History has been made and the first African American presidential candidate from a major party has won the election to become the 44th President of the United States of America. What does this mean?
“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.” At the time those words were written, new Africans and blacks born in America were slaves, women could not vote and the native population were not even on the map. The black slaves were considered to be 3/5ths of a man.
Much of the history of North America has been about actively preventing slaves, former slaves and their descendants from participating in the American society to the detriment of the country itself. Through law and custom, African Americans have been forced under threat of (and real) humiliation, imprisonment and violence to cower in front of white people, work for them, give way and defer to them. There were always those who fought to be included in the mass that was America, to have a voice and positively contribute to their country. They fought America’s wars, raised their children, cooked their food, cared for the sick and bore the brunt of hatred that a nation that would not let go of its free, servile labor for its own profit and pleasure at the cost of its soul.
There were those whose deeds of defiance and words of eloquence sought to demonstrate that pigment was no barrier to a poet’s soul, a painter’s eye, a musician’s skill, a doctor’s touch, the inventor’s inquisitive mind, or a person’s heart to want and strive for a meaningful life. The pursuit of equality has been a goal of African Americans ever since they were brought to the land in chains.
The hope and determination that America’s former slaves have shown – to be included in the country they help to found, built and defend – has been inspiring to the world. The words and deeds of millions have shown the world that good character, intelligence, artistic skills and a sound scientific mind are not limited by the colour of one’s skin.
Obama’s victory is not just a win for African American citizens who have always been stopped at that final door to acceptance in eyes of the world. The popular media have often stated that “African leaders are corrupt!” (but nothing is said about those who are corrupting them). The African Americans who struggled to make their place in the world were always put in the same barrel as those who had not made the best choices and/or succumbed to violence and escapism to mask the terrible pain and shame they felt at being blocked from living the life they saw around them, or on the other side of the tracks.
Obama’s victory is an American triumph over their past and proof that nothing is static. Hope, change and action are things that have driven progress in the world. It is hope that pushed people to work for their own and their children’s future. To get up in the morning to protest for justice knowing that they may suffer for it. Hope and the instinctive, deep seeded knowledge that individuals working together can change their circumstances, bring about change, heal old wounds and unify behind a common purpose, is what has driven mankind.
Obama’s victory is about the average Jane, and Joe of America realizing that the country is more important than any one party. The policies of the GOP have been horrible for everyone, even investors. The military is overstretched by men who used their family’s influence to avoid military service. The economy has been broken by those who made horrible choices on investments based on fast, easy money and no accountability. The health care system is corrupt and weak after decades of lobbyists buying votes to keep Americans sick and poor, building an insurance industry that penalizes its citizens for getting sick. Innovation has fallen to perpetuate a status quo that states that less is bad, that everyone should drink more, eat more and burn fuel more than anyone else, everyday, all of the time. The auto industry is just one of the casualties of that philosophy.
Obama’s victory is a win for common sense and a real opportunity for intelligence, good policy and respect to return to US politics. Under his Presidency, the US could truly once again influence the world, not with bombs or a barrel of a gun, but with strong, thoughtful leadership. It remains to be seen how it will all work out. Obama has demonstrated by including millions of Americans in the process to support the Democrats and his campaign that there was an untapped strength of a nation which has been neglected and wants to participate in the health and wealth of their own country.
The power of optimism is that it inspires people to bring out the better parts of their nature, to improve their own lives and those of others. A person who can tap into that basic truth and help the nation focus to be strong, vibrant and helpful to its citizens is a real leader. For too long politicians have used their power to divide their country’s citizens against one another, while giving power and money to businesses at the expense of common sense and true prosperity. Obama’s win shows that the majority of people really do want to get along, live together and work together for a brighter future. They just need to be guided by a leader who wants everyone’s life to be better, not just a select few.
The USA will be the better for it. As the rhetoric calms down and the nation heals, the world might end up being safer for it too. Good luck Obama, good luck USA, we’re all pulling for you.