This summer, I spent 21 days in Beijing, China training first-time students and chairing a committee in a model UN conference known as WEMUN. Around the second day of training, seven of the facilitators I worked with suddenly barged into my room, demanding to use my VPN to check the news – and suggesting that I convert the rest of my checking account into RMB.
As a rule, I don’t discuss politics. I change the station when NPR starts its Market Watch morning report. I don’t do mindless jingoism. But the prolonged debt talks in the US had ramifications that extended all the way to the Far East, and they went far beyond the decline of the American dollar.
They’ve called many things “too big to fail” in the past, and I’d long thought that I was one of the few who never believed that the good ol’ US of A was one of them – until I sat in a crowded Beijing hotel room, the first strands of cold anxiety creeping up my spine as we refreshed the CNN homepage over and over again. This country could fail because of nothing. An entire generation sat disappointed and silent, uncomfortable in the knowledge that their government was on the verge of defaulting on all of its promises regarding our tuition, social security – things that could affect our lives forever – because of a deep-seated urge to make our head of state look bad.
By the time the decision came in the end results didn’t even matter. The smear campaign against Obama had already started – and while we concerned ourselves with the issues of the future, Washington opened up the polling booths and asked once again, “Who’s the fairest of them all?”