Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A new dawn

Many thought this would have been the stuff of science fiction: a landslide victory for the first truly left wing president who also happens to be the first black president. Bible belt states suddenly turning blue, Florida and Ohio regained, popular vote near 70% in the Northeast and in much of California, people out in the street partying until the late hours. "Yes, we can." The 270 mark was crossed very early during election night: people scarred by the last two bitter election experiences, by the agony of the Florida recount of 2000, by the unexpected debacle of 2004, saw it coming in a flash this time, "a tsunami on its way" as the concession speech of one of the Republican candidates to Congress phrased it. The election was already won shortly after Ohio was called, but when Florida also was called people gathered to watch the results here in Los Angeles county broke into a "We have overcome today": it was not a victory but a landslide. The dream of the sixties is the reality of today. "The dreams of our fathers are the lives of our children." It is nice, for once, to see them come true.

They say the 20th century was a "short century" that really started in 1915 and ended in 1991. Perhaps the 21st century only started tonight. We have lived the past eight years trapped in a world without a future. Now a door has opened and suddenly we have been projected into the future. A future nobody dared to predict. It could have been the stuff of science fiction and perhaps it could not: no science fiction writer could have been so daring as to envision a world where, after eight years of xenophobic propaganda, people would come out en masse and vote a half-African young man with a Muslim name to be commander in chief. It happened.

In 1989 Stanislaw Lem published his last science fiction novel (the beautiful "Peace on Earth", a poignant story about the arms race). He argued that it would be his last because history had outdone the possibilities of the imagination: in that year, just as today, no science fiction writer would have dared to imagine the world that history made. When Philip Dick made the main character of his 1966 science fiction novel "A crack in space" a man campaigning to become the first black president of the US, he located it into a remote future, far away from our life time. The 1960s were the time when people started to dream the dreams that seemed to have died by the end of the century. What today's historic day shows is that they are alive and kicking, alive and ready to build that world that they had begun to envision half a century ago.

On the events that "ended" the 20th century, in the good and the bad, much had been said. On the event that "started" the 21st century today much will be said in the coming years, but one thing it proves for sure is that society is capable of regeneration. In the name of all those people who belong to the so called "underrepresented groups", an understated term for all those people who had been traditionally suppressed, denied full participation in the decision making processes, whose contributions have been denied, stolen, destroyed because of their physical appearance, because of the bigotry of traditional society, in their name today history has moved forward into the light.

Yes, there is a future. A future where science will be no longer suppressed in the name of religious fundamentalism, where education will finally become a priority, where the most powerful man in the world will finally no longer be a white man. Welcome 21st century, we are now ready to celebrate its coming.