Today, you can write your hopes and fears for the next four years, and then, three or four years from now, you can look at the entry and see whether you were right.Fears first. It's hard to avoid the omnipresent nervousness about Obama getting assassinated. Honestly, I don't think it's exceptionally likely: the Secret Service are neither stupid nor bad at their jobs. But this campaign brought out a fair amount of ugliness (and worse, paranoia) on the right, and having the NRA telling all of their members that Obama wants to take away their guns is a tad scary.
More concretely, I'm worried that the job is simply too big, and the letdown will be too great. The economy *is* something of a shambles right now, and fixing that is going to be hard and slow. Obama did the right thing in his acceptance speech, trying to moderate expectations, but I suspect a lot of people are going to be very disappointed when he turns out not to fix the world in his first 100 days. That could produce a return to political disillusionment.
And I'm certainly concerned that the Democratic majority will prove overweening. I'm really not all that concerned about Obama per se, but more about whether he has the political good sense and will to rein in the party's excesses. It would be fairly easy for the Democrats to screw things up quite badly, especially on the economic front, if they lose sight of caution. I'm not so much concerned about corruption or deliberate hubris (yet -- that'll come with time, but it usually takes 5-10 years in power for a party to get really corrupt), but more about the thousand special interests that dearly hope their time has come. Lack of discipline could produce its own kind of tragedy of the commons, as everyone tries to pile into the public trough at once.
There are lots of hopes, though, and they aren't unreasonable:
I hope that the US finds its footing in the world again, recovering the faith of its allies and ability to work well with other nations.
I hope that the economy recovers, and gets the moderate regulation it needs.
I hope that the US starts to heal from the extreme left/right divisions, and starts working together again -- not always agreeing, but at least agreeing that we're all in it together.
I hope that social justice moves forward on all fronts -- not in a giant wave that would reignite the culture wars, but getting some steady momentum going.
I hope that we reverse the backsliding on civil liberties, and discredit the paranoia that has ruled the country since 9/11.
I hope that The People (in the constitutional sense) develop the right perspective: that we can make a better day if we work together, with patience, determination and optimism.
Most importantly, I hope that, four years from now, I can honestly say that I am *proud* of my country again. I consider myself a patriot to my core: the ideals of the country speak to me powerfully. IMO, the past eight years have tarnished the nation badly, in so many ways -- the intense divisiveness, the loss of touch with reality, the antipathy towards us from the rest of the world -- that it's almost physically painful to me. I don't expect miracles out of the new administration, but if they can simply get things back to the point where I don't feel embarassed to be a American, that'll be a huge win.
And on a more personal level: seriously, I want to start having *fun* again. Recent years have -- how can I put this delicately? -- sucked. There's been an oppressive atmosphere hanging over everything, a sort of depressed and resigned foreboding that has cast a consistent pall over me and those I care about. I don't think that's all due to the politics, but I do think it's been influenced by them: there has been a *wrongness*, and a resulting weariness, hanging in the air all about us.
We make our times, and we are made by them. We are entering a new time, and it's going to be what we make of it. There's a lot to fix, but it's important that we not do so with such grim determination that it leads to exhaustion and despair. We've been caught in a downward spiral, with events depressing us, leading to a sense of helplessness. It's time to turn that around. The new spirit in the air is one of union and co-operation, hope and optimism. It isn't going to be simple to make a better day, on either the small scale or the large, but it's back in our hands now, and I sincerely think we can turn things around if we are smart, patient and together.
I'm a fairly private person, and I don't say this often enough. But I do love and value my friends, all of you, more deeply than you probably know. The past few years have felt lonely and depressed and separate -- just plain *down*, at least for me. So my dearest hope, deep in my gut, is to turn that around: to be *with* my friends more: working with you, helping you, simply *being* with you more. That's what the spirit of the day means to me personally. I care for you, and I hope we can be together more in the days to come...