99 problems... but a bird ain't one

Sunday, November 11, 2012

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NICELY done, President Obama. Big congratulations on making history yet again — this time, the first president since Roosevelt to win a second term in the face of high unemployment — and decisively proving that the past four years were not a social experiment, a novelty which had just about worn thin, and from which the American people were eager to walk away.

It doesn't matter the spin the pundits will put on it. They don't know jack. (And let's not even get started on polls. *Insert derisive snort here.* Between the ones that claimed the JLP and PNP were neck and neck in the Jamaican general election last December, and the American ones that declared a so-called "dead heat" for Obama and Romney, if I never again hear the results of another poll, it will still be too soon.)

The fact of the matter is, Obama and his Democrats won. Again. This, after a hard-fought campaign, which at times reminded one of the storyboard for a Hollywood blockbuster - for example, the slapstick viscera of the debates (especially the first one) complete with grisly metaphorical images of spurting aortas and exploding innards (Obama's), and Romney's curious Dawn of the Dead-like transformation from bloodless automaton, after Anne's intervention ("We bought a three-pack of shirts at Costco!"), to real-life He-man and mighty warrior capable of leading the free world.

Still, with all of this, Obama prevailed.

And nobody could have been more relieved than Big Bird.

On election night, a picture circulating on Facebook saw Big Bird in a line at the polls, beak determined, ready to go postal on Mitt Romney with his ballot. Thank God, Obama prevailed and the beloved yellow bird didn't have to lose his job on Sesame Street, a position that was actually threatened because Romney told Jim Lehrer, during the first debate, that he would make cuts to PBS from the federal budget were he to become president of the United States.

But that crisis has been averted and we can all breathe a little better now. Long live Big Bird! Long live Sesame Street!

Of course, the paradox of Big Bird is that, as worried as we may have been about his future (one FB friend breathed a sigh of relief that the Bird, now in his dotage, was spared the ignominy of having to become Gordon's crack whore, now that his day gig is once again safe - Roland, you're sick!), the truth is that Big Bird is an emblem of the Old Guard, the very one Obama's re-election seemed to suggest the American people have rejected.

Forget their politics; Mitt Romney, his Republican party and supporters (an older, whiter electorate) all share a certain philosophical point of view that does not take into account the present reality of modern-day America. All the key areas that they lost out to the Democrats on -- immigration, women's reproductive rights, minority issues, gay marriage -- are the very stuff that constitutes the zeitgeist of America right now. Big Bird is a symbol of what Americans would probably see as the good old days. That poor, naive bird was constantly getting the slip from Mr Snuffleupagus. Now, all Big Bird would need to do to prove his existence was simply take a digital picture. Hello?

Camelot doesn't exist anymore. The fact is: The racial, sexual and economic make-up of the United States has changed. Some may cynically complain that the changes are negligible. Or maybe they're not happening fast enough. But I guess that all depends on viewpoint. But check this: When I used to watch foreign TV back in the eighties, news anchors were all white. It took a while, but 30-some years later, there's a new reality. White TV news anchors are almost an anachronism. Watching broadcast and cable TV is a vastly different experience than the one I had in my adolescence.

Never let it be said that I'm accusing Romney and the Republicans of racism. What I am accusing them of is fear-mongering. Let's take back the country, was their anthem. Take back the country from what, though? From whom? The foreigner, with his fancy newfangled ideas about science, diplomacy, tolerance, and respecting the rights of others, and whatnot? Seriously? Look, most people don't willingly embrace change. Change is shifting sand beneath our feet and it makes us feel vulnerable and on the verge of being upended, our lives, our carefully constructed routines all seem at risk of crashing down around us. A hurricane like Sandy, which we experienced the other day, put my life in freefall for two days and had me spiralling to soul-stealing depths of depression because of the disruption of my light-assisted daily routine. (Until, that is, I witnessed the system become the frankenstorm that wreaked havoc on the eastern seaboard of the United States.) I abhor the chaos of change. Who doesn't?

Certainly not the security guards urged on by an angry mob at UTech involved in that beating of the alleged gay teenager two weeks ago. (And let me just say here that I've never been more embarrassed and thoroughly ashamed to be a Jamaican than I was at the barbarism that was reported, the brutish mindlessness of the herd instinct that is becoming an alarming way of life on this fair isle.) Beating a gay person no more changes his sexuality than lynching a black man makes that black man the "right" colour. A significant section of our society still can't understand that "human rights" applies to all humans. Not only the ones whose lifestyles we can stomach.

We may not like it, but change is inevitable; otherwise, we're all stagnating. Or worse, we're dying.




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