Tuesday, January 13, 2009

America, The Beautiful

One week from today, Barack Obama will, in an inauguration ceremony watched in person by more than a million and on TV and the Internet many, many millions, become the 44th President of the United States of America.

When we look even for a moment at the nation and the world which he will inherit, one might call him courageous or mad or egotistic or any of a hundred handles in between.

He will face three wars in the Middle East - Iraq, Afghanistan and the deadly, intractable, ages-old, religion-fueled Arab-Israeli conflict.

He will face a Pakistan and India, both nuclear-armed, staring at one another and rattling the silverware.

Almost 50 million men, women and especially children of his fellow country souls are without medical insurance. If that isn't a measure of poverty, what is?

The auto makers are bankrupt and stunned and wandering in circles unsure if their next loaf of bread comes from electric vehicles or better SUV's.

The banks, loan companies, investment firms and other money players are staggered and beaten and crying for help. (Here in Canada, both Canwest Global and Corus Entertainment, two media giants, are on the financial rocks. Canwest has shrunken to a penny stock in spite of earnings and profits and is in imminent danger of collapse. And Corus is devalued to half its trading value of a year ago.)

Unemployment is at its highest levels in America, and education in so many public schools at its lowest.

Equally challenging is the fact that speaking of American lustre isn't even remotely possible when so many people in so many countries around the world suspect America of the worst crimes and blame America first before anyone for what the Irish used to call "the troubles."

I grew up adoring America.

I loved and worshipped the USA.

Like many of you, the novels I read, the movies I watched and the music to which I danced and sang all came from New York and Los Angeles and the Deep South.

Many people still think that I am not only a Yankee, but a New Yorker. Not true, of course. I was born in Ottawa and grew up in Winnipeg. I have lived here in Vancouver for almost 45 years now.

But I still remember vividly almost every detail of the ONE DAY I spent in New York City when I was 19 and on my way to Europe on a huge Italian ocean liner.

Most of my travels in the US have been on the West Coast and to the usual Snow Bird sunshine hideouts. My last trip about a year and a half ago was to San Fransisco for a few days.

I no longer love the USA or worship it. Part of that comes with age. But much of it comes with seeing a world that I don't like as much and a world that I sometimes fear.

Make no mistake. I don't hate America or anything remotely close to it. I just don't want to visit as often as used to. Still...I must see Chicago and Boston soon...

So, Barack Obama will now preside, as much as any President does or can, over an enormous and enormously complicated sovereign state that is in upheaval, that is turning and twisting towards something new.

He seems to be a man of extraordinary optimism and good will.

He will not turn the Big Wheel to the Promised Land overnight. He will not be the Second Coming of the Messiah.

But, he may help and he may inspire and he may be judicious.

We cannot hope for much more.

In these hopes, we wish him all possible good fortune.