Tuesday, 20 January 2009

What might Obama mean for Canadians?

President Obama's inauguration speech was on TV today while I was at work. Luckily for me, I happened to be out on the mental health housing unit at the jail where I work, and so I was able to catch the last half of the new President's speech on the inmates' small unit TV. About half of the inmates on the unit were watching too.

It was a neat moment, all of us from different walks of life watching this historic event. I got goosebumps from time to time; inmates clapped and cheered at certain rousing points of the speech. The inmates and I exchanged some smiles and comments during the speech, with one inmate saying at one point, "I wish I was an American." In reading some of the comments at the CBC website this evening, it seems quite a few Canadians are expressing the same kind of sentiment.

I wouldn't go quite that far myself. I've always been glad to be Canadian, and glad that there are some differences between our two countries. For instance, I'm happy we have Quebec in our country and I like that we have two official languages. I'm also glad that our country gained independence via negotiation, and I don't mind being characterized as being overly polite.

That being said, listening to Obama's speech today, it sure made me wish (again!) for some visionary leadership. I do think that Obama's presidency will have some positive effects on Canada, which is a fairly obvious statement to make I suppose. Some of the effects I hope to see 'rub off' on Canadian politics look something like this:
  • A move towards a more open and respectful political tone overall.
  • The re-valuing of meaningful discourse, rather than the same old 'one-up-manship.'
  • The re-valuing of science when making policy decisions rather than relying on the same old, tired ideological dogma.
  • A renewed focus on what we all have in common as Canadians rather than playing one region or party against the others.
  • Increased acceptance that the world has changed, and that it's time to pull together to work on the challenges that face the human race and the planet we all live on.
  • Honest appreciation for the day-to-day grind that ordinary people face just making ends meet.
  • Some better speech writing - c'mon people, surely there are some half decent Canadian speech writers out there who can help our politicians convey a sense of enthusiasm now and then!
Canadian parliament opens again next week, after a lengthy period of prorogue. I hope that Harper and Ignatieff took in Obama's speech today and decide to govern themselves accordingly. Yes they can!


SoapBoxTech said...

I think we see eye to eye on a great deal and even in this post I agree with a great deal of what you have said. However, on some key points I disagree rather vehemently.

One key point on which I disagree, is Canada's independence. Obviously we're not writing dissertations here, but I think it is arguable that Canada has never been truly independent. On paper we are not even truly independent. We continue to govern ourselves at the pleasure and by the consent of the British Crown. I know that this is something of a traditional nicety, but it is still law and this very state of parliamentary prorogue was granted by the Crown.

As for the speech, I completely agree with what you would like to see. I also know that he spoke quite eloquently on those topics, as is the case for Obama most of the time. But there is a big difference between talking about them, and doing them. He had no time at the State level to prove his word, and as far as I can see so far, he has shown no proof of doing so. He speaks of the leadership that America NOW has, yet he has filled his cabinet with Clinton/Bush people and Wall Street types. He has openly said that he will make decisions that the majority will disagree with, but that they must trust and obey anyway.

Im not going to go farther than that here, where I can't link to supporting articles, and the truth is that I don't even want to make up my mind about the guy completely yet. I want to see what he DOES.

Personally, I thought he should have left his charm at the hotel and just very warmly welcomed that amazing crowd of supporters, very openly laid out the present situation, and perhaps very briefly laid out his outline...and then he should have thanked everyone and GOT THE HELL TO WORK.

Instead, I saw a guy who will talk real nice, and expect everyone to do what they're told...for the benefit of all. What does that sound like?

Theresa said...

SBT - thanks for taking the time to comment and explain your position. I think we are probably closer in viewpoints than this blog post of mine may suggest.

I agree that we aren't truly independent from Britain, but I don't know that there is such a thing as true independence on any level anyway. From a Buddhist perspective, there is only interdependence and inter-being, so some remaining connection to British law don't bother me.

As to the speech, you're right, talk is cheap. I have hope that he will enact the things he speaks so eloquently about, and I think that the odds his actually following through with these things are better than they were with Bush or Clinton (although I wasn't paying attention much in the Clinton years so I'm mostly just assuming that). That being said, I had hoped for more of a break with the same old same old in his cabinet. I'm willing to wait and see what happens next though, because since I work in government myself, I know that oftentimes change comes more readily in successive quiet nibbles rather than in one big bite off the top.

I too will wait and see what he actually does before I make any firm conclusions. The main point in my current post is just that a change in tone and the extension of good will to the People can, and has, opened up so many good possibilities for positive change, and I'd really like to see that rub off a little up here in Canada.

Amber said...

I'm interested in the budget coming out next week. (Words I never thought I would say last year!) The contents of which, I think will tell quite a bit about whether the government is moving in the direction of change or not. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Theresa said...

I will be very interested in the contents of the budget too, Amber. I have a feeling it will have a little something to keep everyone happy enough so that it gets voted through. I'm a cynic when it comes to Harper though - I doubt the budget will represent any real direction of change, but just be a vehicle to keep him in power. But just like with Obama, I'm willing to wait and see what happens and what he actually does.

Anonymous said...

I canna say what Obama could mean for Canadians, but as an American, what a THRILL to be proud of our President again!!

Many people have scoffed and disparaged how moving Obama's speeches can be. But for me it is a pleasure to have a President who can inspire and encourage the nation. Isn't that more desirable than a leader who sows fear and divisiveness?

Also, the Pres. is in many ways a figurehead. It's unfortunate how many people think the Prez. has some kind of magic wand and can make things happen just by wishing it so. It is the people of a nation who do the work and make the difference and one of the Prez's roles is keeping the people energized and encouraged.

Yesterday, Inauguration Day, every where I went, people were smiling and happy and uplifted in a way I've never seen before. There was so much goodwill! People were genuinely optimistic about the future of the nation--even given the dire economy.

I am hopeful that good spirit will linger and expand into something that helps us turn the economy around. And that would be good for our northern neighbors, too!

Theresa said...

Hello Anon, thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment :) I do hope a spirit of good will and enthusiasm pervades the whole of the continent and beyond! The feeling you are describing is a lot like the one I have when I go to the big Folk Festival here every summer - just a bunch of happy people being kind and considerate to eachother. My faith in humanity is restored a little bit when that happens.

May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness :)

SoapBoxTech said...

I am as desirous of a general global spirit of goodwill as anyone could be, but I won't give up rationality in order to feel we're moving towards that goal. I remember hearing a good amount of regular people claiming to be inspired by and proud of that last guy too (although I think they usually had to work really hard to seem serious while doing so).

Anonymous really just proved my point tho. I am not trying to be rude or provocative here, but to be proud of any federal leader, after no time in office whatsoever, is nonsensical. I am convinced that such irrationality comes from desperation, and understandably so given the highly uncertain future of our society. But when we are so taken in by eloquent, carefully cadenced promises, we are setting ourselves up to be misled and manipulated.

I am curious in what way Anonymous sees the office of President of the USA as being a figurehead. Does this figurehead represent the public will or that of the large banking interests and corporate lobbyists/campaign supporters? If the answer is the former, then the USA (and the world) should not have had to be subjected to the last administration for 8 years. If the answer is the latter, then this fellow (admittedly a better spoken and more inspiring image than the last) is as potentially dangerous as the last. And from where I stand, his actions so far show little reason to believe otherwise.

Sure, at the time of this writing he has signed an order to close the Guantanamo military prison in a year. I wonder where the prisoners will end up by then. Seems somewhat of a token offer to me.

And sure, he is trying to "do things" in regards to the ailing economy, but it also seems that he mostly just intends to try to re-create the pre-2008 economic paradigm. He also seems to be basically continuing to implement the advice of the same camp which created the whole mess, but demanding increased oversight is supposed to make that ok.

Theresa...sorry again for going off a little here on your comments section. hehe.

I agree that our viewpoints are likely pretty close. I wasn't too pleased with how my opening read but I didn't want to get hung up there so I just continued. As for independence, I was speaking primarily from the national sovereignty perspective. Even then I know it is complicated, trade relations, etc etc.

When it comes to Obama tho,well I guess its pretty clear what I think he represents. I really do hope I am wrong.

Theresa said...

Do feel free to opine, SBT! Discussion of varying viewpoints is always a good thing.

It's funny: tonight I was listening to snippets of Obama's bailout plan and it sounded quite shotgun, just like Harper's does. When we were watching it, Gord said that maybe this is because no one really knows *what* to do. We live in interesting times, that's for sure.