Obama Hope Poster by Shepard Fairey

“Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run. Obama is running so our children can fly….”

The reality of Barack Obama as a president has yet to be seen but the energy that he has created as a presidential canidate has been interesting to watch to say the least. Obama has not restored faith in the system but he has inspired hope for change in the White House. If however he plays the same American political game that the world is accustom to seeing politicians play he could potentially destroy this hope for change as quickly as he created it and make it spiral downward beyond the dismal point that it is at now. Barack Obama is not a Messiah so people should not treat him as such, what he is is an intelligent, hardworking and seemingly trustworthy man, but he is also a politician. The reality of his leadership in America may not reflect his words on the campaign trail, we should not expect it to (although that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hope for it). We will see what he chooses to do and what he actually has the ability to do (what the powers that be will let him do) and how hard he will push or push back to make things better in America and in the world. The resume and the job interview is not in fact the job.

On a symbolic level the idea of Obama or any other black person (person of colour, or woman, non-christian, non-heterosexual, or person from any historically marginalized group) being the leader/figurehead of the United States (currently the most powerful nation on the planet) was unimaginable until very recently. The significance of having anyone who is not an white male in the White House is immense both nationally and internationally because of perception of power and politics. Now everyday people will have more faith in the idea that America and in tern the western world might not always have to be controlled by rich people of European decent.

Obama has also greatly inspired the ignorance and fear of people and these feelings have been seeping (gushing in some cases) out of them directly and indirectly since his campaign started. From these ridiculous “Joe the Plumber” references to the Barack Hussain Obama middle name issue to statements about personal fear and black power. The idea of a black man of direct African decent, with a arabic middle name frightens many ignorant people quite a lot apparently. In fact it exposes a distinct perspective and a clear lack of trust for what is often described as “the other.” The funny thing is that “the other” is the majority of the world, insane to think that many believe although they don’t want to admit that they are more comfortable with certain people (as criminal as they may be) being the political and power centre of the world? Interestingly enough the polls have shown that people of colour (who have traditionally been disenfranchised in North America and the western world), young people (who typically don’t vote because they don’t see the point and are apathetic because of lack of hope), and people of higher education (and I would argue higher awareness) have largely voted for Obama. Less educated, under-experienced (often the religious right) and generally close minded people seem to sway more towards the McCain camp.

It has been funny to watch and read the news and hear Obama being called a terrorist and a Muslim. I think we can all agree that nobody is interested in having a terrorist president in office in the states although the last eight years hasn’t been too far off from that. I’ve grown tired of hearing Obama describe himself as having a “funny name” the reality is he doesn’t have a “funny name” he has an African name, it’s as funny as Dick or Jane as far as I’m concerned. The funniest part of the whole thing is that although he is not Muslim, very few people in the media have actually asked the question “what is wrong with being a Muslim?” The statements about Obama being a “closet Muslim” have regularly been made with an seemingly inherent understanding that being Muslim is a bad thing and something to be hated and not trusted, such ignorance, don’t we live in a secular society? The idea of secular society is that no religion enters into politics because of the fact that the society is comprised of people of many different faiths and non-faiths. Secular society ensures that all people will all views can be a part of society without facing discrimination based on what they believe. Secular society is not anti-religious it is pro-diversity in believe but it seems any vague association with non-christians (Obama’s father was raised Musilm and didn’t see his son beyond the age of ten.) So again, people seem to feel more comfortable with what they know, white, rich, christian, male…running the country, and any suggestion of anything other then that is met with fear and ignorant comments like “he’s a Muslim” which although it is just not a fact seems to be a major point of anguish for people who most likley don’t know anything about Islam save Malcom X, Osama Bin Laden and September 11th (i.e. nothing). Regardless Obama’s election to the White House will only see more ignorant and slanderous comments and we will begin to understand a little more about how ignorant some folks are in this world.

In Canada we arrogantly pride ourselves on being more progressive, more tolerant and often more intelligent then our neighbours south of the border yet “we” just re-elected a conservative prime minister with the lowest voter turnout since, well, ever. This last federal election only 59.1% of Canadians voted. This incredibly low voter turnout I’m sure is as much about lack of personality as it is about peoples lack of faith in the system. Personally as soon as I was of voting age I began voting, ten years later I admit I haven’t voted in an election in quite sometime, I don’t believe it’s good but I’m also terribly uninspired by my choice of people to vote for, none represent me in the slightest so why should I waste my time? (unfortunately the answer is Stephen Harper…again.) I’m not sure how Obama will affect us here in Canada but I’m certain I have no interest in seeing a Harper/McCain North America. I think we’ve had enough cowboys and ‘mavricks’ in power..

More of the same?

After all of this I still think that most wonderful part of this entire thing would be seeing a black woman and two little black girls playing on the White House lawn. As a simple symbol the idea that a black family will inhabit the White House for at least four years will drastically change the perception of powerlessness for black people all over the world. Seeing a black woman as first lady, and a black man “commander and chief” will in fact alter the “hearts and minds” of the entire world. For the older generation I hope it will be a validation of all they had to go through to get as to us (their children) to this point and will inspire a new hope in young people about what their true potential is in the world. It will not be a far-fetched dream for me to tell my future children then they will be able to be Prime Minister one day. I hope that it will mean that people in general can envision people of colour, women and men occupying the highest positions of power all over the world and maybe that will mean we are a step closer to where we need to be as human beings.

I guess we can.

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