I’d like to start this post with special recognition of life’s wonderful moments of Matthew Weinreb. *ring ring* “Hello?” “Hi, it’s Matthew here. I was wondering if you could settle a debate for us… is it true that our eyes see in 2D but our brains convert this to 3D?”
(It’s not, by the way. Not really.)
Moving on – last night I followed the pattern established since the dawn of time by responding to Nic’s fully fledged website makeovers with small cosmetic changes. The theme this time round is interconnectedness: taking a leaf from Abbi, blog posts now show up (properly!) on Facebook as notes*, whilst in return my Facebook status can be found both here and on the home page. (What do you mean you never leave your RSS client? My homepage has a lovely photo slideshow y’know!) Once I was done I sat back and suddenly felt that this web might actually get all too much one day[*This does raise the tricky question of tagging people in notes. I mean, what exactly counts as a mention? Am I going to tag Abbi now just because her name came up? I think the answer is yes, but I’m now going to justify it further by saying something superfluous like ‘Gosh, Abbi is cool’ or ‘Abbi’s Halloween costume may have been impressive, but you should see Tasha as Sarah Palin’. Oh gosh, now Tasha gets a tag! Argh!]
Speaking of interconnectedness, today I was delighted to meet yet another American cousin which my family is so proficient at producing! Sophia was lovely, though, and coped admirably with the fact that my parents and I suddenly seemed to have a strange desire to be ‘English’ and go for afternoon tea. (Having said that, I’m not complaining in the slightest with any liberal interpretation of afternoon tea that includes chocolate fudge cake.) Of course, we also talked lots about the slight matter of an upcoming election – with only the slightest admissions that we don’t actually have votes – and I was hugely relieved to know that Sophia had voted. Mostly because I’m already hugely jealous of Jamie and her ilk for their votes already, and it would be a bitter blow if they didn’t actually use them.
The election is, obviously, important. Amongst the reams and reams that has been written on it, this editoral from the New Yorker magazine – republished by the Guardian – sums it up best for me. It’s all worth reading, particularly for tackling the vital Supreme Court issue, but a choice quote:
A presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer prize: we elect a politician and, we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama’s first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. Dreams from My Father is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama’s own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself. In common with nearly all other senators and governors of his generation, Obama does not count military service as part of his biography. But his life has been full of tests – personal, spiritual, racial, political – that bear on his preparation for great responsibility.
Whilst following the US election, it suddenly really hit me for the first time: we’ve just lived through eight years of one of the worst US Presidencies ever. In history. And I really mean that – it’s not just heat of the moment anger at a bad President, but what will probably turn out to be the accepted historical view in decades to come: George W Bush was a failure of epic proportions. Most people have at least something going for them: Johnson escalated Vietnam, but had a decent domestic vision at his heart. Nixon was a crook, but pretty successful at international relations. Reagan stood for an ideology I fundamentally disagree with, but at least – as with Thatcher – he was a success in his own terms. But Bush has manifestly failed to ‘spread democracy’ as he came to understand his role. And meanwhile he presided over an administration which was corrupt to its very core: a lying, bullying government which tore up freedoms at home and abroad until the United States of America – the world’s superpower and the nation founded on the principle of liberty – was reduced to pathetic and shameful weaselling trying to redefine away ‘torture’ so that it could torture.
And the cost has been immense. Not just for Americans growing up in a country where it is increasingly difficult even to afford healthcare, not just for the residents of New Orleans who witnessed first-hand what ‘compassionate conservatism’ really means and not just for those still languishing in Guantanamo Bay. We will all live with the cost – for a generation – of having grown up in a world where America came to be seen as a tyrant. Because unless people around the world have trust in the United States – a basic level of respect and admiration for the country with the power – how can we possibly tackle the world’s great problems of poverty, climate change, dictatorship, war? I don’t loathe Bush because I hate America – I loathe Bush because for all these years he has deprived America, and the world, of its enduring goodness.