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14 June 2008

My Barack Obama

Make no mistake about it, I am for Obama. I have been so since before the beginning, I have never really wavered, and things have worked out for him (so far) far better than my paranoid, pessimistic Scorpio nature would have allowed me to hope. But I can still take the piss. And so can The Onion, which has a great article on Obama practicing his "Looking off into the future" expressions (the triptych above is "wistful", "determined" and "unbridled".)
But for one of the really serious reasons why I believe Obama must be elected, I can cite (at length! sorry, can't help myself) from a Thomas Friedman/NYT Op-Ed piece my friend Joani e-mailed to me. Friedman is writing this piece abroad, in Egypt, where he has a similar experience to my everyday experience of being approached by the locals eager to discuss their complex feelings about this astonishing new direction in American politics. While granting that it hurts Obama's chances a mite when Muslims identify with him, and while admitting that Egyptians still have "issues" with America and vice-versa and an Obama presidency won't eliminate them, he reports touchingly on the excitement that Africans the world over feel at the thought that the great Babylon may actually elevate a son of Africa to be its head of state.

[E]very once in a while, America does something so radical, so out of the ordinary — something that old, encrusted, traditional societies like those in the Middle East could simply never imagine — that it revives America’s revolutionary “brand” overseas in a way that no diplomat could have designed or planned.
I just had dinner at a Nile-side restaurant with two Egyptian officials and a businessman, and one of them quoted one of his children as asking: “Could something like this ever happen in Egypt?” And the answer from everyone at the table was, of course, “no.” It couldn’t happen anywhere in this region. Could a Copt become president of Egypt? Not a chance. Could a Shiite become the leader of Saudi Arabia? Not in a hundred years. A Bahai president of Iran? In your dreams. Here, the past always buries the future, not the other way around.
. . .

In his history of 19th-century America, “What Hath God Wrought,” Daniel Walker Howe quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as telling a meeting of the Mercantile Library Association in 1844 that “America is the country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”

That’s the America that got swallowed by the war on terrorism. And it’s the America that many people want back.

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