26 October 2012

I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child

The morning after the night before. Already the Hope is starting to fade
Capitol Hill, Washington DC, 21st January, 2009
I noticed today that President Obama took time out from his busy election schedule to pop into Chicago for a few hours and vote, presumably for himself.

Although the official US polling day is still over a week away, many states allow early voting and Obama was trying to encourage as many eligible voters as possible to avail of this to reduce the risk that they will suddenly find themselves disenfranchised come November 6th by Republican dirty tricks, which range from partisan measures that demand photo ID be presented before a person is allowed to vote (enacted to exclude large numbers of working-class folks, predominantly from minorities and traditionally democratic voters, who being unable to afford to own a car have no need for a drivers licence) to shorter polling hours in districts that traditionally vote Democrat, particularly in key swing states. Our favourite curmudgeonly reporter Greg Palast has written a good bit about these schemes and more, and you can find out more over on his website here.

I too have already voted, though not because I fear disenfranchisement come polling day (as an oversees voter, I already know that my vote will most likely never be counted, the results of the election will be called as soon as the polls close and most likely my vote will remain unopened in a federal warehouse somewhere, a monument to the triumph of symbolism over reality), merely because I found myself going to the post office a few weeks ago and being a deeply lazy person thought I would kill two birds with one postal stone and save myself a last-minute dash this week. I did not vote with any great joy in my heart, doing so more out of a sense of resignation that should Romney actually get in, I could not live with the feeling that I made not even the tokenest of token efforts to stop him.

During the last election campaign, I was an addict. I watched all the debates, primary and general election. I voted in the primaries, casting my ballot in the salubrious environs of O'Neills on Suffolk St, and spent election night itself at the Democrats Abroad count centre in the equally salubrious Cafe En Seine, both occasions giving me a pretty good idea of the nature of the Irish contribution to US Democracy.

This time around, however, I have tried to work up some enthusiasm for the whole proceedings, but the best I could muster is a casual viewing or two of debate "highlights" and the subsequent snarky analysis that fuels my morning feeds, and it left me all with a feeling of deep embarrassment. Could this truly be the sum and measure of a nation that proclaims itself to be the greatest democracy on earth? A vulture-fund misogynistic oligarch who hates Big Bird, and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who boasts about assassinations and drone strikes? Is this really the choice that I am being offered?

Not once in the debates was there any mention of Climate Change. Nor was there any talk of Guantanamo Bay, despite it's closure being almost the very first action ordered by Obama in the days following his inauguration, the first of many, many hopes and aspirations that brought about his election that somehow seemed to get abandoned along the way, replaced by the triumphalism of ordering the death of a man a thousand miles away.

Murderous triumphalism and Big Bird. That is what this election seems to be about.

In January of 2009, just days before Obama signed the order to close Guantanamo, I stood with a million other people on the National Mall in Washington DC to see eight years of the Bush Doctrine be consigned to the waste-bin of history, and a new era of Hope and Change be ushered in. After taking the oath of office, Obama turned to the crowd and spoke to them as their new President.

"The time has come," he said, "to set aside childish things"

Watching this year's campaign, it saddened me to realise that no-one, not even the President himself, was listening to his words that day.

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