Fine words and faded dreams

I was almost 20 years old when John F. Kennedy made this pledge:

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans … Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship,support any friend,oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

Inspiring rhetoric, but ultimately empty promises. Half a century later there are many “friends” of those United States who have missed the liberty boat. Racism, parochialism and ignorance are still rampant in the U.S.A. despite the election of a mixed race president. Protectionism, oil, the pork barrel and unenlightened self-interest still dominate U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

JFK filled my heart, and the hearts of many millions of others, with hope for a better world. Sadly, that feeling had waned even before an assassin’s bullet gave us Lyndon Johnson and killed hope completely. But, hope springs eternal and it flickered again when Robert Kennedy, a better man than his brother, looked likely to take the helm. Once again an assassin left us mourning for what might have been.

Then we had cause to dream once more of a better world. After five decades and eight more or less uninspiring occupants of the White House, the ponderous American presidential election process delivered a man who–we thought–had the intellectual power, the integrity and the ability to inspire which may just have enabled him to persuade his people to do great things.

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics”

Yes, we can

Well, we could have.

President Obama has the skills required to set the ball rolling. Nevertheless the forces of darkness have been ranged against him. The huge burden of expectation placed upon him could only have been successfully turned into reality with the continued help of those ordinary people who put him there.

But he had to ask for that help.

He has accomplished a lot, but in the really important issues he’s failed miserably. The forces of climate change denial are stalling any meaningful action. President Obama, along with most of the world’s top leaders didn’t even bother to turn up at Rio+20. I suppose, like that rest of us, they knew it would be the fiasco which transpired. Even more importantly, at least in the medium term, is that he totally capitulated to the robber barons of Wall Street.


He could’ve taken a lesson from FDR and appealed to the people. He could have said, “If you want me to deliver on my promises then, at the half-term elections, give me people in Washington who will back me up. ” If it worked, great, if it didn’t, he could at least have retired knowing he’d tried.

It’s not too late.

American voters could make it very clear to their Representatives, their Congressmen and Congresswomen; to their business, religious, community, political and union leaders; and to opinion makers everywhere that this time change must to happen. For too long special interest groups have hog-tied successive administrations. It’s time the people’s will was given its due.

If only the people–the 99%–had the wit to realise that they have that power. If only they would get off their backsides, read the quality press, and gain an understanding of the issues.

In 2008 three quarters of Americans supported this apparently good man, although it’s sobering to reflect that almost half of those who voted wished to see a narrow-minded, bigoted and ignorant woman a heartbeat away from being in his shoes.

Yes, you still can America. But it needs more than one man. The Dick Cheneys and Donald Regans of the world are plotting their return.

2 thoughts on “Fine words and faded dreams

  1. “a narrow-minded, bigoted and ignorant woman a heartbeat away from being in his shoes.”

    Who are you refering to here, do you mean Hillary C?


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