Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where Were You When...

Today was one of those "Where were you when..." days. In case you've experienced a complete media blackout or are not from Earth, I am referring, of course, to Barack Obama's innauguration as the USA's 44th president, and first-ever African-American president.

So where was I? Well, I think when the innauguration festivities began (not counting the weekend's festivities, of course), I was probably taking my daughter to her first music class at the Conservatory. And quite frankly, I'm not exactly upset that I missed the live broadcast of his innauguration speech and all that jazz. And that's the beauty of technology - you don't have to see things live. Many Americans, Canadians, and others, however, were either in Washington joining the historic festivities, or glued to their TVs. Personally, this whole innauguration thing went just a tad too far. In the weeks leading up to the innauguration, there was all this talk about what breed the Obama family dog would be. What will Michelle and Barack be wearing? People went Obama crazy. Obama paraphanelia appeared EVERYWHERE - commemorative plates, mugs, buttons, T-shirts, sweaters. Everyone wanted to take home some tangible piece of history. Just a tad overboard, if you ask me - especially since all this was happening in the midst of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

Don't get me wrong - I'm really glad that Obama won. The fat white old fart male president thing was getting old. But joking aside, the win was pretty momentous. The fact that Americans elected a young, black president is just mind-blowing, especially considering the fact that racism and sexism are still VERY prevalent in American society (sad, but true). More importantly, however, is the fact that Obama is a relatively fresh face and, most importantly, he has managed to do what seemed to be impossible - inspire youth to take part in politics. Political apathy among 20-somethings and 30-somethings is huge. And can you blame them? Most of the time, the choices we're given are between crap and crap. So how do you choose between two different flavors of crap? Close your eyes and pick at random when you vote? Well, most people of our apathetic generation choose not to vote at all, because to them, it's all the same. It's a shame, because it completely undermines the democratic process - i.e. our leaders are chosen by a small minority who don't necessarily share the same values as the majority of the population.

That's why this Obama thing is such a huge deal. Definitely good for the Americans - and I'm sure that it will have (mostly) positive ramifications for Canada too, though I have no idea what such ramifications might be. If anything, I hope that this whole thing mobilizes our apathetic youth. And I hope that somehow Harper and his Conservatives end up in the political equivalent of the Phantom Zone.

As for this Obama fellow, getting to the White House was the easy part. With all this hype around him and his message of change, I sincerely hope that he manages to deliver. Most importantly, I hope that he doesn't turn out to be an old white dude underneath that young African-American exterior.

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