Thursday, November 6, 2008
It is hard to say who made the first call.
What is certain is shortly after, within the space of 2 minutes, almost a million more were made. The fact alone was hardly news in a country recording a population of 120 million. And then you took into consideration that the calls began at 3 in the morning. You marveled at the fact that it happened on a Tuesday—a working day. You gasped at the fact that the million calls spurned millions more. And then suddenly the news of the abnormality became worthy news.
The facts were these. Still exhausted from the rigors of a demanding Tuesday, millions of people were forcefully woken from their sleep. The reason was quickly explained. Thousands of miles away, in a country which had its time zone 6 hours behind ours, history had been made. The phone calls called for celebration. Reactions of delighted joy followed the breathless announcements. People called each other to spread the historic news.
I got a call that night.
Mine was for a different reason.
It carried behind it none of the general urge to share the good news which was propelling callers around the country. I was being called to be laughed at. I was the guy in the looking glass—A singular being of agnized negativity living amongst fellow humans—who nobody could understand.Simply put, I was one of those weirdoes who did not support Obama.
“You lost you idiot!” The first caller yelled.
Barely opening my eyes, having been asleep for a little over 4 hours and hence ignorant, I surmised quickly that this probably meant so also did McCain.
It was almost expected of me not to be in love with Obama.
I was rarely asked “Who do you support?”. Instead the assuming line of “You don’t like Obama do you?” was more often used. Born renegade, ever in need of interesting debate, it was not difficult to find myself on the other team against Obama.
In the beginning it was easy. I loved Hillary and completely supported her bid. This was no fickle cheer by some stranger who watches matches during the occasional weekend. This was the obsessed study of charts by a fan as he peers through glasses emblazoned with the logo of his club. My love for Hilary was no new thing. Ever since the Lewinsky era I had admired her strength, focus and loyalty. Attributes I believed no good leader could do without. With Hillary as president, and the equally intelligent ( and less philandric) Bill behind her, America could not hope for a better champion.
And then she lost.
I don’t hate Obama.
A lot of people have come to assume this and I, in keeping with my renegade image, have done nothing to correct that impression. I actually like him. I once sat with my youngest sister and watch her cry as she listened to him talk. The strength of his rhetoric coupled with the steady confident gaze is as powerful an attraction as a siren’s song to sailors. I admire his confidence and his discipline. His composure against attacks thrown at him which criticize his policies and question his loyalty. When Obama walks the stage he does it with the grace of a panther. Effortlessly charming the audience whilst leaving them with no doubt of the strength of his character. As I watched him with each passing day after his party nomination, I became more confident that if there was ever a worthy replacement to my candidate Hillary, he was it.
So why did I appear not to support him?
I was worried about the trend that seemed to be plaguing the world. Everywhere I turned more and more people seemed inclined to have Obama as a president not as a result of the attributes that I was in love with, but for a simpler basal trait. He was an African American. It seemed ridiculous to me that a person’s vote was based primarily on the appearance of his candidate’s skin. All over Nigeria everyone was pro Obama. Not very many people had listened to his debate and even fewer had any idea of what his policies were. Nonetheless, everyone was in complete support of his bid for presidency. Everywhere I turned I was swept with the wave of Obama-mania carried by people who had no substance behind their glee.
I pondered the logic of the situation. The irrationality of voiced sentiments. The absolute danger behind the ecumenical movement.
History warns of the blind worship of new leaders.
Hitler. Idi Amin. Obasanjo.
All three were welcomed into office with loud cheers in the streets. All three ended up being dismal failures at their jobs, spawning a sad tale of irrational murders, kidnapping and unrestrained corruption. Even more interesting was the period at which each assumed power. Their individual nations were at all time low with the economy in stutters. The general public walked with their backs hunched against the mantle of the nation’s ill health. The people were sick of the way they were living and demanded an end to their suffering. Unsurprisingly, in situations of domestic revolt the first head to be chopped of is usually the leader. The people demanded a new king. One who would fix things. One who would ease their burden. One who would bring about that which their every cell called for as it churned in the blood of wretchedness.
I believe it is possible for America to change. I, in fact, fully expect her too.
I am not worried about that. I am worried at the perception of everyone that a singular change of government is going to bring about an immediate change. 46 years ago Martin Luther king asked for a change in the country. 46 years later his wish was answered with the election of the first African American.
America is at an all time low. Never, since the great depression, has her economy suffered as badly as it currently is. There are some who would suggest that compared to the depression of the 30’s this is even worse. That is not the issue. What is is how long the much needed revival is going to take. In his acceptance speech Obama pointed this out to everyone saying “….It might take a term to achieve this but , America, I have never been more hopeful.”(A paraphrase). I personally would have been much happier if he had used the word “confident” instead of “hopeful” but the man knows his politics. It would be suicide for anyone to promise a change of the magnitude expected by the American public. I realize that. I do not expect much to change until his second term simply because it will take years for his plans to show fruit but how many voters actually know this?
The issue of America’s health is a serious one in that it affects us all. The Terrorist can groan all they want but if they did eventually get rid of the “Infidels” like they keep threatening to do , they would wake up to find they had an abundance of unwanted goats living in pens feeding on the sparse vegetation the arab desert and occasionally swimming in pools of unused ,by virtue of its niemity, crude oil.
The truth is the well being of the world assumes a precondition that America is equally well. If the United States falters (as it has) then inevitable other economies world wide will falter as well. (As it did.)
If a country’s well being is assumed as important to the health of the world then it follows that more attention be given to the leader of said nation. More thought should be paid to the decision of a successor than the color of his skin.
Barak Obama is an impressive man with incredible potential. And yet I dare say that were this not so—if by some weird chance some idiotic African American with the backings of the Democrats was nominated as presidential candidate—the just concluded wave of singular trait worship ,coupled with the desperate need for change, would have swept him just as overwhelmingly into office.
This is not impossible. How else did George W. Bush get elected president?
Hasn’t the time come when people are more concerned about what the candidate can do for the country and less about who he is? Today the media announces that the election was not about race. I beg to differ. It was mostly about race. If indeed the well being was chief in the minds of the American public then Obama might never have survived the primaries. The polls show that Obama was voted in by an overwhelming number of the black and young demographic. If ten were to be picked and asked what informed their decision 9 of them would reply with words associated with “Change”, “African American” and “being cool”. In an election designed to select the leader of the free world it is absurd that this is what it boils down too. The cosmetic plebeian perception of the masses. A selection based more on racial profiling than on the candidate’s official qualification for the position being lobbied.
Do not get me wrong.
I believe there were millions of people who made an informed decision to vote for Obama. In all likelihood there was very little in way of preventing a Democratic return to power. The Republicans had done such a good job destroying the virtues of the nation that the people would have had to be extremely blind to have returned them to power. Obama’s victory was surprising not because of the Party’s triumph but because of the person who the Democrats approved to ride their Seabiscuit.
The very play of sensation against sensibilities was evident in the final lap. Barack Obama picked a vice president because he understood that, for the few Americans out there who were not caught up in the hebdomadal countdown to possible history being churned by the media, his foreign policy and knowledge was reason enough to lose him some of their votes. Hence the choice of Biden—a man designed to satisfy those who demanded enterprising leaders instead of entertaining one. Senator Mc Cain on the other hand astutely realized that where common sense was involved he would be hard put to gain a following outside that which he already had ( The diehard republican faithful.) and so he seized on the genius idea of riding the wave of sensationalism. Sarah Palin was a good counter to Obama’s social fame. With that singular act Mc Cain sought to pull with him more people. People from the demographic where race, sex and a candidate’s glass were good enough reasons to get voted into office. And unsurprisingly, up until the financial meltdown his daedal plan was actually working.
I argued with people to make them think.
A time must come when we make decisions based on individually contemplated review and not on the hand painted presented worth given by the media and ultimately the majority public. There must come a time when we vote with reason. There must come a time when a man’s rhetoric, as charming as it might be, will not be enough to sway our decision not to support him if his mettle does not charm us accordingly. Eloquence is expected of leader. Fustian and witty rhetoric is the trademark of a politician.
Being a successful leader requires the ability to charm your followers.
Being a successful follower requires the strength to look through the charm and point out the murk that exists beneath—if any. If we do not study our leader we end up with the Hitlers of the world.
A nation is only as strong as its people.
I am delighted with Obama’s victory.
I am excited about what it stands for.
My only wish was that his victory was more as a result of confident belief in the man and less on the public need of hope and the infantile decision to change the history books just because…we can. Obama sought to be elected as president but instead got an approval as a savior. I look forward to his administration and pray that the American people find patience with him. Something they normally would have had, had their decision to vote for him been based on a realistic idea of what he could achieve and not (as it mostly was) on a dream of some Messianic president who would fix everything with his African wand in his very first year.
Writing this blog the irony of my situation does not evade me.
Many of the people trapped by sensationalism do not read. They are dependent more on the word shared on the streets and the glitz of cameras. Writing an article complaining about the social situation is an exercise drenched in futility. The only people who will ever get to read this are people who really do not need too. People who are used to reading and listening and then thinking.
There is little more I can do but that which I have always done. Persist in my role as a part time renegade—Challenging commonly accepted truths in a bid to make people search for the ingrained reason that makes it true. If it makes me appear a hater of Obama and spurs them on to find reasons to effectively counter my assumed disloyalty then I shall have done society some small service.
Come January I shall welcome Obama into office with a content smile.
But deep in my heart shall lurk the dark worry that despite thousands of years of painful experience the human race is still terribly fickle. Still worryingly pliable to the whims of the majority and the circumstances of the time. Particularly in moments of crisis. History will always be a willing teacher as long as we keep returning for the same lesson.
There is very little I can do, I suppose.
Except give little lectures, annoy a few more clueless Obama supporters and answer amusing early morning calls.
It is every man’s right to vote.
I only just wish, we all voted for the right reasons.
God bless us all.