I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama from Japan

Like most people I've been glued to the news lately, taking in a steady diet of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (to make sure I get all the facts). From what I understand everyone back home in the States has been paying close attention to the new administration as well--a really good sign that things are going to, dare I say it, CHANGE!
I'm not going to bore us all with the details, but I did see a great mini-doc on President Barack H. Obama Jr. (I love the way they abbreviated that during the inauguration--sad that Americans are so distrusting and hypersensitive to names like Muhammad, Al-anything, and Hussein). Sorry to be predictable, but it was a piece by Frontline: Dreams of Obama

Not surprising, but although Obama's name is probably the first thing out of the NHK (Nihon Housou Kyoukai=Japan Broadcasting Corporation) announcer's mouth every morning, he never goes into much depth other than the when and where. Oddly every person I've talked to this week knows more about Obama's limo than his personal history. And the town of Obama, Fukui Prefecture gets equal press coverage, especially during the election. So needless to say, the Frontline report on Dreams of Obama was fresh air to me, and I'm trying to take in as much as I can before the spring Kousa (yellow sand = a cocktail of sand from the Gobi & the desert-once-called-the-Aral Sea, Chinese pesticides and fertilizers, and the occasional stone or hiker from the Great Wall). If you look at that satellite photo Kousa on that link you'd know what I'm talking about. Here's one more chance: Kousa. And here's the Japanese Meteorology Center's page used for tracking Kousa. From March on those little white blips will starting looking like a Bush/FOX News Era terrorist alert scale.

Ok, so enough of that. The man of the hour is without question Obama. For people wondering, The Inauguration was broadcast live here in Japan as well, I should know I stayed up until 2:00 am to watch it last Wednesday morning.
And while I'm attempting to stay level-headed and not jump on "the world is saved" bandwagon, I have to say that it inspires me that so many students at my schools 1) know who Obama is, and 2) seem genuinely interested about him being the new US President.

It may be a stretch, but I did a lesson this week on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech, coupled with the students' expressing their future dreams, and it was probably one of the best lessons I've ever had at Yasu High School (my alternate to Kusatsu). Students were asking me about Obama, and it gave me the opportunity to relate how his story was possible because of people like Dr. King and Rosa Parks (of whom some of the students had also heard of--boy did that make my day!).

Plus, I find that if I quote certain Obama coinages--"Yes, you can!"--when a students says "英語は無理やん (English is impossible)”, they actually appear charged from within, and I'm not talking about a saccharine jolt, and respond, "Yes, we can!" with a smile. I hold great respect for someone who can inspire so many people, who for many (let's just say, 8?) years of their lives have been suffering from the malaise and apathy of excessive luxury. For this generation, the generation of yours truly and always, motivation has seemed like a cause lost in video games, cell phones, beer pong––all things that the majority of people in the who live in poverty cannot image, but for us they have flowed in with our growing expectation that a newer, smarter breed of entertainment would soon follow. For Obama to come along and impress people with messages of hope, and to get people on board despite his pragmatic balance of responsibility and the need for a degree of socialism (despite how much I know many Americans cringe at the idea of it usurping democracy)––that's just amazing.

Is this going a bit too far?
In all honesty, we need to give Obama more power, hell, I vote to make him honorary dictator, because we need someone with his sensibility and devotion to social justice to have the power to make the CHANGE he is pledging. Controversial as it may seem, I believe the world will best be run by this mixed-breed of compassionate dictator (like the Tiger Woods of humanitarianism and politics). I worry that our current system is still too lethargic and will be weighed down by people who still expect to live with the same standard of luxury they've been deluded into thinking is commonplace for the place...50 years.

I guess the only thing we can do is give our best and hope the rest of We the People get on board. If not, we could always hold-off on closing Gitmo... We let Bush get away with it for how many years?


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