All Era's Come to an End: The Conservative Tide Recedes
by Zzyzzy, Wed Nov 05, 2008 at 08:23:01 AM EST
Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled "All Eras Come to an End: The Anne Frank Tree." I reported that the Amsterdam City Council had just announced that the Anne Frank Chestnut tree will have to be cut down due to a fungal infection. As Anne Frank wrote in her diary on Wednesday, February 23rd, 1944 (the 597th day of her imprisonment in the Annex, and the 3rd year, 9th month and 9th day of the German occupation of Holland):
It's lovely weather outside and I've quite perked up since yesterday. Nearly every morning I go to the attic where Peter works to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs. From my favorite spot on the floor I look up to the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.
In our minds, the earth will always be solid; Ann Frank will always be a teenager; and her chestnut tree is forever standing. In reality, all eras, all life and all matter must come to an end. Even the earth will one day be engulfed by the sun when it inflates into a red giant. Yesterday, November 4, 2008, Nixon's and Reagan's America came to an end. To many Americans under 50, like the rock underneath our feet, America has always been conservative, and the historical record of Franklyn Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal is merely an ancient fairy tale.
In the last 40 years, the Republicans won all three open seat presidential elections and seven of ten presidential elections. The Republicans won an unprecedented 49 states in 1972 and 1984. They won forty plus states in 1980 and 1988. Among the Democrats, only Jimmy Carter managed to eke out a majority of the popular vote. The Republicans were bold and from the conservative wings of their party, while the Democrats were Southerners who governed from the center.
The last time the Democrats won an open seat election with more than 50 percent of the popular vote was in 1856. Although many will dispute this claim by fairly noting that most Democrats back then would be more comfortable in today's Republican Party, the Whigs and Republicans were the pro-big business parties of their day. In 1860, many Democrats were against slavery, and thus, it is unclear how many of you would have been Republicans in 1860. I suspect that most of you would have been anti-slavery Democrats had you lived during the Civil War, without the advantage of knowing the future.
Nevertheless, one more legacy of slavery has finally come to an end. America has now elected a Black president. From the view point of 1860, Barack Obama is a symbol of an impossible dream; a person born into a family consisting of three races, then growing up to be president of the United States of America.
The good news is that with the end of an era, a new era begins. Perhaps, in this era, we will once again help those who are less fortunate. Perhaps, in this era, we will become stewards of the earth, and allow all children reach their potential. That is why it is significant that Obama represents a generational change. For the past sixteen years, the politicians of the baby boom generation have been obsessed with fighting the battles and the cultural wars of the 1960s. Yesterday, America said enough, its time to rebuild our institutions and economy.
As I mentioned in my article, the chestnut tree had been a reminder of the cruelty of humankind. But we humans have the power of imagination. We have the power of language. We also have the power to ponder the ideals of peace and humanitarianism. We do not need to see the chestnut tree standing to use our powers. I believe Barack Obama won this election because with the use of language, he inspired us to ponder the ideals of peace and humanitarianism.
But let me remind you, one election does not make an idea endure. In order for the ideals of peace and humanitarianism to endure, these ideals must win from election to election, and from generation to generation. Thus, our task is never over.