founder's perception of the U.S. as the "city on the hill". They expected their nation to grow great - Washington's farewell address talks about the time when the country would be so mighty that it "need fear no foe".

2. we've always been willing to go forth and kick ass. It was mostly the original inhabitants of this continent until we ran out of them (with some Mexicans along the way) and then it was Spaniards, Filipinos and Chinese until it was time for the Big Wars.

My problem with the way we've been going in the past 20 years isn't that we're going some new place that sucks. It's because we've been here before, only we called it the Gilded Age.

Imperial dreams abroad, great wealth and deep poverty at home, the rule of the Rich, Well-Born and Able...been there, done that. So did much of Europe, and we got some of the most corrupt Administrations in American history until this one, costly foreign wars that left us in charge of restive, unhappy foreign lands we couldn't wait to get rid of, and, of course, world war, revolution and dissaffection both abroad and here at home.

There's nothing inherantly "wrong" about an Empire, at least so long as you're an Imperial. Kinda sucks to be the subjugated but, hell, them's the breaks. But it's hard to run an empire abroad and be a democracy at home. The British did it, and the French Republic to a point (althought they were saved from the "World's Crappiest Imperialists" only by the Portugese and Belgians being so much worse...) but it overwhelmed the Romans and the Greeks and the royalist French and Spanish didn't even try.

Plus, and I think I've blogged the hell out of this so I won't beat it to death here, the introduction of cable news, the AK, the RPG, the land mine and the cell phone have made imperialism a mug's game. It wasn't ever that profitable - certainly everyone but the British, with their "jewel" India in the imperial crown, probably spent more on their colonies than they ever made - but now? Silly.

And trying to be imperialists without being willing to ACT like imperialists and fund your imperial projects? Even sillier.

I would say that we're reaping the whirlwind that we sowed when we listened to the GOP back in the 1980's who SWORE that if we just cut taxes we could still reign over the turning earth like Masters of the Universe. Remember Dick Cheney: "After Reagan, deficits don't matter?"

A great empire - or a great nation - needs either clever, hardnosed leaders, a clever and realistic people or both. We've managed to arrange our system to produce, increasingly, neither.

So republic or empire, our refusal to pay as we go and tax ourselves for what we want - and even realize that "wanting" things like writing religion into our laws is counterproductive and, in the end, destructive.

FDChief said...

"It was an empire based on reason, moral suasion and economic superiority."

Mmmmm...sometimes. If you're talking about the "Pax Americana" 1945-1991 period, yes - with a strong mortar of military power thrown in the mixer.

But the "empire" of 1783-1941 was more about having the Maxim gun when they had not and taking advantage of people who were too small, too weak, too corrupt and/or too poorly governed to beat us. The Cherokee, Mexicans, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans would probably quibble about the "reason...and moral suasion" part. Probably felt more like a buttstroke to the head to them.

I'm not a kumbaya-singing pacifist; there are more places and times that need the judicious application of force than can probably be brought under direct fire. But empires need to be more than strong. They need to be clever, cunning, brutal...ruling people who don't share anything you value except breath is hard. Not many peoples can do it well - I don't think we can; we couldn't back in 1890-1948 when we were a harder, shrewder, tougher people.

My objection to empire is pragmatic: I don't think it'd be good for us in the long run.

seydlitz89 said...

What to add?

A couple of points: First, Publius is correct as to our history, but I would also say that we need context as well. How many Republics were we dealing with at the time in 1789-1830? Not many, rather Empires, which would have had no problem with expanding at our expense. Consider the example of the Dutch Republic and how they found themselves constantly being invaded, raided, abused . . . It was always easy for the French or British to find one faction or another to play against the rest. What saved us from the fate of the Dutch was probably geography, that being the Atlantic Ocean between us and Europe.

Second, along with FDC, for me it comes down to a question of practicalities. We simply cannot afford Empire, defined as our unstated policy of primacy which has been in effect since 1992. The world doesn't want a policeman and we don't really have the inclination of being above the various frays, so what exactly does the country get out of it?

Nothing, rather it is only the corrupt interests who control our political elite who profit. Time to come home America, rebuild the country for a world which has become much larger, and will continue to become so, as the oil runs out.