The major lesson this game taught me – and I feel the major lesson it had to teach – was that, as a ruler, you will always be forced by events into distractions from your promised and intended course, and will also have to confront choices that are going, without a doubt, to make you unpopular to one degree or another.
To get a very good illustration of that, just look back over the campaign speeches made by both Obama and McCain before and after September, when the economy plummeted into crisis. If the subject and focus of Candidate Obama can be so quickly and drastically changed by a single event, how much more easily can it happen with President Obama?
But, still, I hear people talking about all the great things the new administration is going to accomplish.
No doubt they will. I have all the confidence possible that the Obama Administration is going to accomplish great things and will affect change in the way things are done in Washington, if only temporarily. But I am not fooling myself into thinking that all the ills I see around me – poverty, health care, recession, environment, racism, terrorism, and all the rest –a re going to magically be swept away by the glorious might of Barack the Messiah and to even imagine that one man, or one man’s leadership, can do so is not only to set oneself up for disappointment and disillusionment, but to damn the administration and administrator to certain failure.
How can anyone succeed with godhood is the expectation?
We tend to do that in this country; to set our heroes up on unattainably high pedestals, balanced precariously on the razor edge of worship, and when it inexorably tips over and spills that hero awkwardly and ignominiously upon the hard stones of reality, we turn out backs on him, shunning him for letting us down and for being less than the god we created.
We need to expect a great deal from President Obama and from his Administration. There are so many things that need to be fixed and which need to be changed, and we must insist that he do his best to do so. But we must – we must – allow him the reality to be human; to succeed and to fail, and to be at the mercy of events none of us can control.
I was talking to a friend the other day who is ten years my junior. I mentioned that, as a youth involved in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement of the 60s and 70s, I never thought I would live long enough to see either a female or African-American president. My friend, however, said that he always took for granted that he would see both, so much had the country changed in the time between our two high school careers. He said that, because of what had transpired in the 60s and 70s, it was a much greater reality that those would happen than it was when we were fighting for them.
This led me to ponder for a bit upon how I view that period of my life. For years, I have looked back with the perspective that, overall, we had failed to change the world, and I said so to my friend.
His reply was profound:
“You did change the world. But you did not remake it,” he said. “The world is a lot different now because of what you did in that time, but it was not completely made-over. The world is different, but it is not a new world.”
How wonderfully he put it!
I thought for a bit and then, with no little pride and relief, admitted that we had – all of us in those days, just as all of those before us and all those after us who worked and fought for change – had made a difference. It was not the degree of difference we thought we would make, or hoped we would make, but it was a difference and for the better.
That is how, I think, we must approach the new change of President Obama – with hope and high expectations (for we achieve as much or as little as we expect to achieve), but not with illusion and dreams. We have to understand that there is a limit to any human being and that, while we also bear responsibility to be active in the change, we are probably not the best judges of how great a change we finally witness.
To do anything else is to condemn the greatest hope with which we have been blessed in perhaps 60 years.
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