Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One More Day!

I cannot believe that after almost two years of campaigning, the US presidential election of 2008 will finally end tomorrow. I am about 95% sure that Obama will be our 44th president. It is an exciting moment in history. We’ll either have the oldest president, or the first black president. We are finally sensing the end of GW Bush’s reign of tyranny, hatred, and international crime. I am shocked that he was reelected, and it is a grim indication that in general, Americans are easily duped into believing that questionable individuals can carry out the dramatic reform they seem to promise. Whoever wins, it will be hard for anybody to do worse than Bush, so in that sense, the next president won’t have a hard time winning the heart of Americans who are eager for a new man in the White House. Nevertheless, a mountain of issues awaits the next commander-in-chief.

Recession, rampant corporate and political corruption, bitter bipartisan warfare, a broken healthcare system, a narrow political discourse, a shattered international image abroad, a war we must leave, failing energy policies, a backwards election system, and an obsessive “rock star politics” fueled by a media-frenzied society have eroded the quality, reliability, and straightforwardness of American politics. Yes, we need change. But neither of the two major candidates have proposed truly creative reforms that would turn this country around. They have stuck to the stump, reading the scripts that we have heard many times before from candidates of the past. This round, it’s the same story with different faces.

Whoever wins, let’s not forget some of America’s consistent policies and objectives that won’t be forgotten by either of the two candidates. While both candidates guarantee their own unique brand of “change” that they insist differs from their opponent’s, the media, the candidates, their parties, and the people seem to overlook what won’t change about America, regardless of who enters the White House. 1) America is a hegemony. Puerto Rico is an annexed territory. So is Midway Island, and Guam, to name a few. Throw Hawaii in there while we are at it. Who profits from the tariffs collected from the elephantine traffic sailing through the Panama Canal? Uncle Sam. Regardless of who wins the election, there is an unspoken understanding that this individual is responsible for maintaining America’s role as the world’s great empire. But we are seeing America’s power gradually slip, as powers like Brazil, China, Iran, and Russia rise. Military conflict with one of these three might be in our future. And why does America chastise Iran? On the surface level we are told, as we were about Iraq, that they could develop nuclear weapons to attack America, or our ally Israel. Recently, someone asked me why Iran does not like Israel. I meandered about the question before discovering what I think is the answer. Well, there seems to very little that Iran could objectively dislike about Israel. I have never heard Iran use narrow-minded, bigoted explanations that they abhor Israel because of their cuisine, music, or the way they look. No, Iran’s anti-Israeli slant promotes, I believe, Iran’s regional power in the Middle East. In the Middle East, there is a strong divide among nations with Shii and Sunni majorities. Sunnis are the majority, while the only nations with Shii majorities (and correct me if I am wrong) are Syria and Iran. This religious and ideological divide has prevented overwhelming unity for a very powerful region. But in this sea of Islam, there is one issue that transcends the Shii/Sunni split. It is Israel. In spearheading an aggressive anti-Israeli campaign, Iran indicates a strong bid for regional power through anti-Semitism. Iran realizes that opposing Israel has little to do with which sect of Islam one comes from. Leading this anti-Israeli campaign seems to be less about tangible action against Israel and more about rallying support across the Middle East. Then why does America speak out so vehemently against Iran and so strongly in favor of Israel? (Disclaimer to my response: what I am about to write is not anti-Semitic or racist as many of my best friends are Israeli and Jewish. The reason I put this disclaimer is that I believe there are pockets of Jewish communities across the world who have brainwashed their followers into believing that politically speaking out against Israel is tantamount to racism. And I wouldn’t believe this if I hadn’t come face to face with such perspectives. I have been accused of being racist and anti-Semitic for making the following suggestions, which clearly do not fit the definition of racism or anti-Semitism.) Might it have something to do with the power of the Jewish vote in America? America’s Jewish population is extremely well-organized, well-financed, and influential. A few months ago, both John and Barack spoke at the center for America’s Israel Lobby, pledging to always stand by Israel. Further, American foreign policy still maintains, after nearly two decades, that Russia is still poses a grave threat to American interests. America still holds a strong anti-Russian bent. Again, we must ask why? While we are showered with tales of police brutality, KGB’s, and limits on expression (all of which America is also guilty of), we are not told how Russia’s economic and diplomatic strength can pose a direct (non-military) threat to America’s position as the world superpower. Russia is still very much on America’s radar screen though not so much in its newspapers.

Popularity contest. It’s interesting to notice how the media, which, thanks to networks like facebook, now belongs both to the big companies and us small individuals with blogs and facbeook accounts, has launched a massive hagiography campaign to associate Obama with all things beautiful, righteous, and fair. Obama probably doesn’t buy half the coverage swirled up about him in the media, but he would never speak out against such exaggerated sentiments since they are the ones that have propelled him to this position. Obama seems to have become more of a symbol rather than a politician. It is a typical (American) attribute to focus more on what an individual represents rather than what he/she actually is. These representations get adapted by people into their personalities, and because of the unhealthy focus media shines on a single individual so that we have a system where millions of individuals focus on one (as opposed to a more, truly democratized form of “media” where all individuals focus on one another), people start living vicariously through these media stars. Of course, political parties, corporations, and clever entrepreneurs who pick up on these trends, profit off this media frenzy, and use their resources to promote this lop-sided system to sustain their own wealth.

Regardless of what happens, I believe that we are seeing the gradual decline of America’s role as the word superpower. All empires of the world have risen and fallen. They follow the natural cycles of the earth, surging and receding like a wave. The Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, French Empire, British Empire, the Soviet Union, etc etc., they have all surged, soared, receded, and fell back into mediocrity, waiting for the next opportunity to rise again. I just don’t understand this underlying obsession with power that everybody is after. Power is temporary, ephemeral. It might last the course of one’s lifetime, but it is not sustainable because the effectiveness of power relies on the weakness of others. And when others are weak, they become destabilized, marginalized, and disenfranchised of a standard living afforded those who live in the power sphere. These tensions generate wars, genocides, mass starvation and disease, and extreme poverty and inequality. Simultaneously, superpowers typically claim to promote ideals of just humanity, equality, and righteousness, but rarely practice such ideals themselves.

We need to reconsider how we run our world. What I’m talking about is a complete overhaul of a broken global system where wealth and power are not the primary objectives. I feel we are so entrenched in the way things are that we may never see the sun of a new way. What if we redrew the maps of the world and required that every country had to be the same exact size? Then, we took away all the weapons of this world, and stored them underground in one of these countries, and had guards to make sure nobody tried to sneak in and take them away. We could have a world governing council that ensured an equal distribution of resources for all countries. This would include supplies necessary to maintain quality health, education, transportation, sustainable energy alternatives (solar and wind first and foremost), and a high standard of quality housing. Dilapidated residences would be rebuilt, and overall, we would build this new model atop already existing structures.

Will it every happen? No. But is it dangerous to stop imagining the possibilities? Very.

No comments: