Expressing my view!

Sharing with whoever would read my thoughts

Reflections: Obama – A President

Election: hope and change mantra

As the celebrations from the night, when it was announced that Sen. Barack Obama, by majority of the electoral college and later confirmed by pronouncement by the combined houses of the legislature, had won the elections and was named President-elect, had given way to the stark reality of daylight, in Washington Heights trees lining the streets were festooned with toilet paper hanging from branches as if it was the morning after a festival, presenting a surreal image as if New Years had arrived early on November 5.

In a country steeped in racism, both subtle and overt, what really does an Obama win actually mean for Americans: Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Whites? What did his win against a weakened religious conservative political right mean for immigrants, those from Central and South America, from the Caribbean, from Africa, from Asia, minor and major?

Did the White majority in the country say that by electing a Black man as president that they have moved pass the bigotry for which they are known, that they now recognize that Black people are capable of thinking, of governing, of being responsible and are not lazy, lay-abouts, welfare dependents? Is the White establishment now saying that they are willing to take orders from a Black man, consoling themselves by the fact that the president is half Black and half White, and that they had in fact voted for his White half?

As a friend, Clarence Reynolds, a book editor and an English professor at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn said while watching the results come in from across the country that he felt overwhelmed by the experience that here is a Black man becoming president of the United States.

“I’m excited that this will change the psyche, the way people think, the way they see themselves and the way they are perceived. For Black people, this would give them an opportunity to rethink their attitude and a newness of pride in themselves, to at least pull their pants up,” he said.

Since bursting on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, his star has continued its meteoric rise. Large crowds have followed him since he declared, speaking to both whites and Blacks, in a statement that single handedly removed the stigma attached to educated Blacks and challenged the perception that only whites are educated – that a Black child reading is not acting white. Obama’s charisma has drawn crowds, from the time of his announcement that he was putting himself forward as a candidate for the presidency in Springfield, IL, to his acceptance speech in Denver, CO and to his gracious victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago, IL on the night of November 4.

Everyone agrees that not only is the country eager and desperate for a change, but a startling phenomena is the perceptible shift in the American attention span: more than 83 million people watched his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention at the Mile High Stadium in Denver, CO, millions watched on their televisions and an estimated 125,000 people crammed into Grant Park to hear his victory speech, which was not as gloating as one would have expected from a contest that celebrated negativity, divisiveness, and attacks ad hominim; but was magnanimous and conciliatory, saying that those who did not vote or support him should know that change has come to America. And, for Americans known for their sensationalist mentality, Obama has not faded into the background of politics as usual. Rather, on Sunday, November 16 an estimated 24 million viewers looked on as he was interviewed by Steve Croft on the CBS Sunday magazine, 60 Minutes. Surprising too, as Gwen Ifill commented in the Newshour on PBS on the following Monday evening, that contrary to the politics as usual where politicians are known to shift or change their messages in the interregnum, after they are elected and sworn in, that Obama has remained true to his campaign messages and reinforced them in intended executive orders: an uncompromising stance on closing the U.S. military base at Guantanamo in Cuba, forbidding torture as a U.S. military practice so as to restore America’s morality on the global stage, and his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Puzzling, however, is why he chose not to attend the global leadership summit held in Washington, D.C. over the weekend of November 14 – 16? As usual there would be speculations, but interestingly enough, none of the main news outlets have ventured to comment on his absence except for brief mentions that he would not be attending. Is it that he wanted to ensure that when he contacts those heads of state that his interaction is free of the blight and the dross of the incumbent, soon to be former president? Was the meeting just simply window dressing, since even in the communiqué produced by the 20 heads of state, no decisions were made until when they meet again in April and by which time Obama would be present? By not attending the G-20 summit, did Obama miss out on an opportunity to meet his major global counterparts, or did he prefer not to seen in George Bush’s embarrassing shadow?

According to Neil Ferguson being interviewed by Matt Frei on BBC World News-America on Monday, November 17, alluding to Obama’s absence from the G-20 summit not being particularly helpful, he said that with the global economy in crisis and with a protracted American transition period, the world needs immediate action and intervention, and everyone was looking to Obama to pick up the reigns of leadership. Ferguson said that Bush’s comments at a speech on Wall Street in New York on Friday, November 14, where he spoke of support for a “free market system” literally sounded a death knell for that system, and suggested that anything Bush touched turns to ashes.

If this was truly a more global village, how many people from around the world would have joined lines, like Americans did on Election Day, to exercise their vote, their democratic right, and perhaps, the fact that they want to vote is a cry from the hearts of those many who long for the winds of democracy to blow in and through their respective countries? But what responsibilities does Obama have to the rest of the world?

No doubt Obama knows that is he bound by the shackles of his race, his paternal ancestry in Kenya, who are looking to him to make changes, as if he is the American representative of Africa in America, of those who in America claim association with him because of his skin color to lift them up not so much with a wave of his hand, but more of doing what he promised, after he himself has witnessed and experienced the suffering, downtrodden state, and systematic disenfranchisement of those like him in America; he has the sword of Damocles hanging over his head, a sword of extraordinary expectations from a nation and a world tired of duplicity and forked-tongue speaking, where promises are made with ulterior motives, brazen as they are revealing that they weren’t made in the best interest of those to whom they were made, and though he has good intentions, he would be beset by a machinery that has been grinding inexorably for more than 20 years, producing in the nation’s capital corruption, deceit, and secrecy. Really, rot at the core. And, as he assumes office, he himself would be stepping into this mire. The hope, a word which he has been trumpeting throughout his campaign, is that he would not be sucked into and be consumed by the god-like or quasi-monarchial status conferred on a president, but rise above it, perhaps hovering over the muck, to effect change, another word in his campaign mantra.


January 20, 2009 - Posted by | African-American News, Black Men, community, Economy, Obama, Politics, Washington Heights Community

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