The election has come and gone. Nothing has changed. Same president, Barack Obama. Same U.S. House, Republican. Same Senate, Democratic.
Same nation, pretty much split down the middle. On the other hand, everything has changed.
Despite widespread disappointment when Obama failed to deliver on some of his 2008 campaign promises, despite the absolute hatred and intransigence exhibited by many Americans when faced with change, the nation made its choice: Four more years.
The world is a very different place today than it was at the turn of the century, and the change is more fundamental than a shifting of cultural norms or some stunning technical advances. The earth itself is changing. It is getting warmer. The earth has a fever.
When an individual has a fever there are two possible outcomes: The body fights back driving out the infection and restoring the individual to health. Or ... the body dies.
You didn’t hear much about global warming during the campaign, almost nothing at all in the last few weeks. Perhaps it was because many Republicans had publicly denied it was even happening. Obama didn’t want to give them a chance to back peddle.
Whatever the reason, the argument is over. It’s time to get to work.
First of all, there is no going back. How many times during the presidential campaign did you hear the cry, return our country to its glorious past, restore our traditional value system, get our economy growing again. What you didn’t hear is, how are we going to adjust to a changing global society?
Climate change is not a national issue. It’s global. The economy is also largely global, and our culture is becoming more so every day. As for “getting our economy growing again,” what you don’t hear is that the economy can’t return to previous growth levels without eventually destroying us all. We cannot continue to extract resources from the earth to fill ever-expanding markets without overgrowing the earth’s capacity to sustain us.
Human beings have a genius for short-term solutions but little taste or intelligence when it comes to assessing long-term effects and unintended consequences. We are a impatient people.
We are also an unhappy people, especially here in the South. I’m sorry because I love my country, and I love living in North Georgia. It’s not likely this column will win me any new friends. It’s not what readers want right now, but here is some good news, if readers are ready for it.
We now have a global president. Mitt Romney is a good man. He might have made a good president had he not sold his soul to far-right extremists. Romney was far too invested in a traditional wealth and power structure to become a global president.
Americans grow up believing that everyone has the same opportunity to get rich as anyone else. Unfortunately, it’s not true. The right family, the right education, and plain old good luck — being in the right place at the right time — play a far more important role in who is rich and who just barely gets by.
However, American wealth and American exceptionalism are still widely recognized. The world still looks to us for leadership, and for the most part the world likes President Obama. This wasn’t mentioned during the campaign, probably because some people are so nationalistic they believe America is better off if its President is feared and hated.
The world doesn’t hate us. They hate some of the things our government does, but Americans are usually welcomed when they go abroad. A President who is popular outside the U.S. will be an asset in the coming years.
I fear we are in for some hard times, but not necessarily bad times if we work together.
From the Presbyterian Book of Worship: “Have courage, hold on to what is good, return no one evil for evil ...”
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.