The world stands on the threshold of an historic change as the people of the United States elect a new President in a few days. Tuesday’s election, as this paper pointed out when Democrat Barack Obama secured his party’s nomination, is a major opportunity for change in America’s engagement with the world.
Whether Obama or his main rival, Republican John McCain, triumphs, we and much of the world will be hoping for a departure from the policies of George W Bush to what we called "a more thoughtful superpower, less infatuated with its military might and open to diplomacy’s potential to bring about change".
As many citizens of the world will attest, their countries have experienced from America "the example of its power", to use the words of former US President Bill Clinton.
The Middle East, no doubt, provides the most illuminating signpost of the failures of the Bush administration and its "first-strike doctrine".
The question that lingers, and what the Bush successor shall be compelled to answer, is whether the world is safer than the American President found it. Bush’s eight-year reign ends in domestic failure, epitomised in an economic meltdown that threatens to subsume world economies. That, too, will take years to fix.
The world’s excitement over the US election is further informed by its elevated status as the only superpower - the "indispensable nation". Whether America has displayed its might with responsibility is a question that elicits much debate.
One other factor has the world hypnotised by the US race - the presence of an unusual candidate who reflects America’s broad heritage and has demonstrated passion, thoughtful calm and grace under pressure.
Barack Obama, who traces his roots to this country, briefly lived in Indonesia and was raised in Hawaii, represents the best of America and its values. As US newspaper editors endorsing his candidacy have agreed: "He is no lone rider. He is a consensus builder, a leader."
In the country’s sometimes painful history, an empire built on slave labour, its complicated legacy of racism has placed barriers that have proved insurmountable for some. On that account Obama’s presidential run is a milestone in history, a huge first step, according to some, towards the "end of racism."
It has been a long journey and, from those familiar with his story, a hard road to travel, for his track was paved with gravel.
It’s a major source of joy for many African-Americans who reckon that Obama’s personal feat is a culmination of a long process, going generations back, reaping from the labours of committed activists in the civil rights movement. Obama’s eloquence is often equated with that of Martin Luther King, Jnr, who was felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1968. Others see him as the reincarnation of former US President John F Kennedy, who was similarly assassinated in 1963.
That some elements in the American society have been exposed plotting to kill Obama on account of race, call to mind the prophecy of African-American author and thinker WEB Dubois who predicted that the problem of the 20th century would be race. The bright side of this is that Obama’s presidency, if it does materialise, would change race relations significantly. Beyond quashing Afro-pessimism, the hackneyed thesis that presents Africa as a backward, hopeless continent, it would inspire humanity to confirm skin colour has nothing to do with ability.
Fittingly, Obama’s rallying call is hope. Our endorsement of Obama for President, which we present unequivocally, is because we believe he is the right man for the job.
In these troubled times of America’s diminished influence over the world, he presents the best chance to fix the mess that the US has put itself, and in turn, the world.
His character and temperament in the gruelling campaigns have impressed all. As for the ideas and values he articulates, we are proud to have heard first-hand of his support for Press freedoms when he visited the Standard Group’s offices in 2006, not long after an illegal police raid.
Obama’s complex heritage offers him a perspective bereft of the baggage that has burdened and blighted his opponent’s campaign.
Judging from the way he has run for office, Obama has displayed the knowledge and the wisdom that would avert many worries for the world, the sort that Bush has plunged it into.
The Iraq debacle, preceded by the one in Afghanistan, convey the senseless plunder that has made the world poorer, indelibly scarred and increasingly dangerous. Its legacy is a loss in the trust in the US to act responsibly in global affairs.
With uncertainty and crisis spreading across the globe, the return of an America more tolerant and respectful of the international community is keenly awaited. The American people deserve some relief as do the rest of the world.
Still, the most abiding motif that Obama would represent is encapsulated in the Latin expression: ‘Ex Africa semper aliquid novi!’ which means, ‘something new always comes out of Africa’.
Friday, October 31, 2008