Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My greatest fear after the election

This post has nothing to do with technology. Just something I needed to get off my chest. In late 2001, I (with absolutely no background in economics) predicted an economic catastrophe was brewing. I foresaw this not because of 9/11, but because there were some suspicious-looking new mortgage products and it was a little too easy to get them. But only my husband can attest to my prediction. I’ve had other occasional insights. I’ve often said I’m a living Cassandra: I’m usually right – but no one pays any attention to what I say. But this time, on the eve of the most important election of my not-so-short life, I wanted my prediction documented.

My greatest fear:

In some very important ways, it matters not who wins this election. I am not saying the two candidates are the same – or even nearly the same. What I mean is that no matter who wins, the challenges will be enormous the day after – the first 100 days after – the first 1000 days after – and well into the next election in 2012.

The ghosts I fear – whether or not Senator Obama wins – are those of the LBJ years and of the Nixon years. Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, both faced a nation deeply divided and deeply disturbed. First – divided by class. Remember the War on Poverty –when nearly a quarter of our population lived below the poverty level, in squalor that rivaled that of undeveloped nations - but here, in the wealthiest country the world has ever known: here, in a democracy, where we profess to govern for the good of and to the benefit of our people? And remember later, in LBJ’s administration and well into the Nixon era and beyond, the schism between those who wanted to keep fighting an unwinnable war and those who couldn’t bear to witness another night of body bags and napalmed victims?

Well, we have about the same proportion of population now who live without healthcare as who lived then in abject poverty – and with uncounted thousands – possibly even millions who are only a pink slip from joining their ranks.

Remember the long hot summers in the 60’s– of burning cities, race riots, angry mobs and fear on all sides? Remember how we once seemed on the brink of anarchy? All that began right after the Civil Rights Act had finally passed -- a time that some saw briefly with expectant optimism. What happens when a nation’s or a people’s hopes and dreams and greatest aspirations, after waiting years, or decades for fulfillment, are not met but seem to sink ever further away and out of sight? If history is any example: riots, assassinations and anarchy.

We are a nation on the brink of an epochal change – a nation waiting to exhale with jubilation and relief – expecting an election to miraculously and quickly change everything. But how is this really possible? Though we may rationally not really believe the change will be fast – how long will our nation actually wait? Will we be patient for a year? For two years? Until the next Presidential election? Can any single person – man or woman, black or white – (with the possible exception of the Messiah himself) – how can a normal, flawed human being fix the massive global unprecedented economic meltdown, two extremely difficult wars in hostile lands, an energy crisis (which alone, if not dealt with in a revolutionary way, will wreck not only our nation but the whole planet), a healthcare crisis, an exploding retirement population, national class divisions that have not been so vast in at least six decades – possibly closer to a century, and a world that may well be at the precipice of the most massive economic depression in history?

Americans are not known for their patience. Americans are not known for taking the long view or for having a sense of history. My fear is history is about to repeat itself. I pray not only that the long hot summers do not reappear – and do not spread across the globe, but also that our leaders can be kept safe from the crazies who live among us, and that Americans, when we start to lose patience – which we inevitably will -- will not abandon hope for change, and instead will rededicate ourselves and redouble our hard work and efforts to achieve it. I hope and pray. And I can’t wait for the polls to open in a few hours.

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