Anniversaries come and go, but now and then some are elevated to a specific interest, and play the role of a crucial date. This year, 2015, makes the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. In May the Russian authorities organized a huge parade on Red Square in Moscow. Then, for the 3rd of September, the Chinese ruling party have planned something similar on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In both cases, some foreign governments faced the quandary of whether or not they should attend and participate.
The reason for this is not some small historical squabble over this or that detail, but rather the value of these commemorations within the current paradigm. In practice, history is not what has been, but rather what we need it to be today.
So what attitude should governments hold towards the staging of historical memory?
Barack Obama is experiencing renaissance. He has 15 months to go, but apparently he is far from having been a lame duck.
In the course of a few months, the President has managed to turn around U.S. relations with Cuba; has publicly accepted that there still is racism in the U.S. in general and in the police force in particular; issued instructions for limiting factory emissions in order to improve the climate; co-created a political atmosphere where the Supreme Court accepts gay marriage; and managed to produce an agreement with four other countries and Iran on curtailing Teheran’s nuclear ambitions for 10 – 15 more years.
Through these achievements, he has managed to link the afterglow of this second term with the rigor of his first. He also pushed a broader healthcare provision through man obstacles, pulled out troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, declared both a reset with Russia (that failed) and a pivot toward Asia (that remains uncompleted). On the other hand, he failed to get even a partial solution for the conflict in the Middle East.
Even with the successes listed above, vital business remains deplorably uncompleted: Guantanamo won’t be closed until Obama will have to leave office, and gun control is not on reach no matter how many deadly incidents have happened.
How do you asses the – still preliminary – balance of the Obama administration? Do you give an A, B, C, D or F? Why?