Posts Tagged ‘Obama’


MT One more thing: since race IS an issue, as anyone with half a brain has known from day one, it should be borne in mind that Obama is not an American (half)-black, and on a strangely subconscious level, that could have actually made the difference at the polls.  More than anything biological, race in American society is a badge of class membership, and it’s the relations between the classes, struggle or muddle, that make for the friction and the dynamism of that society’s historical development.  Consider the popularization of the once extremely contempuous term “white trash”, now shortened to “white T” to take some of the bite off it.

A case in point: my grandmother was of the old-breed southern plantation set, even if our family was rooted in Missouri.  She came from a slave-owning family and still carried the racial ideology that had been instilled in her.  An odd side effect was that dark-skinned people from other countries were automatically exempt – not consciously, but deeply subconsciously.  They stood outside the entire American racial drama.  We had an exchange student from British Honduras (now Belize) as a guest to dinner once, a pretty, young black woman.  I was only about seven years old at the time, and the graciousness with which my grandmother received her puzzled me.  A seven-year-old still tends to see things in terms of black and white – only.  The same courtesy was extended to other dark-skinned foreign guests.  In short, I’m suggesting that, if Obama had originated in the the Afro-American class and the Afro-American neighborhoods that he represented, things would have been very different.  Instead, you might say, the race factor in his case was graciously received by the white American voter and begrudingly by the black voter, as a foreign “guest”.


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MTThe whole world is basking in the afterglow of Obama’s more or less predictable victory.  Americans are still proudly wearing their “I voted” stickers, ten days after the election.  Parents everywhere are naming newborns after Obama himself or his wife or daughters, Michelle. Malia and Sasha.  Those daughters have been invited to appear on the popular young people’s television show Hannah Montana.  The ecstasy, the praise and admiration approach the messianic – as do the expectations.  Kenya declared a national holiday: one of its grandsons is soon to become the most powerful man on Earth.  The first biography of Michelle – a woman who has yet to do anything more remarkable than marry Obama and give birth to his children – has already hit the bookstores.  Newsweek issued a commemorative edition.  A part of the high hopes for this man have to do with the act he’s following: a president widely regarded as the worst in American history, one almost universally despised outside the United States – almost all the polls put the figure at over 90 % of Europeans who disapprove of him.  No matter what Obama does or does not do, the Iraq War, the campaign of blatant lies and distortions that led the U.S. into it, the financial crisis, the horrendous mismanagement of the education, health care and disaster relief systems, the cronyism, the torture, the curtailing of civil rights, the surveillance of citizens and opposition political groups, the stonewalling of action on climate change and the environment, the multi-trillion-dollar deficit and lastly, but anything but leastly, the 9/11 attacks and, even if Bush himself wasn’t in some way implicated, the failure to catch bin Laden, will always be W.’s legacy.  If Obama fails to deal with any one of these issues successfully, he will still be no more than the victim of Bush’s policies. He can do no worse, and he’ll get full credit for whatever he does better.

And suddenly, race is a factor.  Bush and Cheney have been “Stupid White Men”, whereas Obama, by virtue of his skin color alone, has redeemed the promise of America and realized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.  Black and white joined together to make it happen and celebrated together when it did.  A commentator in Germany noted that “this gives us back the hope that America really is the country we always thought it could be.”  Hundreds of thousands turned out to hear his speech at the Victory Column in Berlin – presumably more than any candidate for Germany’s chancellor could ever draw.  It should be noted by one who was there, that many of those thousands went away disappointed – disappointed, for example, in Obama’s failure to condemn unequivically the Iraq War and the War on Terror or to promise a swift end to them and withdrawal of all coalition troops.  Germans are far more paciifist in general than Americans.  But the speech was addressed to listeners in the U.S., not to Berliners.  Most of those present realized that.  He was toeing the Democratic Party Line; the appearance was a massive campaign ad at the expense of the Berlin city government, who had to provide the security and logistics.

Now, the qwuestion is: has Obama been set up to disappoint the great expectations placed in him?  Or is he a winner no matter what he does?  I believe that both will be the case.

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