Looking back and moving forward - Macleans.ca

Looking back and moving forward


As I approach my first holiday season in New York City, I have been reading and listening to countless accounts of the first decade of the 21st century and how America has fared. The general view is that this past decade was the most trying since the 1940s. It started off with a presidential election that was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Then, of course, came the horrific events of 9-11. The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq followed, while Hurricane Katrina only added to the heavy burden of the American people. Finally, the financial meltdown and the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression closed out the decade, leaving most Americans in a state of uncertainty and vulnerability.

The rest of the word did not fare much better. The economic woes of the United States were felt globally and natural disasters, like the tsunami of 2004 that left over 200,000 people dead, devastated entire regions. Terrorism continued on its ugly course and was not just relegated to U.S. soil. We need only think of London, Madrid, Mumbai, and Bali to remind us that terrorism has no boundaries. Tensions in the Middle East intensified with two armed conflicts involving Israel. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea continued their nuclear sabre rattling. Political divisions also surfaced in Iran and parts of China. And finally, an anti-climactic outcome in Copenhagen rounded out a less-than-stellar decade on the international stage.

Americans were hopeful at the start of the past year, welcoming the inauguration of a new president. Barack Obama, the first African-American to hold the job, was seen as a vehicle for generational change. And while his activist agenda did much to stir optimism, suffice it to say it is premature to conclude on his success or failure. The new administration is still grappling with a sluggish recovery; Congress appears more divided along partisan lines than ever; potential health care reform seems to be leaving few people enthused despite the general consensus that major reform is needed; and the Democrats are showing faultlines in a crucial election year while the Republicans seem united against Obama but not as united on other matters.

Looking back may not be the best way to build confidence and generate optimism for the next decade for our American friends. But, as the cliché goes, by looking at the glass half-empty, we’ll forget it’s also half-filled. History has shown America has a way of rebounding. There is something intangible in the American spirit and unwritten in the U.S. Constitution—it is that in the face of adversity, the American people find ways to rise up, face the challenges, and eventually regain the upper hand.

The beginning of the next decade will not be easy for America and the world. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq rage on in different forms; the geographic region of Pakistan and India remains unstable and dangerous; Iran appears bent to follow a course toward greater isolation and perhaps confrontation; the outcome of the climate change debate remains uncertain; and terrorism is still very much a fact of 21st century life. Yet, the lone superpower, America, and the emerging one, China, are on talking terms and the major economies of the world have never been so interrelated and interdependant. This is grounds for optimism and hope as the new year beckons. This is the main reason to look forward, knowing full well that progress cannot happen if we are prisoners of hindsight.

Happy holidays.

[John Parisella is former chief of staff to Premiers Robert Bourassa and Daniel Johnson, and co-author of Élections: Made in USA. He currently serves as Quebec’s Delegate General in New York.]


Looking back and moving forward

  1. "Yet, the lone superpower, America, and the emerging one, China, are on talking terms and the major economies of the world have never been so interrelated and interdependant."

    The reports coming out of Copenhagen don't quite contradict your assertion given that someone talking down to someone else implies that they're still on talking terms. That said, Mark Lynas' article in yesterday's UK Guardian is an eye opener on who called the shots in Copehagen. Hint: it wasn't Obama.

    "…an anti-climatic outcome in Copenhagen rounded out the less-than-stellar decade on the international stage."

    Thank goodness the Chinese doused the West's suicidal AGW alarmism that Obama had also signed on to. At a time when the American economy is sputtering at best, this genius wants to tank it by taxing the daylights out of carbon, with a target to reduce emissions to 1910 levels. We'll be living like the Waltons if Obama the ideologue has his way.

    • global warming is largely man generated . All reputed scientists agree. Only ………ah yes…Sarah Palin disagrees on Facebook!

  2. Americans were hopeful at the start of the past year, welcoming the inauguration of a new president. Barack Obama…

    Umm…not all Americans "welcomed" Obama, as his razor-thin margin of victory and the vituperative post-election town-halls and Teabagging rallies demonstrated.

    There is something intangible in the American spirit…it is that in the face of adversity, the American people find ways to rise up…

    "Rise up"? Actually, Americans are usually dragged up–either by their own élites or by external forces outside their control–before they "regain their upper hand", unless there's a better way to describe Lincoln's Civil War, FDR's New Deal, Pearl Harbor, and LBJ's Civil Rights Act.

    • If Conrad Black's history can be trusted silent majority guy Nixon's only difference with Kennedy or Johnson on civil rights was pacing – which I find pretty credible given that Martin Luther King voted Republican. I don't know if it's a better way to describe them, but I share the views that the economic inanities of the New Deal were the inflection points of the depression along with Hoover's passage of the tariffs, and that the Great Society ultimately dragged Americans down without a really compelling explanation for why black Americans were rising faster before it.

      • Obama remains the best hope when you look at where America was a year ago . The Peace prize is a recognition of how bad a shape the US was in under Bush.A good start for Obama . It should have been said in this blog.

  3. "The loosely organized group made of up mostly conservative activists and independent voters that's come to be known as the Tea Party movement currently boasts higher favorability ratings than either the Democratic or Republican Parties, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll coming out later today." Wall St Journal, Dec 16 '09

    I was thinking of you the other day, Parisella, when I saw this story. I was thinking of how you would have spun this as a fringe movement, nothing to worry about, and I would have been greatly irked.

    Anyways, Merry Christmas/Happy New Year.

    • Your capacity to be a buzzkill should never be underestimated jwl. Keep spreading the light.

      • Hacks like Parisella need their buzz killed, on Christmas more than ever.

        • well so much for christmas spirit ,avr . So typical of the far right-pious , righteous and hypocritical.

  4. Welcome back Parisella. Nice to hear from you. Where have you been? Missing reading from you.