Monday, January 19, 2009

Proof of Life

Shoo, all of you. I saw him first.
Even the tabloids are all over him this week, when after he won the Iowa caucuses he was brushed off as an upstart by the likes of Niall O'Dowd, who hadn't the gumption to read the bloody polls.
But America belongs to the world. It is the mirror on to which we reflect our brightest and darkest senses of self. From Tuesday, he's going to be their leader, so that means he's going to be our leader too.
But it's the Kings of Leon principle. It's easy to like him now. I liked him when he was just forming exploratory committees, and having a crack at the White House was just a fleeting vision. I was wearing my Obama 08 t-shirt back when he was ephemeral and uncool.
But enough about The Chalkboard's recalcitrant, selfish ways.
The world will be looking to Washington this Tuesday, and for a brief moment our faith in democracy will be massaged just a little bit.
Government by the people for the people isn't a perfect system, but as the 20th century showed us, it's better than the alternatives. Call it a form of civic compromise.
But on Wednesday, we'll have to fix our gaze back on the quagmire of our own politics, with back biting and ideological emptiness and nay-saying standing in the place of vision, rhetoric and leadership.
What we require now is more than just the belittling of Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny. As a society we can't replace a call to be responsibly governed with a collective shrug of apathy.
No doubt the question will be asked in the days and weeks to come: Where is our Obama?
But the question should be: If Obama was Irish (easy now, Corrigan Brothers), would he have been allowed to succeed?
The answer is no. A young back bencher in Dail Eireann, spouting hope and change and finding the highest vestiges of ourselves would be buried under a junior ministry at the Department of Health for ten years to beat a bit of order into him.
To lead this country, you have to become wedded to the system, so much so that when the Taoiseach's office is yours your only desire is to preserve the status quo.
Barack Obama brazenly by-passed the machinery of the Democratic Party and took his message directly to the people. By the time Hillary Clinton and the apparatus of power had copped on to how great a threat he was, it was too late.
But why should we accept that our system won't allow youth and ideas to flourish? Acceptance of the inevitable makes it so, and we always, always get the politicians we deserve.
As flawed as the electoral college system in the United States can be, the election of Barack Obama represented the mobilisation of a people to demand something better, something more from their leaders. The cold reality of now may scupper that in the years ahead, but for today at least it exists - hard and pure.
The proof that the citizens of a democratic society can shape the future as they see fit is the true legacy of Obama's election. It is a lesson that should be allowed to resonate here and everywhere else.

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