Almost Canada

For the last four years, being a Canadian at Williams has been pretty easy. At a campus where 87 percent of the student body supported Barack and the other 13 percent probably would have supported him had his platform on the inheritance tax been different, being a citizen of a country where you can get married to someone of the same sex and celebrate by lighting a doob on the court house steps has even been envied by some. With every additional month of Dubya’s presidency, I have witnessed a notable decrease in American Ephs’ insistences on deliberately calling my home country “Canadia” and lambasting me for saying “sorry” and being nice. I have even been the flattered recipient of a trans-49th parallel marriage proposal from a Cheney-scarred Southern neighbour – that’s right, neighbour, not neighbor.

On Tuesday, that all changed. Undoubtedly, the United States moved in a progressive direction. America proved that democracy remains intact within its borders, reveling in a voter turnout of 62.5 percent, the highest in almost half a century (and I admit reluctantly, 3 percent above the turnout in the most recent Canadian federal election). Perhaps more importantly, as a result of the choice Americans made on Tuesday, the U.S. will soon boast a president who reflects what I’ve observed and experienced throughout my tenure here, a time overwhelmingly defined in positive terms. It will soon enjoy a leader that imbues complex issues with the required nuance and appears to disparage partisan politics. For the first time in almost a decade, the rest of the world will not be able to denigrate a country that does not deserve to be denigrated.

For all this cause for celebration, however, there is reason for sorrow. As a consequence of democracy’s and the Democrats’ victory, being a liberal is no longer going to be so easy and probably not so fun. Maureen Dowd and her other Times friends will have less fuel for their tireless fires; John Stewart and Stephen Colbert will have less rhetorical errors and hunting mishaps to sustain their cynicisms; and Will Forte will find himself without cause for lecherous smirk (and Will Ferrell will be without pressing reason to return to SNL).

So what does this mean for us Ephs? We have now chosen hope over grey hair and accordingly, committed ourselves to rehabilitating our broken faith and trading sarcasm for constructive discourse. Of course, those cynic stalwarts among us may maintain our former outlook; as reality converges with expectation, there is no doubt that Obama will have to balance some of his many promises, and these Cassandras will continue to perpetuate pessimism. I suspect, however, that the majority of us will embrace the Pollyanna within and endeavor to overcome what has sadly become the norm.

This task will not be easy. At Williams, we are taught to look at everything with a critical eye, to explore and provoke the idea of authority and in the process discover slippages and unseen failures within its constructs. Since I have been a student here, authority, as personified by Cheney and oil, has been a rather unstable and capricious organism, geared for condemnation. In political theory, deconstructivist theories that deride liberalism for reflecting imperial viewpoints have been rendered appealing; in international relations, all anti-hegemony arguments have proven easily defensible. In my Vietnam class last year, almost every issue proved contentious, the exception being any comparison between Mao and the current American president.

Mao and Barack Obama have nothing in common; Obama and authority as I have come to know it in the last eight years share even less. The establishment as embodied by Barack, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and some big dog make me want to abandon my anti-establishment pretenses. Claiming myself pro-establishment, and swapping ridicule for solutions goes against what I’ve grown accustomed to, but I embrace the challenge. In fact, it may even be worth sacrificing the ability to parody Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig, and reversing what has surely been a downward trend in mocking ‘ehs.’

Anouk Dey ’09 is a political science major from Toronto, Ont.