Thursday, January 27, 2005

Heal the world...

...make it a better place,
for you and for me
and the entire human race.
There are people dying;
if you care enough for the living,
make a better place
for you and for me.

So sang Michael Jackson in his admittedly sappy 1991 song "Heal the World," which I recently listened to (explanation: I'm listening to all 2256 songs--that's 8.36 GB of music, if you're curious--in my iTunes playlist), and which recently set me thinking.

It occured to me that the hope that inspires this song has rather disappeared from the American worldview. A hopeful inaugural speech from a President is met with incredulity from a skeptical public, who doesn't really expect there to be any real progress toward anything approaching a moral ideal any time soon.

Why is this? Where did our hope go? Wasn't there a time when we were inspired when our President gave us a mission, before this decade is out...? Where did American hope go?

Is it, in a post-modern, Fanonian/Socialist way, an admission that maybe the world doesn't need healing, thank you very much? I think not. Last year was, after all, a global year of voting. Something in the model of democracy and rights seems to have taken hold.

Is this loss of hope, perhaps, the real result of September 11th? That we no longer care to hope for the world, or dare to hope that the world can indeed be healed? Maybe.

I'm alarmed by something I read today. Michael Howard, the Conservative leader in Britain, is running on an anti-immigration platform; he wants to set a quota on the number of people offered political asylum in the UK. (How does that work? You've been tortured for your political beliefs, but you're the 1001st person to have been tortured, so go sod off!?!?) Such insularity is now endemic in Europe. The idea is, protect ourselves, before even thinking others. So what if we used to be "the other"--these are dangerous times.

(Protecting ourselves is indeed an admirable goal. But since when is immigration a weakness, and not a strength?)

To a very large extent, this insularity has taken root in this country. Restrictions on immigration--beyond securing borders to closing borders--are closer every day; they were almost inserted into the post-9/11 report legislation. Sure, we'll donate when a massive tsunami overtakes some islands in the Indian Ocean, but the hopeful idea that America could effect positive change in the world--and that the world would embrace an American ideal--is gone.

Whatever its cause--bad foreign policy by a botched administration, the necessities of the war on terror, the follies of capitalism, MJ being charged with child molestation, or something else--I mourn its loss.

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