Is it a paradigm shift ?

Par David Simard le 5 février 2009

 

The Democrats have retaken the White House after eight long years of soul-searching. I look upon this historic occasion with all the hopes and dreams of my generation. However, to believe that one man can change the world is perhaps dangerous. There are no saviours, but certain politicians can push history in the right direction. 

I had the great privilege of going on a road trip with five friends to Washington D.C., to witness the transfer of political power in our neighbouring superpower. As we braved the great crowds, a sense of wonder and amazement filled the air. The locals we spoke to told us rare are the occasion when African-Americans frequent the Mall (monuments, museums and government areas). What we witnessed was black and white singing and dancing together, hoping together; white folks wanting blacks to be included; black folks wondering if this was all a dream. 

simard_global-village.jpgAs we walked past the White House and looked toward the Washington monument, I thought of how opposed to the politics of the United States I have been for most of my adult life. The administration leaving office had damaged the image so greatly that no one could imagine it might be different some day. As we looked deeply into the sea of people, we could sense a certain resolve; we where witnesses to the other version of America that we hadn’t seen in some time now. We did feel that we could hope for a more measured America in international affairs and consequently we could hope for a better world? 

Rare are the occasions when we sit on the cusp of a paradigm shift, a parting of ways of the old and the new. So as we walked, we all asked ourselves if the world had changed with the arrival of a new man in the White House. As I write these words, I know that much is being written about the first African-American President, and know that I will be part of that cacophony, but even at the cost of not being original, one feels compelled to be a part of it in some way. However, this is more than the story of one man, it is the American journey, but also the Western promise of the hopes of more chances for more people, or dreams centuries old becoming living breathing reality. 

Perhaps, there is also a feeling that Western nations are closer than ever before, this was the sentiment in our microcosm. Our expedition comprised of 3 Americans, one dual citizen of France and of the United States, one bilingual Canadian of a North African mother, and myself, a French-Canadian Métis. However, despite different backgrounds and upbringings, it is surprising how we relate to the same events, that the popular culture of the West has permeated our experience profoundly. Is this why we are inpired by the universalist appeal that seems to be espoused openly by the new American administration? 

The credo that all men and women should have the freedom to pursue their hopes and dreams without reference to race or religion opposes the nationalist creed of blood and belonging. We returned from Washington with the knowledge that our world is changing in ways not even perceptible yet, and it’s not all bad. 

If the new administration is to succeed, it will have to get help from all strata of society, and this will be no easy task. The hard realities of two wars, one world economic crisis and two very different versions of the USA are quite daunting, sobering even, far from the euphoric sentiment we felt in D.C. The new American President wants us to join him, reminding us that we should always be the change we want to see in the world. 

Can we hope? The answer is that we should always hope for a better world, but in the end, this new administration will not succeed by goodwill and hopefulness. Change will come if the resolve of the new President can convince the goodwill that we find in all people, to repair decades of bad politics. Change is not thinking about or wishing; change is doing. As we left D.C, we learned that among Barack Obama’s first executive orders was to schedule the closing of Guantanamo prison: this is doing! 

This last week we traveled to discover America anew. We could feel a sense of what the last eight years had been like for the people who had showed up in droves to be witnesses to the changing of the guard. Such moments in history are turning points that offer not only a collective betterment, but also willingness to bestow trust toward our countrymen, and even our neighboring countries. A political window has been opened here, but no one knows how long the people and politics will let the breeze in before it closes again. 

 

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