A few months ago, a letter began circulating the interwebs positing a vision of the future four years into Obama’s presidency. It is a bleak picture to say the least. As I read the letter, I am particularly struck by the sense of hopeless that undergirds the writer’s ideas. Believe me when I say it is not the politial opinions of the writer that I am responding to, but the quiet idea that if we don’t have “our guy” in the White House, we have lost something of our cause.
So, just as was the case with the last two installments, I have been writing a fictional letter from the future, not so much as a defense of Obama but more a call to a more Christian handling of politics and history… one rooted in hope rather than fear. It seemed appropriate to post the last installment on the day of the inauguration.
Because of the length of the total piece, I broke it up into a three parts. Here is the promised continuation (part 2) of the “Letter From 2011″…you can find the other installments under listed under “Letter from 2011.”
Without further au juice, I give you the final installment of the nail-biting thriller “Letter from 2011.” Closed captioning unnecessary.
…Sacramento Mayer Kevin Johnson and DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee have set a hopeful tone for public schools throughout the US. Johnson with the success of his St. Hope Academy. The overall impact of charter schools nationwide has given energy to a system that desperately needed a shot in the arm. We’ve also seen a reconstituted effort to invest in the arts with academies and while public education still has miles of roadwork ahead, the map looks somewhat clearer than before.
Military Policy/Foreign Policy/A Changing Global Landscape
Following the lead of Ahmed Maher and the April 6th community in Egypt, the online community in Iran and Afghanistan has made it’s youthful, energetic and politically moderate presence felt. Over social networking sites like Facebook, dissenting voices from these countries have formed bonds with other users all over the globe, drumming up sentiment and support.
Similarly in Afghanistan, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh’s “Prison Letters”, which, despite the best efforts of a repressive government, continue to make their way onto the internet and are now being published internationally. Originally sentenced to death for openly questioning the treatment of women within Islam, his sentence was (mercifully?) lessened to twenty years imprisonment. He immediately began writing and somehow these letters continue to find their way out of the prisons and onto the computer monitors of an enormous and growing Muslim populace. Popular rumor is that many of Sayed’s own prison guards have been swayed by his writing and are assisting in the release of each document.
In Iran, Ahmadinejad’s presidency is loosing footing among neighboring Arab nations and even more-so among his own citizens. Much of which has to do with maturation of the generation coming of age now in Iran. The hushed tones of quiet grumbling among a generation who, four or five years ago, was still too young to effect much change, has become the constant harangue of Iran’s largest demographic. While these young men and women certainly aren’t looking to replicate a particularly American way of living, they are not the least bit anti-western and have a vision for a more globally integrated Iran. The cautious and oftentimes nervous patience of the EU and the US is starting to pay off.
Joseph Cirincione’s contribution has also paid major dividends as he has been instrumental in brokering de-proliferation agreements between several nuclear powers, beginning with the US and including Iran. Fewer nukes means a safer world… period.
What I am most stuck by in all of this is the underlying historical truth that when revolutionary, redemptive ideas finally do make their way onto the public stage, we often find that far more than we thought share those ideas. The efforts to suppress revolutionary ideas never last as long as the ideas do and the same goes for the repressive regimes themselves.
Another effect of the connectedness of people over the internet is that the public categorization of whole nations as “evil” or even “good” is a political game whose day has likely seen its last. The tone set by the Obama white-house in this area has been very helpful but once again, the shrinking world has meant citizens of greatly divergent nations growing to know one another more personally and more completely. We are, all of us, growing more comfortable with complexity and closeness. The international community has ceased to accept “because they hate us” as a viable explanation for or justification of international conflict and even local violence.
Unfortunately, The US pullout from Iraq was not what some had hoped. There is more of a US military presence remaining in Iraq than many congressional Dems expected. Still, the Iraqi people have responded to the pullout in mainly positive ways. Unqualified support from the US had the positive effect of helping the Maliki government deal militarily with its strongest military foes (including the Sadr movement). Yet the adverse effect was that the open-endedness of the US commitment allowed a lackadaisical approach to Iraq’s long term development. Life is still quite trying in Iraq, but the worm is turning and it is turning on the will of the Iraqi people.
Brother, I know I don’t need to convince you of this but there are forces working in the world whose influence and reach is much greater than that of America. Some call it the Force of History, some Progressive Social Evolution,.. I choose to see it as the Hand of the Divine.
The Economy and The Poor
Financially, this has been one of the most difficult times in most of our memories. The market has yet to stay above 9,500 for very long despite the recovery of major sectors of industry as well as new growth in others. There is fear that the accelerated growth in green industry will only end in a bursting of the “green bubble” much as we had seen with previous patterns in tech. We’ll see how that plays out. In the meantime, the largest sector of job growth nationwide has been with companies like Amyris with whom I know you finally applied; good call. I always thought the “Men’s Bakeware” idea was better left an idea and glad you didn’t pursue it.
In light of the hard times we’ve seen, there have been a few very positive repercussions. For instance, the decline in overall consumer spending has definitely had it’s down side, but it also has meant that we’re beginning to learn to live more simply. It began with some simple things in my case, like making coffee at home and cooking more often, but has extended to my spending habits overall.
I read a report detailing how the physical size of the average house has started leveling out after years of fostering our tendency to take up far more space than we need. Sales of consumer electronics have taken something of a hit as well. In fact, Kansas City artist Dylan Mortimer recently installed a piece in downtown Kansas City whose centerpiece is the 120 inch plasma television Sony produced just a year previous. The piece is comical and powerful all at once, entitled “Nothing’s On.” You, as one of the few guys who held on to his tube television until the bitter end, are going to love it.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a trend of generosity has grown out of our financial hardship. Once again, concern for the poor in Africa, South America and India has begun to take root here in our own neighborhoods, particularly among a generation whose lifestyle is simpler and less encumbered, influenced by the popularity of “The New Monasticism” and voices like Shane Claiborne.
Meanwhile, during the last few years middle-income Americans have faced some of the questions low-income Americans have always wrestled with (long-term savings, retirement fears, end of the month bills) and this tension has given birth to a sense of solidarity, you might say. I’ve watched several friends whose live were turned upside down financially who have gotten back on their feet with a renewed commitment to use their time and treasure more redemptively. Donations to local shelters as well as commitments to child sponsorship programs like Compassion International have spiked, which few would have seen coming when the “financial crisis” first hit.
Open Source Industry
David Rowe’s telecom model and Massimo Banzi’s Arduino board have quite literally opened the door to a new direction for industry worldwide. The term “Open Source” has become as much a buzzword as “Green” ever was and equally important. The level of creativity and innovation we are seeing in the tech world is exciting and unparalleled. The sharing of ideas and designs among Open Source enthusiasts has breathed a vibrant new life into the DIY spirit of America in particular where, even the products and programs teenagers are developing have been both useful and profitable globally.
Of course some of what is being produced is a bit over the top but that comes with the territory, I suppose.
Before I end the letter, I wanted to offer a couple words of wisdom from the few that I have.
First, is that while Obama’s platform was “Change” and the expectations he entered office with were rather over-dramatized, we’re all coming to grips with the fact that change happens slowly. Always too slowly. After three years what we are seeing is still more or less a shift in trajectory rather than a flamboyant revolution. I suppose the very fact that there as many inspired and active communities as there are is something of a dramatic change itself. Perhaps that’s the most important kind of change a democracy can see; the investment of its people.
Second and more importantly, I’ve learned a great deal about hope. Specifically, that hope is a choice we make. Hope is what we read into the future. It is infused into the days we see before us by our wills and is rooted in our dreams. I’ve realized that to look blankly at the destructive patterns currently at hand and extrapolate the future is to rule out not only the influence of our better selves but also the goodness of the God. So, take hope; not because there is evidence of it but because there seldom is and because in order to remain human, we must.
Sincerely and in Love from The FUTURE,