On BBC World News there is a discussion going on right now on the impact of current events on America’s position in international affairs. Whether the US will be the world leader in a handful or years, or whether it will not. There are depressingly good arguments to be made as to why it will not be.
The deciding factor was summed up in the line that compelled me to write this diary:
“As is true in financial markets, in international affairs perception is everything.”
We have a choice.
If the global market meltdown and pursuant wild fluctuations in the exchanges tells us anything, it is that perception has a real impact in the physical world.
You could have gone on that trip, now perhaps you cannot. You could have retired this year, now perhaps another five years on the job may be necessary. Maybe another ten.
And all because of the perception of risk – the aggregate feeling towards the likelihood of stability or instability in the near future.
Just feelings. Just perceptions. Just the ideas that people think in their heads and the way we all communicate to each other.
We have a choice, right now. A decision to make that will have a lot to do with how the world perceives us for the next four years, more likely the next eight years. We can choose to be perceived as a strong and forward-looking nation, confronting the challenges of the world and embracing the dynamic change necessary to deal with the fickle and complicated winds of history. We can choose to be the nation that inspires the citizens of other nations around the world, that motivates individuals all over the globe to model their thoughts – the words they use to describe and perceive the world around them. The nation that provides compelling leadership that reaches beyond our borders and drives the engine of the world.
Or, we can chose not to do these things.
There is more at stake than the success of a political party, the fulfillment of a platform plank of the Right or the Left. What is at stake is the status of our country in the world of the near future, what is at stake is whether we remain the leader of the world or whether we stutter on the Grand Stage and watch the crowds politely and uncomfortably wander away from our bully pulpit.
We will make that choice by electing a president who can set our perceptions of ourselves and – of the rest of the world – as the land of Hope or as the land of Fear.
Our choice is clear.