As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Appreciation Of Hilzoy

This is very disappointing news - Hilzoy is retiring from blogging. Most people who say that don't always follow through, but for some reason I believe Hilzoy will. And that's a loss, as she has been one of the more brilliant bloggers among us, often adding unusual perspectives and unreported topics to our little corner of the world. I'll miss reading her.

Because there's virtually no money in this, and the work is incredibly labor-intensive, I can hardly blame anyone who, after a period of time, just burns out. Hilzoy wrote at Washington Monthly in addition to Obsidian Wings, so she was probably one of the few to actually draw a little cash, but I'm sure it didn't stretch very far. It's just not legitimate to expect everyone to keep going on forever.

But in honor of Hilzoy, let me call attention to one of her last posts, a powerful plea to President Obama to live up to the hopes of people around the world. An excerpt:

In thinking about this, I am reminded of conversations I had when I was in Pakistan. My first trip there was in 2007, when the campaigns were just kicking into gear. People asked who I supported; I said Obama. They asked: but can he possibly win? I said that while I was reluctant to judge, I thought that he could.

The most common reaction -- not uniform, but common -- was a combination of several things. On the one hand, I was American and they were not, so the people I talked to naturally assumed that I probably had a better grasp of US politics than they did. Besides, I was their guest, and they were wonderfully polite. On the other hand, however, they found the idea that Barack Obama -- an African-American who did not come from a privileged background, whose father was from a Kenyan village -- could possibly be elected President literally unbelievable.

It was fascinating to watch them trying to reconcile these conflicting impulses: I was talking about a country I lived in, which most of them had never been to, and I was not obviously insane, but I was saying something that could not possibly be true. And, as best I could tell, there were two reasons why it couldn't be true: first, whoever the Pakistani analog of Barack Obama might be, that person would never be elected President in Pakistan, and second, they had been disappointed in America's track record in living up to its ideals, and so were not inclined to believe that it would do so this time.

The last time I went, Barack Obama had secured the nomination. People in Pakistan were astonished, but they were also really inspired. And I don't think that this was mainly about Obama's policies. It was about us living up to our ideals: about the idea that in America, anyone really can grow up to be President, and about the idea that enough of us had managed to look past our long history of slavery and discrimination and bigotry that we might elect Barack Obama President.

It gave people hope: the hope that cynics are not always right, and that the fix is not always in.

If we're interested in our image abroad, we could do a lot worse than simply deciding to live up to our ideals: for instance, the rule of law. It's the right thing to do, but it's also the smart thing.

I'll miss that insight.

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