American democracy has been the grand experiment of humankind for more than two centuries. Being an ocean away from Europe and Asia, with no threats from the North or South and having a new world upon which to build a non-old world infrastructure enabled us to transcend the restrictive and limiting mindsets and capabilities of the rest of the globe and transform this country into something that had never been seen before.
However for the past four decades we have lost our way. I think this dated back to the 1960’s when idealism and all that was possible was snuffed out by the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X and replaced by hurt and betrayal, Vietnam and a string of less than transformational Presidents. This cast us into skepticism which hardened into cynicism. Instead of remaining transformational and transcendent we slid into transactional myopia and now into transactional blindness that is fueling the fear-on-the-brink-of-panic that we are living in daily.
The hope that President elect Obama brings is that he might fulfill the promise of “what might have been” that ended with the deaths of those larger than life luminaries of the 1960’s whose lights were darkened too soon. Everything we have seen thus far in Obama is that he has been able to transcend the “zero sum” transactionally myopic AND limiting mindset of politics as usual and offer the possibility of transforming America into the world’s champion of what could be.
His victory was in no small way due to Americans being sick of bipartisan pettiness based more on winning and not losing than on helping the common good and tapping into the common goodness that we all possess.
An early criticism of his being too high minded and not relating to the masses of mere mortals bespeaks his challenge of how to be truly transformational in a world that is largely transactional. That is the elephant in the room and the worry we all share. We all want him to help us transcend our fears and immediate needs to lead us to something grander, but we live in the world of transactions (one need look no further than the volatile stock market to attest to this). The devil IS in the details and it’s in the details that we live, but if we only keep our eye on surviving today we will miss out on thriving tomorrow.
Like many, I eagerly await President elect Obama’s arrival in Washington to see if he can meet the challenge of presenting us with a future that we will all want to make happen that will be promising enough to transcend our transactional needs for immediate relief and after our fears lessen for immediate gratification. You can’t solve a transformational problem with transactional solutions.
Let us hope that a President Obama will be that rising tide we need to lift us all up and cause us to stay committed to our noble cause and calling. And good luck to him in dealing with the lowering tide of bipartisan, transactional myopia that threatens to sink us all.