Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sad New Year

Last note of the day, from Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, who manages to quite capture my own feelings about the direction we've taken over the past five years (a period that has seen me move from Seattle to Western New York):
    I confess that, looking back on this recent American past, I find myself deeply saddened. If that note seems unduly grave, or partisan, for this festive week, apologies. In truth, few Americans seem happy with what we are becoming. The expansive sense of historic open-endedness, so palpable across all political divides a mere five years ago, as the year 2000 was dawning, has been replaced by a national claustrophobia, with the growing suspicion that we are hedged in by walls of our own creation.

    Yes, fear and a sense of victimhood understandably stalked us in 2001, but instead of shaking those alien feelings off, we used them to construct an emergency garrison, from which we take aim at others, but which, also, is turning out to be our self-made brig. ...

    Only five years ago, the uncharted future was spread before us. We were an optimistic and confident people. Our firm membership in the global community was as clear as the televised sequence of midnight celebrations - Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Delhi, Johannesburg, Paris - that circled the earth at the glorious millennium. Watching that rotation on an axis of joy, the only "homeland" we wanted was the very planet, and our "security" was everyone's. The human family was never more aware of itself than that night, and we Americans were never more a part of it.

    But this year, what a lonely nation we have become. And to how many fewer peoples are we the tribune of hope. How like exile is our "homeland," and what is "security" if it depends on suspicion of those who are unlike us?

That part about the new millenium celebrations got to me. Carroll might be overstating his case there, at least a little. To be honest, we in Seattle felt pretty much like we'd been left out of the world's celebration in 2000 - Seattle mayor Paul Schell had cancelled the city's Space Needle celebration after fears of terrorism had gripped the city (not to mention the millenium computer bug that never happened). How stupid we felt as the rest of the world (and, tentatively, the rest of America) erupted in joy. How sad that that same cloying, deadening fear that gripped Seattle in 1999 has now gripped the whole nation ... and threatens to drag it down.


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