Thursday, November 6, 2008

President Obama

The new most powerful man in the world is a 47-year old brown-skinned man born in Hawaii to a white American mother and a Kenyan Luo father, raised in Indonesia, a devout Christian member of a controversial black church, who 1/6 of Americans appear to think is a Muslim or an Arab, and who goes by the unusual-for-a-US-President name of Barack Hussein Obama.

This is a realisation that scares the bejeezus out of some people. There is a significant proportion of the American populace for whom President Obama is their worst nightmare come true. He's not white. He's sorta foreign. He offers to try to negotiate with hostile nations rather than just constantly threaten violence against them. He hopes for a more equal society. Yikes, head for the hills!

Yet, in the world outside the USA, support for Obama is overwhelming. Apparently Australians favoured Obama over McCain 4 to 1. And why? Because for all our imperfections, us global citizens can spot class and character when we see them. And we don't quite get the bizarre combination of bibles and guns, pro-life and pro-war, rampant capitalism and conservative family values that characterises the Right of American politics. It is hard to imagine any country other than the US voting in George W Bush once, let alone TWICE! Yet Obama is the leader so many nations would love to have - broad-minded, intelligent, charismatic, inspiring and seemingly benevolent. And he represents the new face of Western civilisation for the 21st century - a multicultural face with an eye of the global community; in contrast to the 80% of US congressmen and women who apparently do not have passports.

Obama's election also represents something great - the triumph of hope and positivity over fear and ugly politricks. The main thrust of the Democrats campaign was in looking toward the future; the Republicans focused on whipping up the old anxieties and xenophobia of the past. For all the ridiculous smears thrown Obama's way by the Right - he's a communist, he's a Muslim, he's an Arab, he wants to kill babies, and so on - he remained calm and poised, as if he was above engaging in this game of gutter politics. And the majority who cast their ballot in Obama's favour were also sending the message that they are better than that. This election asked a big question of the American public - can they rise above a history of racism, warmongering, and blindness in the guise of patriotism? Their answer: "Yes we can."

Oh and one more thing: How good was Obama's acceptance speech? All wannabe public speakers should spend some time in the black churches for inspiration.

Oh and yet another thing: Kudos to McCain for a gracious and honourable concession speech. Showed a level of class that was often lacking in the Republican campaign. Had he shown it earlier, things could have been different.

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