(Week 13 - Thursday, Nov. 6)
This nation has from time-to-time passed through periods of incredible euphoria for the heights of achievement and sacrifice it has achieve. I sensed such a moment in the aftermath of Obama's victory amidst the throng in Grant Park in Chicago. The People basked briefly in the sublime light of fulfillment in their realization that this nation's very soul, though sullied by its passage through chattel slavery, Jim Crow and racial bigotry, had traversed the length of human mendacity in at last coming to elect as its leader the first African American President.
Few believe that being black, or of any other particular description, is a qualification for high office, but the identity of the candidate in this case cannot be separated from the momentousness of the attainment. Obama had endured the vicissitudes of the process, and that few seemed inclined to question that he had fairly "won" (whatever that means in politics) was somehow cathartic to the nation. Even John McCain could not help but dedicate the first words of his concession remarks to that historic achievement, and President Bush issued his own declaration commemorating the event. We have long been a people that prides itself on the belief that any new soul born into its fold could aspire to any position in the land. Until last night this promise was in some measure hypothetical, but the question is now laid to rest.
Had the election tipped the other way, an historic precedent would have been set in another direction; i.e. the first woman to attain to the office of the Vice-Presidency. There was a time when for even one party to entertain the idea of having a Catholic on the ticket was pushing the bounds of thinkable thought (as for JFK), but now it seems the breaking of the Protestant-white-males-only-need-apply rule was done it stride. Surely as a nation we have grown up.
The events of yesterday were in part a culmination of the American Revolution, but something crucial remains undone. After a heroic War of Independence announced with a noble Declaration and guided by "founding fathers" of high principles, one might think that the establishment of the right of the nation to create, issue and control its own money would be a foregone conclusion, but if history teaches anything it is to not underestimate the money power (the amorphous principality that the power of money, as co-opted by forces inimical to the commonweal, represents; it is not any particular persons, but persons of every class or description can, and do, fall under its spell). While the People have on occasion arisen to great heights of purpose and sacrifice, afterwards they understandably tend to turn back to their private lives. The money power, on the other hand, never rests, leading monetary historian Alexander Del Mar to observe ruefully:
"Never was a great historical event (the American Revolution) followed by a more feeble sequel. A nation arises to claim for itself liberty and sovereignty. It gains both of these ends by an immense sacrifice of blood and treasure. Then, when the victory is gained and secured, it hands the national credit (the authority to create money) over to private individuals, to do as they please with it."
This is the unfinished business of the American Revolution. It is what we will have to reckon with if the promise of the nation, so clearly reflected in the yearning faces seen last night in Chicago, is to be fully realized. None of this is to take away from the momentous import of what has already been achieved, but if We the People merely turn back to our private lives after the great mobilization of energy, resources and willingness to get involved represented by this election cycle, then our hope will have been allowed to expire in yet another "feeble sequel", and America's promise will in the end ring hollow.
The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.