Never have the words 'Presidential Hopeful' seemed so apposite. Obama Barack is all over the news. Yesterday he made a speech that has just made my voice catch, when I was reading it out loud to J. It made me well up because it is so full of hope. It has made me want to write about politics again for the first time in a month.Here it is in full
I have quoted parts of it in italics in this post.
Let me begin by saying thanks to all you who've traveled, from far and wide,
to brave the cold today.
We all made this journey for a reason. It's humbling, but in my heart I know you didn't come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be.
In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union...
Obama's speech, ringing with hopefulness, really hit home. Recently I felt I was losing faith in politics, that all politicians seemed to lie and all political parties seemed the same as each other, as bad as each other, doing anything, saying anything to have and to hold power. I admit my own faults; in my own small way, I am part of the problem. I have kicked frustratedly and hard in this blog at the present Government, and the one that preceeded it. I have mocked and sneered and complained, bitterly and frequently. I have enjoyed the cynical bitching and the tittle-tattle and the sniping, in the papers, on blogs, on political TV programmes, in the pub. I have welcomed the opportunity to blog and to vent and to rant and to release my anger, and I have enjoyed reading other people's righteous rage too. It has been cathartic. I did it because I was angry enough to care, and because anger is an energy, and angry energy is better than sullen silence and isolating, corruscating despair.
...I came to understand that our cherished rights of liberty and equality
depend on the active participation of an awakened electorate...
But now I am sick of all this negativity. I know there is a UK political blog war going on at the moment about 'netiquette' and lies and spin and deceit, and I have not wanted to join in. I don't care if politicians or journalists or bloggers or whoever were trouble-makers or drug-users in their teens, or if they behaved foolishly when they were students - hell, that's what the young and foolish do - and I was, and still am, silly at times myself. What I care about, passionately, is that they stand for something now,
and that they are honest about what they stand for. I may not agree with them - but I want to respect them. And I want to respect myself.
I have stopped wanting to write on this blog for the last few weeks because it was starting to feel like a chore, and because I was fed up of feeling exposed, and sick of the sniping attacks, and of feeling like I had to 'take sides'. I don't think blogging is about taking sides. It's not a licence to bully and abuse and attack, either. Blogging allows the free expression of many voices, and what a shame if this great tool becomes a cacophony, a sound and a fury signifying nothing, and some of us turn inwards and attack each other, when there is so much else to say - political, personal, big, small, whatever - and so many passionate, and talented and clever, and funny people who enjoy blogging; writing for free, writing for the sheer joy of it.
It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come
together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people
- where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more
It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable - that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.
Owch. I am tired and fed up of the current culture of spin and lie, of obfuscation and denial and blame-shifting, of gossip and carefully chosen weasel words that is UK politics at the moment. Whether it is the Government initially denying the existence of a tape showing the death by 'friendly fire' of a UK soldier, or the clamping down on the proper inquiry into BAE Arms sold to Saudi Arabia, or cash for honours, or fewer nurses and beds in hospitals somehow being justified as some doublethink evidence of 'NHS success', it is all damnably toxic because it is corroding our democracy, eroding our trust and killing hopefulness. There have been too many cover-ups and falsehoods.
Nobody seems to believe a thing anyone says anymore or take anything at face value. And I am as bad as anyone else. It is assumed that almost everything is a lie or a deceit or a conspiracy. Anyone saying or writing anything has an 'agenda' that must be exposed. I think this kills any sense of hope and engagement. And without hope, where do we go? Nowhere but backwards and downwards into alientation, apathy, anger and despair.
I want a more hopeful America, and I would like a more hopeful Britain too. I want renewal. And no, for me personally, that doesn't necessarily mean I want a change of Government. It goes deeper than that; I want a change in governing
. And a change in governance
, in the way that we are governed.
The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government
that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we've changed this
And not only in America has history shown change and renewal and political evolution, frequently being driven by plain ordinary people - which can include bloggers - as well as visionaries and writers and leaders and politicians.
Democracy is meant to represent the will of the people. All that you need for a working democracy is for the people to have
a will to go somewhere together. If there is nothing but cynicism and apathy, then where is our will gone? We get the leaders, (and the leader writers, and the bloggers) we deserve, don't we?
Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's
needed to be done. Today we are called once more - and it is time for our
generation to answer that call.
For that is our unyielding faith - that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.
The man is right. And in this information age, where words can travel at the speed of thought, and ideas gather dizzying reach and momentum through instant and open exchange, people publishing and debating and engaging with each other freely, for all to see and read, we have more tools to shape and change things, so we get the politics we want, than ever before.
Politics and political debate in this country is no longer the preserve of wealthy white men in their exclusive clubs, whether in Westminster or Fleet St. It's something anyone
can get involved in. Single issue or broad platform, whatever fires you up, there are more ways of being heard, holding politicians to account or finding like-minded others to get active with than ever before.
We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years.
What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound
policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the
smallness of our politics - the ease with which we're distracted by the petty
and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for
scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a
working consensus to tackle big problems.
All we need is a sense of compassion and decency, realism and willingness to listen, and a stakehold in our shared humanity and our shared future. Not to be afraid of speaking out, not to have our collective and individual will sapped by cynicism and in-fighting about trivial things. Just to have some hope.
I want my hope back. This has felt like a long and bleak winter, but spring is coming. I have felt excitement and optimism returning today, as I read the words of a politician. An American politician, but it's a start.
oops, edited to say thanks Kate, I tagged it wrong...
Labels: hope, Obama, politics