Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The current situation

The Obama inauguration speech makes one think back on history. The situation we in the United States face today is not comparable to that faced by Washington when he took office in a fragile state subject to poverty we can hardly imagine, nor to that faced by Lincoln on the verge of a terrible civil war. Nor is it comparable to that faced by FDR in the great Depression with a world war looming on the horizon. We face an economic crisis and are seeking to disengage from a military occupation in one foreign land and an insurgency in another, but we can feel confident that the nation can put those crises behind us while the majority of our citizens live secure lives of relative safety and indeed comfort.

Indeed, we can see that the English, the French, the Spanish descendants of people whose empires failed live quite happy and comfortable lives, as do the Germans, Italians and Japanese whose nations were decimated in World War II. Even were the United States to fail to retain its dominant economic and technological power, the lot of most Americans would be envied by the majority of the world's people.

For half the world's population, some three billion people trying to survive on a couple of dollars a day or less, crisis is real and ever present. Many millions of them will not survive their current crises of hunger and disease.

The Obama administration is well advised to take the current situation seriously. Barack Obama is right to call for Americans to forswear the excesses of greed and self-preoccupation of the past. It sounds as if President Obama will not overdramatize the domestic situation (as Jimmy Carter did during his presidency).

Barack Obama is the son of a man from a Kenyan village, the daughter of a woman who helped to create the micro-finance movement in developing nations, who lived as a child in Indonesia. I think he recognizes where the greater problems reside in the world, and I hope he will lead the people of the United States to that more generous and responsible role demanded by our wealth and power.

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