Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Has the U.S. Revolution reached its climax?

Following the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the United States' first MIXED-RACE president, which was the climax of months, no sorry, centuries of struggle and progress in that nation, I find myself asking: "has the U.S. Revolution finally reached its final stage?" That we are living through a moment of international history cannot be denied, and for that alone I am grateful.

The U.S. revolutiony era began in 1763 following the Seven Years' War and typical historiography tells us that it culminated with the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776 which militarily ignited the American War of Independence. By 1783 the British offered recognition of an independent United States of America. For many the "American Revolution" ended their, with the end of the War of Independence. Not so. The campaign for political independence was only one element of a much broader revolution. I don't believe that the American War of Independence should be compared to the French Revolution which began in 1789, and it certainly shouldn't be compared with the Haitian Revolution which was interwoven with the aforementioned French Revolution. The U.S. Revolution is something far more discreet. It has lasted for almost 250 years, and now we are witnessing its conclusion.

The Jeffersonian ear lasted broadly until the early 1820s, when it was superseded by the Jacksonian ear. Despite popular belief, the two eras shared more than they didn't. However, less than fifty years after its establishment, the United States became disunited and a drawn-out process began to create two nations out of one. The first shots were fired in 1860 in the revolution of 1860 in South Carolina. The counterrevolution of 1861 ensured war. The War Between the States or U.S. Civil War lasted for 5 years and resulted in the death of 620,000 Americans. They were killed by their compatriots on their own soil. American killing American, at places with haunting names such as "Shiloh" and "Antietam." Two issues domintated political thought in the South: Southern states rights and property rights and slavery. In the North one issue predominated: the preservation of the Union. Those issues are just as relevant today, albeit in a modernised context. Should the Federal Government be as big and powerful as it is? Should the Federal Government have the authority to get the United States over ten trillion of dollars of debt? Are the states united or disunited? Slavery of course is no longer an issue, but race is, and I'm not speaking about the simple black-white dichotomy which dominated typrical debate. The U.S. has a larger hispanic/Latino population that black population. In fact, in statistical terms the U.S. is the forth largest Latino country in the world after Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. The elction of Brack Obama represents a shift in U.S. politics. A represents a reaction not a revolution.

That so many people are investing so much hope in a single individual is foolish and ignorant and can only lead to disappointment. I think what people should be hopeful about is what Barack Obama's election and current popularity represents, and I'm not speaking about race here, but rather a notion that government is back in the hands of the regular people. There is a hint of Jeffersonian deomocracy in the election of Obama. One is reminded of that U.S. dictum: "government of the people by the people for the people." There is something modernly Jeffersonian about Barack Obama. That he is a great orator cannot be denied by even his most ardent critics, but speech and charisma alone do not make the man. Americans of colour may rightly consider Barack Obama a founding father, for in a sense he is.

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