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The Obama Era


“The time has come to reaffirm…that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Barack H. Obama

President Barack H. Obama

The world has gone bonkers for Barack Obama – and who can blame them? It has been a while since the White House has had a rational resident and a while longer since America has had a leader that could inspired the entire nation with such prolific oratory. What is a first however, is that the most powerful nation on earth has had a leader that is so unimaginably popular that he has been embraced by almost every nation, creed, race, religion and people on earth to the point where he has evolved into a cultural icon of Biblical proportions – literally.

The Barack Phobamanon

Obama takes the Oath

On January 20th, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United states and the first African-American President. Tied to the epic historical significance of all this fanfare is the fact that the event takes place one day after the celebration of Martin Luther King day, two days after his wife’s birthday, 47 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, in exactly the same spot that Dr. King made his speech, and some 300 years after the abolition of slavery which was used to erect the same buildings.

Not only is the event significant to African descendants worldwide (including those who are American citizens who didn’t vote for him), but his presence is of intriguing importance to world leaders worldwide. The Obama phenomenon has thoroughly infested pop culture. Retail merchandisers are having a second Christmas and Washington DC became the newest, hottest tourist spot on the planet for 24 hours.

Obama is so popular that some people have gone as far as to speculate that he is perhaps the anti-Christ of Biblical infamy. However I’ve discovered such concerns to be baseless speculations on poorly interpreted scripture. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about some news report on the expressly right-wing Republican propaganda machine Fox News suggesting that because the presidential car is called “The Beast”, that it obviously pins Obama as the same.

Personally I think the biblical significance being attached to Obama only underscores the vastness of his popularity instead of making any credible point. Religion has a remarkable way of inciting mass hysteria. It has happened so often in history, that it is very difficult for anyone to take religious zealots seriously anymore. But I digress…

Either way, one thing is certain: Whatever the outcome of this presidency, no matter how many other black Presidents  follow this, Barack Obama has been immortalised in history as the first black president of the most powerful empire on earth. We can safely deduce that every non-traditional president hereafter will be an inextricable function of the Obama Era – and that is something to be truly be hopeful for.

The Speech

obama-speech1

A lot of people were expecting another “Yes we can” epic on Tuesday, as Obama quickly left the Chief Justice flub (which some are speculating was deliberate) on a relatively simple 35 word oath in the past.  However, those people were mildly disappointed as Obama instead gave them a growing up chide. Needless to say, he did the right thing. That’s what an inauguration speech should be about.

No sensible president in this time would seek to rouse the people in the vein of a rock star with a messiah complex. He is the President of the United States – not a front man for a new rock band. His speech was about managing expectations, not managing serotonin levels. His objective was not to bring people another blissful speech which would serve as little more than a 20 minute fix to distract them from the mess America is currently in.

What many people fail to understand is that Obama is trying to bring them out of their drug induced, messiah-worshiping stupor to realise that America is lying it its own vomit. He is not on campaign anymore. He knows that it is time to “put away childish things” and grow up. Whereas on his campaign his words were like that of a doting father, he is now a stern patriarchal figure who is bringing the country out of it’s state of petulant immaturity. He has already adequately proven that yes, they could. Now that they have, it’s time to do.

I suspect that George W. Bush who was seated not too far behind would have found Obama’s inauguration speech to be a stinging detraction of his fumbling administration. However, the truth is never easy to hear and I suspect those 20 minutes were the most uncomfortable 20 minutes of the old man’s life.

Of Obama’s entire delivery, I found the following elements to be most worthy of note:

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

I remember a key note of Bush’s inauguration speech in 2000 where he makes a mandate to go after Saddam Hussein. That was an edict to go to war long before it actually happened. We now know that Bush would’ve gone to war regardless. He had already decided that he would unite America behind him to go to war – he just needed some kind of justification to rally the public to this cause. 9/11 couldn’t have happened at a better time (which is why conspiracy theorists are abuzz to this very day). Thankfully, Obama changes this philosophy altogether. He is not interested in starting a war to unite the people. This is our first clue that we have a sensibly thinking president.

“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

I remember once when Bush was questioned about going to war in Iraq, he stated that God inspired him to do so – and the entire world reeled – especially after his re-election. Some time later people, started to comment that the Iraq war is really a religious war between Christianity and Islam. Now as there is grand speculation about the true purpose and motivation for the war, one thing is true: Religion played an important role in the politics of the Bush Administration.

This has impaired a lot of Bush’s decisions (such as his vetoe of potentially revolutionary stem cell research) and has led to a number of undesirable outcomes, such as over 4,000 dead soldiers and a dying economy. I’ve always maintained that the Church and State should remain separate. Faith doesn’t need rational justification and as such, anything (even nonsense) can be justified by religion. Obama knows that and the fact that he recognises this deficit in Republican politics provides reason for great hope in the next 4 – 8 years.

People of all races stand affixed to the man of the moment.

“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

The President’s club was once an elitist institution that was primarily occupied by old white men. The combo breaker in the form of Obama’s election to the role is a poignant and meaningful departure from politics as usual. Because of the conspicuous nature of the innate failure of the black male in a white male dominated society, it is only fitting that the black man had the most to prove. Every black man knows this – but many doubted their capacity to do it because of the inescapable glass ceiling which existed in their heads.

Now that Barack Obama has broken through that ceiling, he has unwittingly unleashed the flood gates to all other minorities, not just black men. Now the president’s seat is open to women, latinos, asians and who knows – maybe even gays. The Black man in America is simultaneously the most reviled and the most loved member of all minority groups. Now that a black man has attained the highest office in the land and set an example for all other delinquent black men to follow, the perception of black folks has been inversely polarised from being viewed as the very worst to being viewed as potentially the very best.

Because of Obama’s success, everyone now collectively views black people in America differently – including black people themselves. Now they feel they have something to want to change themselves for. Now they have something to aspire and believe in. While that is happening, everyone else who isn’t a white male now feels that they have an equal shot of pursuing their full measure of happiness. That is the power of hope.

“But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

This is a call to exercise responsibility. It is a call to business interests in the market to put aside the greed which they sacrificed good management for and for government to take a more active role in regulating the markets – even if it means that government becomes more involved. While the very basis of Republican theology is for small government, it is not practical in every case. This is part of the reason why both Reps and Dems are grateful for Obama’s penchant to govern from the center.

Republican ideas are suitable for many initiatives, but history has shown that it is grossly imprudent to leave the force of the market almost exclusively to the will of the people. This systemic world-wide market implosion is a ripple effect that reminds us that the concept of Laissez-faire is a fundamentally and dangerously flawed one. It does not take into account concepts such as greed and poor credit marketing practices which started this financial black hole in the first place.

In this context, Obama’s inclination for governing from the center is a clue to both sides of the fence that both have good ideas and both have bad ideas. Both sides need to consider making the unpleasant choice of pulling their heads out of their posteriors and concede to the good that can be taken from either side of the fence. Bi-partisan governance is the way to go and both parties are more than happy to welcome a man that embraces that type of agenda.

Obama Inaugural Speech

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works”

Thinking outside the box is something that is uncommon for many world leaders. They tend to leave that sort of thinking to the people under them who are executors. How narrow minded. Long has the debate been in Washington on whether to use small or large government strategy in economic governance. People have become so affixed to the concepts that they fail to recall the key performance indicator: Does it work?

Partisan politics tends to do that. They are so far left or right that they fail to appreciate the big picture. They are never actively asking themselves the question: “Is the strategy actually working?” While they deliberate on the semantics of their points, the people suffer. This is what has led to the development of organisations such as http://www.dividedwefail.org which asks exactly the same type of question: Does it work?

Now that the United States has a president that is asking the same question, it does provide a sense of hope that somebody is looking at the big picture instead of being consumed by their own tunnel vision propensities induced by partisan philosophy. If Obama sticks to his guns, those watchdog organisations may become redundant – at least until the next president takes office.

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals…Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

Of all the rhetoric in this speech, this line probably stung George Bush the most. Iraq will be his greatest legacy. We cannot forget when the blatantly ignored the UN Resolution against going to war. He pretty much gave the UN the finger and took the gung-ho US Army (which was itching to shed blood after 9/11) plus the US electorate which collectively took the bait and ran into war with an enemy they seriously underestimated.

It is never a sensible thing to blindly rush to arms. Every ounce of diplomacy should be thoroughly exhausted. Even if war is an inevitability, it has to be properly planned, manned, managed and executed. There is no doubt that there was great good that came out of the war. However, considering the hefty price that was paid and the gross mismanagement thereof, it would not be remiss of the American people to consider the reality that the end does not necessarily justify the means.

A large throng at the Washington Memorial

“Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.

This is a powerful statement. In its bid to seize Iraq, America made enemies of everyone and routinely beat its chest like a power-hungry dictator every once in a while. In a bid to “war against terror”, America became the very thing it hoped to destroy. What use is going to war with the rest of the world if there are no allies? Only the arrogant do such things.

A great man once said that power is not the ability to do a thing as much as it is the ability to exercise restraint in doing that thing. That is the true definition of power. Another expression worth mentioning here is that the true character of a man can be measured when given power. Then again, we cannot forget the age old addage that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely“.

Even Comic books demonstrate more wisdom that the previous administration. In the first Spider-man story, Ben Parker certainly wasn’t joking around when he said that “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It is only a pity that in the Bush administration, the mismanagement of the war has shown that in reality, great power often comes with great irresponsibility.

“Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”

This is what the rest of the world needs to hear. When a giant buys a new pair of stomping boots, the rest of the ants and small crawling insects in the jungle need to know that the giant will tread lightly. This is one of the key reasons why the rest of the world is so excited about the Obama Era. His presence is symbolic of the ushering in of the age of reason and tempered diplomacy – not one of rash decision making and reckless wild west Texas cowboy-ism.

Obama takes agressive tones in his inauguration speech.

“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

This is where John Kerry floundered. Bush was willing to demonstrate in rhetoric that he is not afraid of being a war president if needs be. The only problem is that a hurting post 9/11 America was all to willing to gobble up this rhetoric and not consider that there needs to be a counter-balance of restraint. Revenge, as Yoda rightfully says, is the path to the dark side. Obama understands this and his rhetoric proves two things:

1. Unlike Kerry, Obama is not mincing words when he mandates his willingness to be the United States’ prime defender. However, 2. unlike Bush who was willing to “do unto others before they do unto us“, Obama is more along the lines of “don’t mistake our kindness for weakness – we will kick your ass if we have to“. It doesn’t need to be any more clear than that.

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers.”

This is a subtle reminder of the ubiquitous availability of the American dream. Anyone who is willing to seek it will find it. The premise of the constitution provides freedom of being, so long as that freedom is not used to infringe on the same right of others as some extremist agendas are inclined to believe.

It is a warning to Muslim extremists who seek to force Islam down everyone’s throat that their dogma will never be tolerated in America. All being said, it is also a subtle reminder of the fact that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Obama thanks Bush for giving him the election on a silver platter.

“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

In a direct reference to the nuclear powers of the east (and a cleverly disguised reference to the outgoing administration), Obama reminds malevolent dictators and dictator-like world leaders that their power is only given to them by the people they rule. Both Saddam Hussein and the Afghanistan Taliban learned that lesson the hard way. Others just might as well. It is a reminder that all that is needed is for one country to give those people hope that they can be free. It is a reminder to people both international and domestic that the power of the people united should never be underestimated.

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

As I had mentioned before, we are on the cusp of the age of reason. The days of dictatorship are numbered. From the silencing of Hitler’s Wehrmacht to the dismantling of the Taliban’s stranglehold on Afghanistan, the world is growing increasingly intolerant of political bullies. The world has changed and nations should change with it. Sooner or later, the bullies in power who hold on to their old ways will all meet the same inevitable end.

“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”

Kenyans would certainly take a great deal from this message, but it is not a mandate that America can help everyone – or even Kenya necessarily. Certainly, America has not only just recently started to help the starving nations in Africa and none of this was necessarily Government mandated. Credit must be given to the Bush Administration which contributed significantly to this cause. Obama has simply pledged to continue this much. America is and has always been a friend of the poor.

But of all the lines in this speech however, this stands out the most, especially to conflicted minorities:

“This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

That is the culmination of the dream that inspired the hope. Hope is a powerful thing. If the people are given hope, then they will make their dreams happen themselves. Hope gives people the unction to believe that deliverance is possible and that goals are attainable. Once hope is kept alive, then the people have a cause to continue. Once their hope is placed in their own happiness, then they will inexorably bring it about by their own doing.

That is one of the hallmarks of a great leader – the ability to inspire hope in the people to change. Of a truth, a new era has begun.

obama-change

Now with 2012 looming on the horizon, let’s just hope that the events in that movie featuring a black president in 1998 don’t actually occur. The timing is nothing short of terrifyingly ironic.

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  1. January 26, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I still to this date don`t understand how the US could do this…Did the UN do anything to “punish” the US for this blatant breach????

    When the US won World War II by nuking Japan in an ultimate Tit for Tat for Pearl Harbour, it unofficially established itself as the unequivocal final word in badassism in the world. Nobody dared to mess with them after that. Only Russia was a serious threat and now Al Quaeda. But if the US were to truly flex its muscles, millions of innocents would die. That’s why the UN was established, to prevent that sort of thing from ever happening again.

    If not, how can they get away with this kind of thing, but other countries cannot???

    The UN was effectively proposed, established, funded and run by the US. So technically speaking, they’re the only ones who can ignore the rules. So far, Bush and Nixon are the only US Presidents known to have broken those rules – and with tragic results. Republican presidents have been known to have a very itchy trigger finger. They love war for some inexplicable reason – and to think, Republican presidents tend to be from the Religious right… Go figure.

    What about the Israeli – Palestinian one way war … Whats the UN doing and I even think one of their buildings was bombed up by the Israelis…

    I feel bad for those Palestinian civilians, but their government asked for it. They must’ve forgotten that the David who slayed Goliath was an ISRAELITE… not an Arab. If Hamas had half a brain, they would never have provoked Israel in the first place. This is not to say that Israel was justified in the wanton and indiscriminate slaughter. But Hamas picked a fight they couldn’t possibly win.

    Is the war in Iraq really a war?? What is that war really about??? Because the CIA confirmed that there is no Weapon of Mass destruction. So seriously why is that war continuing even after several protests and several deaths…???

    I only feel sorry for the sons and husbands of Democratic families who died in the war. I feel less so for the trigger happy Republicans who kicked the bucket. Bush was their super-hero, and they were too stupid to realise that before they voted in that bumbling idiot a second time. In fact, Americans should stop blaming Bush for their problems. They brought it on themselves.

    Obama has many nice words, I hope he will actually take action…

    He seems like a sensible guy. What really impressed me though was that he didn’t bother with the spine tingling speech at the inauguration. THAT’s what made me garner a lot more respect for him than I already had. He’s not just a wordsmith. The man is thinking. It’s about time Americans had a president that was thoughtful for once. I too hope he can deliver the goods. For if you’ve been seeing the crap that is being broadcast on Fox News lately, you’ll realise that the 2012 election campaign has already begun…

  2. January 26, 2009 at 1:05 am

    Hey Xen, nice post…

    “We cannot forget when the blatantly ignored the UN Resolution against going to war.”

    I still to this date don`t understand how the US could do this…Did the UN do anything to “punish” the US for this blatant breach???? If not, how can they get away with this kind of thing, but other countries cannot???
    What about the Israeli – Palestinian one way war … Whats the UN doing and I even think one of their buildings was bombed up by the Israelis…

    Is the war in Iraq really a war?? What is that war really about??? Because the CIA confirmed that there is no Weapon of Mass destruction. So seriously why is that war continuing even after several protests and several deaths…???

    Obama has many nice words, I hope he will actually take action….

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