I’m glad that people seem to understand that Obama’s election is only the beginning, that democracy demands more than a vote cast every couple years. What I think is less well understood is that the worst is not behind the American people yet. It still lies ahead. The worst of the economic crisis, the energy crisis, and the climate crisis are all still ahead of the nation.
The first will be an agonizing reappraisal of what is actually worth something, of what really constitutes economic activity rather than the sprinkling of magic pixie dust, unsustainably paid for with foreign labor, foreign energy resources, and foreign-held debt.
The second will be a similarly painful restructuring of daily lives, as they find something to replace the oil, coal and gas that have provided most of the energy budget, but which are now unaffordable or becoming so on economic or ecological grounds.
The last will be the discovery of a new planet earth, quite like the one they built during the 20th century, one which will defy expectations at every turn, which may well be less hospitable than the one there is now.
As awful as they were, seen through the horror of these three problems, the Bush years were actually a sort of holiday where the American people indulged in a final debt-and-oil-fueled bender, intoxicating themselves on consumerism and foreign wars rather than facing up to the facts of the 21st century.
And the best that can be expected of President Barack Hussein Obama is that he will engage and address these terrors in a collected, intelligent and calm way, rather than resolutely denying their existence as Bush did.
Still, I’m hopeful.
Barack Hussein Obama’s electoral victory finally suggests that the people are at last willing to face an ugly reality, to accept less sparkly trash in their lives, and to embrace more progress towards a human society worth living in: a more equal, more sustainable world, where the possibilities for human existence will begin to expand again, rather than contract.