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I just think back to high school, the day after that abysmal election day in 2000. My global history teacher at the time was bemoaning the results of the election, a sentiment shared by most if not all of us in the room. Al Gore had been robbed, and he worried out loud about the future of the country. He was right to worry.
Eight years later, we are teetering on the verge of a large recession (if not an outright depression), involved in two unpopular wars abroad, and lagging behind most of the world in education and healthcare. To paraphrase a line Chris Rock used in a recent interview, “A president has two jobs: maintain peace and make money. Is that so much to ask?” Dubya’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, did both. Dubya did neither.
Did Dubya achieve anything? Yes, it would be silly to say he was completely useless as a leader. One can’t really blame Dubya entirely for the problems we are mired in now, but he can still be blamed. Is he a bad person? No, but he was easily manipulated by those who were close to him. Ultimately, though, he will bear most of the flak. Under him, regulations flew out the window, and the market operated of its own accord. Under him, defense spending ballooned at the expense of other, more necessary spending for domestic programs. Under him, we lost our respect in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be inaugurated, ushering in a new administration. I hope the change he promised will materialize into legislation and decisions that will lift our country out of the ditch into which it has sunk. Hopefully he will right the wrongs that have gone unchecked for the last eight years. Hopefully we will return to peace and prosperity. Hopefully.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated every year in the United States to commemorate the life and achievements of a man who managed to do so much in a life that was cut tragically short. He was a follower of Gandhi’s nonviolent approach and the use of civil disobedience as a powerful tool for change. Violence, to him, was never an answer to even the most dire problems. Indeed his steadfast devotion to peace earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, something that he accepted graciously, but never let define him. He was still the reverend from Georgia who sought to uplift those who were downtrodden.
We live in a time where violence has become the norm, where nonviolence–though idealized and uplifted in theory–is not seriously employed as a reasonable solution. We are engaged in two unpopular wars without a discernible end, and are mired in troubles that are progressively eating away at our resolve. Probably now, more than ever, we need the Rev. King to lead us from darkness to light. We may not have the man, but we have his legacy, his ideas, and his dream.
When obstacles rose in his path for racial equality for everyone, King found ways around them, and managed to achieve what he set out to do. When violent, fringe movements rose out of the civil rights movement, King distanced himself from them, sticking to his nonviolent path. When the Vietnam War broke out, King withheld support when to do so was considered unpatriotic. Indeed he wasn’t afraid to push through the opposition to stand up for what he believed in, and ultimately to stand up for what was right.
His dream finds applications even in today’s tough times. Today, Iraq and Afghanistan are still reeling from the violence of protests, of suicide bombers, and of war in general. Today, our social programs are languishing. Rev. King would have never supported our actions now, how we’ve put all our eggs into the proverbial military basket. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” he once said. If that is the case, we are undoubtedly standing at death’s door.
As a new president prepares to take the reins of a nation in shambles, I wonder what our next course of action will be. “[Man] is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.” In the face of unspeakable violence–some exacted by us–as well as a lagging economy, we could meet it with violence and greed, i.e. more of the same. Or we could take a leaf out of Dr. King’s book and try to meet the challenges of the new administration with intelligence, with magnanimity, and with compassion.
We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.
Dr. King’s dream must find new purpose in a world that, while somewhat improved from the one Dr. King experienced, still has many problems to overcome.
These were the words spoken by one of the captured terrorists implicated in the carnage that rocked Mumbai the last few days. His name is Azam Amir Kasab, a 21-year old from Pakistan. More importantly, he’s a 21-year old. What was I doing at 21? Studying, hanging out with friends, enjoying Ithaca, and planning my future, among other things. Kasab, at 21, had planned to die as he killed hundreds of people. Kasab narrated the whole story, with almost chilling nonchalance, according to an article by the Daily Mail.
“I was told to kill to my last breath,” he says, upon being asked about the details leading up to the massacre. Someone instructed him to take lives, as many lives as possible (the original goal was 5,000 in total), and take those lives until you have no life to live yourself. Someone, who presumably Kasab got to know pretty well if he and his fellow terrorists were “highly trained in marine assault,” something that requires presumably, a lot of time to do. That someone told him and the others to kill. That in itself is despicable. Yet to be told to kill to your last breath takes it to a whole new level. That someone knew these people were totally vested in the cause, and knew they would lay down their lives if need be. These people also happen to be young men, barely into their twenties, men who had barely started to live their own lives before being told to lay them down. That someone could see these men gleefully and passionately take lives as their own life left their lungs. That someone, or someones, are the real monsters here, not the ones who were cast out to kill and die. They are killers, but they are also victims.
It is so sad, how young people are being so readily recruited to kill in the name of some vague, greater good. It’s so sad how the angst and uncertainty of young adulthood is being exploited to turn them into killing machines. Blame, again, can’t be placed on Pakistan or on Muslims as a whole. For those of you who are placing the blame on their shoulders, you don’t really understand the issue. Yes, it seems that Pakistani Muslims were behind the attacks, but this is more the actions of a few, disillusioned fundamentalists, not the whole population. Unfortunately, fundamentalists get more air-time than the more moderate majority, and the media carries unbelievable influence. This is true not just for Muslims, but Hindus, and other groups.
Maybe it’s easier for me to say “lets just all be friends,” when many of my closest friends are Muslim and/or Pakistani. I have been to Eid services, and I have bowed my head as Arabic prayers were recited. They have attended pujas and bowed their heads when Sanskrit prayers were recited. We confide in each other, laugh together, cry together, dance together, sing together, and pretty much do everything together. Maybe it is easier because we are one generation removed from the conflicts of the motherland. Yet, even in spite of these attacks, have come together and become closer, united against senseless violence. We are people first, our allegiances should never make us forget that.
Rather than war against those who have hurt us, perhaps it is time to improve relations between India and Pakistan. Maybe then, kids on either side would be less likely to take up arms against their supposed enemies, especially if their supposed enemies were now their friends.
Finally we have overcome so many hurdles, so many years of pain, so many years of suffering, of ignorance. Finally we have opened our eyes and see not in color, but in competence. We see abilities, we see potential, and we can finally see past race. We have finally chosen someone who deals not in fear, but in hope. We have finally chosen change.
Thank you for helping Barack Obama to win this election. Thank you for restoring not only my faith, but the faith of most of the country, if not the world in the America’s humanity. After eight years of George W. Bush, thank you for turning the tables and calling for us to seize our place on the world stage again not as a war monger, but as a bringer of stability, and of peace.
My dad was watching the results pour in and commented “I didn’t think I’d actually live to see this.” I don’t think I thought I would see it either, and if I did, I thought I would have been much older. This is a testament to the power of the youth, in part, but also a testament to the changing views of the country. We are fast becoming a country that cares less about the superficial, and that’s a very encouraging sign. No amount of smear tactics, no amount of false rumors could derail us from our goal: change for the better.
This is not to deny that John McCain was a good candidate, but unfortunately he just wasn’t right for this time and wasn’t right for our country’s needs as they stand now.
Change is here, change is finally here.