Monday, November 3, 2008

The world awaits Obama

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica Observer, 3 November 08

We are riveted by this marathon for the White House, unable to exhale until the finish line is finally crossed. We are witnesses of history, an epic that will no doubt become the subject of lengthy tomes and dramatic scripts. The digital age has immersed us in every single moment of this arresting race. As we see the most unique candidate of our time in his ascendancy, we may lionize but be careful not to idolize (even if his infomercial surpassed the ratings for the finals of American Idol).

I have maintained that the internet was God’s gift to the millennium, equipping us for a brave new world. It is an astonishing prism that absorbs all peoples and creeds, splashing out breathtaking rainbows of their audacious aspirations. It is this gift, literally fashioned out of thin air by the wizards of technology, that has bequeathed the Obama campaign with the largest windfall in the history of political fundraising – over $700 million, with donations averaging $86 each.

Technology has also preserved the messages of such modern day prophets as Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, and our own Bob Marley, making them accessible at the click of a button. Their stirring lines resonate in the Obama campaign, arousing unbelievable emotion among supporters, far beyond the shores of the USA. “My hand was made strong / By the hand of the Almighty./ We forward in this generation / Triumphantly,” sang Marley.

Obama is not the ‘dream deferred’ of Langston Hughes’ poem, but the dream realised of MLK. King shook racism at its ugly roots in his speech of August 1963 when Obama was only two years old:
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal”… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’

With due respect to Republican candidate John McCain, we have to agree with the over 90% of the rest of the world that it is Barack Obama that offers this world its best hope for these turbulent times. Former US Secretary of State and a member of the Republican Party, General Colin Powell (we are proud of his Jamaican ancestry) said in an MSNBC ‘Meet the Press’ interview, "I have come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is … he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."

For those who doubt our abilities and possibilities, the Barack Obama story reminds us that anyone can achieve anything with the right guidance, a good education, a positive attitude and a moral compass.

With the CNN ‘poll of polls’ giving him a steady seven-point lead, we are calling the US presidential elections for Barack Hussein Obama , though sad that war hero John McCain has allowed his campaign to damage his well-earned place in US history. In contrast to the considered selection of the seasoned Senator Joe Biden as a running mate by Obama’s team, McCain’s choice of the unready Governor Sarah Palin as a vice presidential running mate smacked of disdain for the electorate. Commenting on McCain’s campaign, conservative columnist George Will wrote that, “From the invasion of Iraq to the selection of Sarah Palin, carelessness has characterized recent episodes of faux conservatism.”

The dire straits of the US economy may have helped the Obama campaign, but a focused and serious McCain effort to capitalise on his excellent bi-partisan relationships and his courage to fight for unpopular causes could have put him ahead. Instead, we had the boring refrains of “hockey mom” and “Joe six-pack”.

Worst of all was the “Joe the plumber” episode, straight out of a Saturday Night Live script. Having read the entire interchange between Obama and Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the plumber, it was disingenuous to pluck the “spread the wealth” line and try to label the candidate as a socialist. The descent of the McCain campaign into gimmickry and name-calling was unworthy of this genuinely good man and an affront to the American people, facing the grim realities of foreclosures and job losses.

The charges of inexperience and under-qualification against Obama were discredited by what commentators are describing as so far, “a flawless campaign.” Contrasting the ‘Joe the plumber’ fiasco with the Obama infomercial watched by over 35 million, CNN’s David Gergen said that the two campaigns were “in different leagues.” Hundreds of tightly run Obama campaign offices were set up throughout the ‘blue’ as well as the ‘red’ states, signing up hundreds of thousands of ‘get out the vote’ volunteers. It takes not only money, but also brilliant leadership to pull off such a campaign.

From start to finish, the Obama campaign has stayed on message, calling for a higher level of politics and national unity, refusing to retaliate even as the McCain campaign resorted to fear mongering ‘robo-calls’ and incendiary rally speeches. When the crowd at his Sarasota rally began booing at a reference to the Bush-McCain alliance, Obama silenced them with, “You don’t need to boo – you need to vote.”

John Harwood of the New York Times remarked on “so many leaks in this dyke” of the McCain campaign even as others commented on “the no drama Obama staff” that came across as calm and professional. Meanwhile, McCain’s handlers were labeling Palin as a “diva” and a “whack job”.

On Thursday, there were two episodes involving ‘Joe the plumber’. First McCain invited him to join him on the podium at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, only to discover that he was not present. “Joe, where are you? I thought you were here,” he called plaintively. Pity Joe had not stayed missing as, at the next location, he finally arrived and tastelessly introduced his candidate as “the real American.” Hmmm. Tomorrow, if America elects Barack Obama, Joe may have to do a reality check on his outdated plumbing.,

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