Barack Obama is not the only mutt in America. I am a English-German-Polish-African-Cherokee-once straight now gay-American. How about you, what is your mix? Does it matter? As we enter the Obama generation, many are showing how brilliant they are in offering up criticisms before the fact, some are holding their breath hoping for the best, and some are actually taking up the new President’s challenge to “be the change we seek.”
Hope can be a dangerous drug. It can lead to waiting for someone or something to act, to dreaming instead of doing, and worst of all, for blaming others for the failures of life. When Obama speaks of hope, I hear the word “possibility.” One of the things I learned as a law student was to excise from my vocabulary the passive tense. That is the problem with hope not attached to action – it is passive.
Contained within the word “possibility” is the notion of an opening, a vacancy, a yet-to-be-edness that invites one to act, to come up with solutions and commitments that call one forth, not let one observe. Now that the expansive nature of the failures of our culture are beginning to dawn on the average American, our language needs to open new possibilities, not only criticisms of existing problems or people with power.
As President, Obama will be measured by how effectively he brings to bear the central message of his campaign – that it is the job of government to do what we as citizens cannot, but it is also the job of each of us to do what we can. It is not enough to criticize. It is not enough to act if that action does not bring about needed change.
We must recover for ourselves that true American spirit of taking action in the face of adversity, of not giving up until we succeed, and of being generous with ourselves and each other as fellow humans, imperfect to the core, but good at heart. As they say in 12 step programs, if you do not find that this is the way it is today, fake it till you make it.
Yes it is clever to see a weakness in others, to see a looming failure and warn about it. But the age of the internet has given us the opportunity to perfect the art of being the critic. As the election of Barack Obama has demonstrated, the internet can also open new possibilities for acting in concert to achieve common goals.
Now is the time for Americans to act bravely, with conviction and compassion, with enlightened self interest and selflessly. That is the true genius of this great nation – it is the true patriotism.
If you can’t think of any other way you can contribute, try not criticizing anyone, including yourself, for one hour each day. Find something to praise someone about, find a way to empower yourself and another person each day. You may be amazed at how much that helps.