"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." – Barack Obama
The events of our times have lead us to the cusp. There will be no return to normalcy; we can only begin to search for a new normal.
I humbly suggest that there is but one antidote to the ills of our times — the power of the citizen. This word used to be more than ink on paper. It represented the highest duty of each individual in the United States and granted an honored status to be respected by peers, friends and foes alike. This word was Obama's call to arms, the call that galvanized us.
In the year since Obama's election he has been like a Chess grand master making opening moves in games as diverse as nuclear arms, foreign wars, economic stimulus and health care (his primary domestic issue). This week he heads to Copenhagen for a heads of state meeting on climate change. All these moves are big picture items. It is up to all us regular Americans to handle the rest.
The greatest tragedy since Obama's election has not been the bailout of the banks, the stimulus, or the continued presence in Iraq — the greatest tragedy has been the failure of the citizenry to meet his call to America's greatness. The present circumstances are the inevitable consequence of choices stretching back almost a century and a mirror reflection of our values. The individual and his importance to American society have waned. So wanes the power of America.
Obama was more than a man, he was an idea. He represented, and still represents, the idea that each man can realize his full potential and dreams. This full exercise of the power of a citizen is the singular antidote to much of what has gone wrong in America. I am talking about wrongs like the dominion of the corporation, the neo-con invasions of sovereign nations, the erosion of protected individual freedoms, and each step we have taken to reduce the citizen to nil.
We live in a time where the Keynesian myth pervades all thinking. This is the idea that a few very bright, white men can direct the economy to stability and prosperity for all. At its best, this is only a compelling myth based on a detachment from reality. Economies are grimy machines full of moving parts. Only hubris believes that this grimy real world machine can be tamed like a tabby cat. But the idea of a stable, steadily increasing pie seductively rallies everyone to the State.
Need health care? The State can provide.
Need a job? The State can provide.
Getting old? The State can provide.
Business not doing so well? The State can provide.
Abdicating the power of citizenship goes hand in hand with the State hand-out. Individuals used to looking for solutions from The State forget what it is like to create their own.
Our reality is grimier than the bright Keynesian illusion. We are competing in a global economy full of hungry capitalists. We are in the midst of the worst recession of living memory. There is little job creation in sight. We have regional crises in every corner of the country.
In response we have acted with illogic, essentially trying to return to the way we remember the Roaring 90s. We have debased our currency. We continue to strengthen the welfare State. We lionize the corporation. We pass the buck. These are not the answers.
If you believe in the power of America, start believing in the power of the individual- start believing in yourself. Reach for Barack Obama's outstretched hand and join him in his spoken contract with America.
It sometimes feels that the power of one is limited. But the individual can do so much. Entrepreneur. Community-organizer. Voter. Teacher. Watchdog. Inventor. Public Figure. Conservationist. Creator. Writer. Speaker. Thinker.