08/28/2008 05:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

May You Live In Interesting Times

DENVER - There is a curse which goes like this: "may you live in interesting times" Well, as it turns out, we do live in interesting times. The grandest Olympic Games in recent history (probably ever) just concluded in, of all places, Beijing. That couldn't have happened ten years ago, 20 years ago the international community would have considered it out of the question, and 40 years ago it would have sounded like science fiction.

Meanwhile, on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics, Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, tactically decimated the Georgian Army, and strategically outmaneuvered NATO. The building blocks of our understanding of post-Cold War geopolitics have come tumbling down.

Prevailing assumptions of our world, some built up over long stretches of time, have been cut down in no time at all - over the course of less than a month. The final point in this trinity of fundamental change will take place tonight at INVESCO Field, when an African-American accepts the Democratic Party's nomination for President. In a way it's still hard to conceive, Barack Obama as the Democrats' nominee.

National self-knowledge is an elusive creature in a country as young and heedless as America. Self-understanding is downright rare. But when Obama accepts the nomination tonight, and particularly if he gets elected in November, it will fundamentally alter Americans' understanding of their country. It's impossible to say quite how it will change, but change is certainly the tone of the moment, both as a campaign slogan and as a break in the narrative of racial discrimination and so many others that we have long taken for granted.

It's an exciting prospect. But it's also more impossible than ever to predict what the future holds. "May you live in interesting times" is meant as a curse, and in some places it certainly looks that way, like on the rubble-strewn streets of Gori and Baghdad, Tskhinvali and Kabul, or at the gas pump, or at the mortgage lender's office. But tonight, as I set off for INVESCO, it feels a whole lot more like a blessing.