20 January 2009

U.S. Inauguration Day

I watched today the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s CNN-like (though much less inane, admittedly a very low bar) coverage of today’s inaugural events. Observing the inauguration of a new American President from a foreign perspective vividly elucidated a rather amorphous, for this American, sense of the space the U.S. occupies in the psyche of at least a slice of the 95% of the planet’s inhabitants who aren’t Americans.

Right or wrong, Canadians as a whole are greatly relieved, I would say, at the end of the Bush/Cheney regime and excited by Barack Obama. Having spent 50 years in America, where events like power transitions outside of the U.S. are ignored except for isolated speculation on how Americans’ fortunes might be affected, it’s astonishing to see the intense focus of the Canadian domestic media, and presumably Canadians, on U.S. politics. For at least this American, exposure to Canadians’ perspective is not just 'foreign' but a humbling illumination of my own inbred arrogance.

Though every country including Canada of course has its own political leaders and internal issues over which its citizens engage, people everywhere depend also on the U.S. for progress, ideals, solutions, and moral leadership. In short, many people worldwide look, at some level, to the U.S., for better or worse, for hope. Though they are perhaps often horrified by what the U.S. does, the messes it makes, and the destruction it doles out, I think many free-thinking citizens of the world mostly, at core, have faith that somehow, some way, Americans will muddle through and once again shock the world by their capacity to, how ever fitfully, restore hope and squelch fear. I think Canadians are excited by Barack Obama because, again right or wrong, they believe his election ratifies what they yearn to believe is truest about America.

So my “take away” from inauguration day: I’m not sure Americans collectively fully grasp, think about, or care about their potential constructive power to uplift, to lead by example, and to inspire. It’s arguably the U.S.’ largest untapped--and wholly sustainable--resource.

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