Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't Get Too Excited

Things are looking reasonably good for the Obama campaign, and I currently hope (and expect) that he'll win in November. However, I want to be on record as encouraging new/young voters to continue learning about history as we approach our next presidential election.

My concern is with the Obama supporters who think in terms of utopia and panacea: most of them from the generation of possibly-somewhat-naive optimists (and heck, what generation isn't when it's 18-27-years old?), these voters are overwhelmed with joy at the possibility that all social ills will be cured if only we elect the right man in the fall.

Of which social ills I will name poverty and racism as among the most upsetting to young voters. And while it's nice to see that another generation of humans will have consciences, I'm frightened to think that critical thinking might not come along for the ride.

I remember having one of those most excellent graduate school dialogues in Heav. 215 a couple of years ago with some of my four regular readers -- we were disagreeing about something having to do with social welfare spending. They were arguing for more, and I was saying "fine," but asking for a better delineation around the question of "how much is enough?" I used the case of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society," and the conversation came to an abrupt halt -- not because I had made an airtight case, but rather, because nobody else in the room had ever heard of such a thing.

Not to make too much of a history lesson of it, but...

In Johnson's first State of the Union address, "he called for a war on poverty and the creation of a 'Great Society,' a prosperous nation that had overcome racial divisions" (source). Wikipedia reports, "New major spending programs that addressed education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation were launched during this period." The Great Society even set aside new funds for touchy-feely things like "English" and painting, enough to form the financial foundation for the National Endowment for Arts and Humanities. Oh, and, there was a big war happening overseas at the time (1965) that was getting worse by the minute. If you're planning on voting for Obama, all of this -- almost to a word -- should sound familiar. And admittedly, it sounds great.

On paper. In my judgment, however, history took a turn for the not-much-better. Whether I'm correct or just being Debbie Downer I'll leave it up to ya'll to judge... I will note, however, that racism and poverty still exist, last I checked. And might exist even after Obama takes office. Brace yourselves.

Oh, and, oil lines might exist too. See 1973, for example.

1 comment:

Monica said...

No, you're right. Not much will change; who knows--perhaps, once again, it will get even worse. Sometimes I'm actually frightened by the excessive optimism of some of Obama's fans. I think every election we project all of our own unfulfill-able wishes and desires onto a new candidate, and then we turn on him when he fails to deliver. Then again, I never have much optimism about anything--something about my glass always being 2/3 empty.