Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Celebrating Barack Hussein Obama

I stayed up all night to watch Barack Obama's inauguration. Actually I meant to get up at 4.30am but ended up messing around on the computer for so long that I decided I might as well not go to bed. I was a bit fuzzy when I turned on the TV but listening to his speech changed all that.

It seems extraordinary to say it, but watching US President Barack Obama talk to America, and the world, has given me a new hope. Maybe I've been distracted by his glamour, maybe I'm deluded, but I feel the potential for a new way forward. I guess what has surprised me is not just that America, a country founded on racism and slavery, could elect an African as leader. That is something I never thought I would see in this lifetime. But on reflection it seems just as astounding that it could elect someone with humility.

I stayed up to watch because the election of the first black American president was too big a historical moment to miss. What riveted me was listening to him talk. It seemed like, in a nation that is obsessed with religion, we were finally seeing a leadership demonstrating true Christ-like values. That he acknowledged the Muslims, Hindus and atheists present just reinforced that.

What did he say? He denounced wanton violence as a tool of foreign policy. He held out his hand to the poor, pledging to work to bring justice to the world. He warned rich nations that their greed must come to an end. He spoke of hard times ahead, and the desire that America be a leader by its example rather than through the might of its armies. He spoke of the need to address climate change and economic recession.

Maybe his words will all prove hollow. Maybe America will continue to be the rapacious imperial power that we have come to know and despise. Maybe nothing will change. But if Obama is true to his words, then such humble leadership could turn the world around. Could his example persuade the rich countries to forgo greed and start to work for the common good of us all when nations meet at Copenhagen to address global warming? I pray so.

4 comments:

Brett Dale said...

America did more to fight AIDS in Africa than any other western country in history, everytime I hear a current or former politician bag the states, I get the feeling they are pandering to their base.

Nandor Tanczos said...

Hi Brett

Pandering to my base? That's a nice way to label and forget I guess. But come, reason with me now.

Are you disputing that America was founded on racism and slavery, or that it is a rapacious imperial power? I think these were the only two comments that could be read as bagging the States.

The first seems historically irrefutable (you're welcome to try) so I guess the second is the one causing offense. US recent history in South America seems adequate evidence of imperialism: Chile, Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua, Grenada...

Then there's the invasion of sovereign Hawaii...Cambodia, Vietnam.. more recently Afghanistan and Iraq of course...

Or is the problem the word rapacious? Well, just take a look at who's got the cream.

Are you seriously holding up some money fighting AIDS in Africa as refutation?

First, how many viruses has the US developed in its microbiological warfare research centres? (They are not the only ones of course. I've been to Porton Down in the UK and there will be others in Russia, China etc etc). So AIDS assistance is just balancing the books on that front.

And secondly, sure America does some good things. Of course. The world isn't in black and white. That doesn't negate history and current policy.

Brett Dale said...

Its that type of anti western/USA attitude that turns people away from the Green away.

I would of loved to gone to some Peace gatherings after 9/11, but I was put off by comments by people like Keith Locke and others such as "they deserved it and they bought it on themselves"

Not something I would expect from people who like peace.

Also when America does good for the world its not a case of balancing the books, its the case of doing whats right.

Don't get me wrong, I hope that Bush gets taken to Geneva for all the crimes that he did, but I would also hope the the States would get credit for the good they have done.

I would also hope that people who say they are for peace would protest everytime Hamas fires a rocket into Israel or a communist/socialist country does something bad to its people, but the silence is deafening when that happens.

I just find it hypocritical when people who say they are for rights for all, just shut up when it may be a country that has the same political ideals that they have, are doing the violence.

Take John Minto who's stand against Apartheid has to be admired and supported by all, yet when the two Israeli woman wouldnt get served by a cafe owner his answer was "I couldn't care less"

The Green party didnt even released a statement, can you imagine if a American cafe owner refused to serve someone from Iran, you guys would be up in arms.
Basically as someone who has been fortunate enough to travel around the globe, the nicest people I have meet are Americans, and sure each country has done its crimes, but I would put their record in human rights up against countries like Iran, China, Cuba anyday.

Anyway glad you did say America does some good.

Good luck with your blog.

Nandor Tanczos said...

To be fair Brett, I don't think Keith or any Green representative ever said anything of the sort. I'll apologise if you can show me some proof, otherwise I think you should.

In addition, you say "I just find it hypocritical when people who say they are for rights for all, just shut up when it may be a country that has the same political ideals that they have, are doing the violence."

I don't know any green states, but the Greens are as hard on other Greens as anyone else in my experience. If you mean communist states, the Greens, including Keith Locke, have certainly been very critical of places like China,Algeria etc though. In fact you may have noticed that everyone else was trying to ignore Chinas human rights abuses when the prospect of a trade deal was in the wings - everyone except the Greens that is.

So I think you are being a little unkind. I agree with you about the cafe - stupid and illegal to ban people on account of their citizenship. As for Americans, I've met lovely Americans. I've met lovely Chinese people. I don't think that's the point.

By the way, I'd say Castro's Cuba has a much better HR record than the USA, if you include the genocide of many native american tribes, slavery, the use of atomic bombs to annihilate two cities etc. Cuba also has a better record in terms of helping in the third world, in my opinion, relative to the size of their economy. However human rights abuses are not about who did the worst. Was 6 million jews murdered worse than the witch burnings of Europe? Who cares - I condemn them both - as I'm sure you do.