Now the hard part

I know, I know. I’m not the first one to start my response to the election with words to these effects. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer made this observation even before the election, and here’s the deal:

It was a huge accomplishment for Barack Obama to be elected President of the United States. However, as he rightly observed, this is only the beginning of the hard work.

In his speech tonight, he said,

“This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.”

I’ll drink to that.

You see, he knows that he’s bitten off more than he can chew. We’ve got a big elephant to eat folks, and we had all better start chewing. I’m not a big fan of electoral politics, and am skeptical of government’s ability to get us out of our current mess. In fact, I am philosophically opposed to having government get us out of this mess, but that’s another story.

Right now, I’m cautiously optimistic that we are going to have a good leader on our hands, God willing, for the next four years or longer. This doesn’t mean that I like where he’ll lead us, but that I think he’s going to do a good job leading us there. Candidate Obama has shown a sense for the importance of empowering people, and as long as President Obama continues with that, I think it will be a good thing.

The key of whether the Obama Administration is remembered as a pivotal moment in our history – or as just a really frustrating time when the economy went to pieces while a relatively inexperienced politician was outmaneuvered by the entrenched powers of Washington ran circles around him, and our rediscovered hopes were squashed –  will be our own responses.

We have to get off our butts and get to work in order to do the work that the government cannot or should not do. We need to rebuild our communities and our economies in ways that are more resilient, democratic, and just.

To quote that great philosopher of our age, Bob the Builder, “Can we build it? Yes we can!”

“Yes we can.” I think we’re going to be hearing that phrase a lot, and we’ll probably get sick of it. But we should remember that it contains an essential reminder. This is not about watching the government solve our problems. It is about our own ability to change the course of our society.

It’s a huge task, and we might not pull it off. But I know that I’m going to be doing all I can, so that whatever happens, I’ll be able to look back and say that I tried. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life.

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