Yes, we did. Thankfully!
I must admit I underplayed the significance of a Barack Obama win in some instances. I don’t underestimate what power he holds in shaping America’s foreign policy, neither do I undervalue his importance to domestic policy.
I however misjudged the emotional reaction of his election, particularly in regards to those white people who have come to believe in him. Blame the cynic in me, but I didn’t accurately compute the pent-up frustration and intense dislike that many had for the Reagan era…. how many people had come to hate the trickle-down philosophy of Ronald Reagan carried on by each successive president, and jumped at the opportunity to bid it farewell.
Americans were led to believe that there was a single track with no way to get off. Obama offered hope of a different direction… that we could preserve Reaganism, or find a new way to make America great. America chose a new path, and the victory was an expression of personal and national relief.
I believe that many who had vilified and ridiculed Obama, are also glad that the Reagan destination (chaos) might very well be averted.
The joy on the night of Obama’s victory, didn’t signal a change in America’s race relations. It signaled HOPE. The tears were not primarily for the breaking of one glass ceiling, but for the opportunity for many of us to stop staring so deeply into the bottomless chasm of bleakness for ourselves and our children.
If you read and heard the words of Americans abroad, you realize that Obama’s victory went far beyond this country. People elsewhere were appalled at the thought that Reaganism and Bushism could be visited on Planet Earth for another 4 years. And their relief at Obama’s victory now makes us more welcome in the world’s public spaces.
Why do they hate America? This is the moment to recognise that most of the world never hated America, but had come to see a detestable American foreign policy vested in each American. Afterall, when given the perfect opportunity to reject backwardness, the voters’ folly was re-endorsed in 2004. All Americans then, must think the same. Obama offered the chance to reject that in 2008 and we did. Thankfully.
Some weeks ago I wrote a blog after I had been on a radio talk show where amongst other things, there was a discussion speculating on the nation’s reaction if Obama (heavens forbid) was to be assassinated.
My stated position then was that such an event would not lead to mass rioting as declared by another panelist. Yes, there would be outbreaks of violence which however, would be contained to black communities. But, I argued, it wouldn’t be widespread, and the white community certainly wouldn’t react likewise.
Well, seeing the emotional deluge when Obama was declared winner, leads me to slightly modify that position. Cities with deep pockets of already frustrated and resentful African-Americans, would be prone to react aggressively against persons and property… but not to the extent of ‘Burn all America burn’.
The white community wouldn’t have that level of rage to take them beyond smashing a few beer bottles, overturning bar tables. This is a more docile society than its predecessors of the Vietnam war era. If the revolution isn’t one tv, only a few of us would be interested.
Today’s white society is more prone to pills and alcohol to express their grief. The nation would need a lot of Prozac, taken at their local Starbucks.
One of my pre-election criticisms of Barack Obama, was his total avoidance of the poor. McCain, I said, had no clue that the poor existed, probably lumping everyone below $250,000.00 as poor. Obama on the other hand, couldn’t afford to talk about the underclass because of a likely backlash from the very middle-class he has at the top of his agenda, “Hey. It’s fine to share the wealth of the upper class with us, but let’s stop it right there”.
In his first statements to the nation since winning, Obama has not once referred to the poor… always about the middle-class. But this country is not divided only into two classes. There is a distinct underclass and they are getting no press, no attention, and no one I asking why.
There are over 35 million of people in America (more than 10% of the population) categorised as poor, who have major problems putting nutritious food regularly on the table, and serious issues maintaining adequate shelter.
The fact is that they have been all but forgotten by the Bush regime. John Edwards had been championing the poor in the democratic primaries. But since his exit, a profound silence on the subject has been maintained.
America needs to stop turning its back on its own poor. President-elect Obama needs to take the lead.