Unreasonable expectations

BREAthe, BReathe, breathe. Now is the time to breathe, let it out and relax. The most tension filled election in recent American history is over and some history has been made.

Barack Obama is the president-elect, to become the 44th president of the United States of America. Woohoo! Breeeathe.

Ok, that’s over. Time to get back to our lives and do what we have to do best… survive.

It’s not that I’m playing down the importance of an Obama win… I’m not. It has become of major importance, beyond symbolic importance to many people, black, white, red, yellow, democrats, foreigners… many.

But I’m just plain ol’ tired. Tired because the long campaign, tired because like many others, I was played by the media that artfully kept the pretense going that the campaign was close (c’mon, did you hear McCain’s concession speech? Did that look and sound like a man who just realised that he lost? Or was it like a man who has had that speech written and rehearsed weeks ago?). Tired because I worked a polling precinct on the Day and it was not fun. What was I thinking? Well, I hoped that I would be witness firsthand to a ‘buzz’, a sense of excitement and thirst for change. Actually, it was just like lining up at the local library. No buzz, no excitement, no sense of something major about to happen. That won’t catch me again.

I was so washed out that I missed the after-parties and it took a gun-salute to wake me up to an Obama win (yes, gunshots). And several volleys more when the president–elect was about to make his speech. So I didn’t really miss the key moments. Thanks guys.

But here is what concerns me. Too many people are putting too much on Obama’s shoulders, beyond what is reasonable expected of an American president. Obama is no caped crusader, no superman, he doesn’t walk on water… he will have to tread like the rest of us.

He has been given water, but he only has a basket to carry it. If America was a house, it would be best to burn it down, claim the insurance and build a new one. That option is not open to Obama.

Times haven’t changed, a ‘new day’ hasn’t arisen. America isn’t suddenly into a new age of enlightenment. The only difference between Monday November 3 and Thursday November 5, is that the president-elect is a democrat and for the first time, a black man.

But Obama didn’t run as a black man, he ran as an American and a democrat. The expectations of him should be as an American. He is one man in the center of a huge monolith. There is only so much he can do. But he can’t stop racism. He can’t suddenly change people’s minds, attitudes and perceptions (on the day after his win, I saw a truck driving with a huge confederate flag… an obvious reminder of the unreal America).

Obama cannot right the wrongs of hundreds of years, he cannot make the plight of African-Americans immediately better. He can’t fix the socialisation process immediately, neither can fix the education system overnight. He cannot force a black agenda.

Obama is now the American president and his actions will be guided through the prism of being an American. But I do think, from his victory speech, that he will set out to make America great again, using the roads less taken.

Of particular importance to me, is that he will influence the demolition of previous American diplomacy, “We have the bigger guns and more money so you have to do as I say”. Obama will promote a new, more conciliatory approach, recognizing that respect heals more wounds than intimidation.

Frankly, I do expect him to be tested early, but not to see if he is brave or a push-over, but to see if he is a man of his stated ideals. I believe that many of the postures he strategically took while campaigning, will be discarded.

I don’t believe he will support trying to drill or ‘shock and awe’ our way out of our oil habit. I believe he will curtail American forces entering foreign countries without their permission.

I think he will move to lift the Cuban embargo, as afterall, only a small minority of fanatics support this. I believe he will take a rational policy towards Iran. I think he will redefine American interests, and those interests will not include supporting those who profit from the exploitation of other nations or nationals.

I think when he offers friendship, it will be really and not merely a one-sided partnership. I believe that he will find some way to lessen the growing antagonism between the US and Russia. I believe that Chavez and he will become neighbours though not necessarily friends.

I think Obama will recognize that every country, currently friendly or not to America, that their leaders and their people love their children also, and demonizing them (axis of evil) is foolish and unnecessary. I think an Obama administration may have the best chance of bringing some lasting peace to the mid-east. This is how he will export democracy.

At home, I think Obama will take a course a little left of the American centre (to the rest of the world, that will look right-wing). He will have environmental policies that the left will like as long as they make some concessions also.

Big business won’t be able to wield the free hand it had under the Reagan or the Bushes administrations. There will be more regulation than deregulation. He will have to redefine the concepts of globalisation. He will try to seek a balance between, capital, labour and the consumer.

Obama must realise that capitalism is dying and for America’s sake, a new economic model must be sought. I believe that he will try to break down the inequalities and iniquities of the American society. I believe that he will take a long hard look at forcing back jobs to America.

I think that he will look at the underclasses of America and make Americans know that better must be done for the least amongst us. I believe that he will set out to change the dynamics behind our huge waste of food, energy and natural resources, our pollution, our despoiling of the earth, the fact that we, with 5% of the earth’s population, wastefully consume 25% of the world’s resources.

There are things and mindsets he can influence, there are others that are too deeply entrenched to change in the course of 4-8 years. That’s where this new generation that Obama enlivened comes in. This is the generation that can be the real change-makers, if they don’t lose their focus, or suddenly become disenchanted by American politics.

One can only hope that the rest of the democrats buy into Obama’s change mantra… which isn’t easy because most of them are far to used to the old ways of doing things.

Yes, perhaps Obama’s election is a bit more than symbolic. Perhaps he will bring real change to a world tired of America’s antics.

But we ought to wait and be patient. The problem with too much expectations, is early and deep disappointment when those expectations don’t come immediately. Obama built up those expectations, but hopefully, people will understand.

But we must take our own reality checks. The election of Barack Obama didn’t create a moratorium on my rent-payment, did not wave away my credit card bills. But it did give me hope. Not for myself. But for the future of the United States of America and the world beyond. Certainly more hope than a McCain-Palin win would have.

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