September 05, 2008

Cause Greater Than Self?

It’s now two months to the day since, instead of preparing for my upcoming Politics of the USA exam, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on the presidential election, thus giving rise to this blog.

Since then I’ve travelled to Uganda, which of course neighbours on Kenya, the birthplace of Barack Obama, Sr. Everyone we spoke to about the US election was abuzz with audacious hope about the prospect of propelling one of their own into the White House. Whether or not Obama is victorious come November 4 2008, one thing is certain...

The names, “Barack” and “Michelle” over and above “Malia Ann” and “Sasha”, will overnight become some of the most popular children’s names in Africa and beyond. In fact, while visiting a remote village near Lira, a proud father introduced his two sons to me: “This one’s Ronald and that one’s Reagan.” It was hard to hide my amusement.

Most recently, I’ve just got back from Cuba, where there was also a great deal of excitement among the comrades over there about the prospect of a Democrat-win, due to the likely thawing of relations between the two countries. Let’s hope they’re not disappointed.

This truly is a global election. After all, for all the avid interest in Europe and our media’s fervid following of every last twist and turn, people like me won’t actually have any say whatsoever in the outcome. We’ll just have to live with the outcome.

Last night the grand, old man of the Grand Old Party had its turn in the spotlight at the closing night of the Republican National Convention. Clearly, it was choregraphed as an antidote to Obama's obelisks last week. In tone, it was more fireside chat than firebrand's chant. As expected, it was an out-and-out orgy of patriotism of the stars and stripes variety and, equally unsurprisingly, despite the call to serve a “cause greater than self” much was made of the man running for President himself and of his history.

The best put-down to Obama was probably the following line:

I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need.  

Yet for all the talk on both sides that this election isn't really about the candidates, but rather the electorate at large and their everyday existence, the emphasis of the entire election is (to this outside observer, at least) extraordinarily personality-based. The ability to spin a moving personal story seems to count for as much, maybe much more, than policies and manifesto pledges.

Indeed, in as far last night's theatre taught us anything about the approach a McCain-Palin administration would take to the wider world, a slightly sinister mood was struck. Take for example the warm-up words of First Lady-wannabe Cindy “Doll” McCain:

I was taught that Americans can look at the world and ask either what do other countries think of us or we can look at ourselves and ask, what would our forefathers make of us and what will our children say of us?

Country first is fine as a rallying call to the Republican rank and file. But country first at all costs conjures up the sort of unquestioning loyalty that led the country into the invasion of Iraq and makes for such an alarmingly isolationist approach to international relations.

I think I'll save my thoughts on Sarah Palin for another day...

It’s two months since the last update, apologies for the infrequency of my posting; it’s also two months until we’ll find out who’s won the White House. There’s all to play for!


June 05, 2008

The President of… Panama?

As an audacious hoper myself, it gives me great pleasure to start the first entry of this brand new blog with the news that Clinton will quit and back Obama.

The stage is surely set for the serious show-down and at long, long last we now know who will be in the blue corner to deflect the attacks from the fighter in the red corner.

This development is indeed cause for celebration!

Call me a killjoy, but I already see some trouble ahead...

Now I hate to bring up questions of birthright and background, but has it occurred to you that one of the candidates is, well, how should I put this, a little less than US born and bred?

Yes, that's right, John Sidney McCain III was in fact born in Panama, the southernmost country in Central America which, according to the Lonely Planet profile, boasts a "stunning coastline of palm-fringed beaches, astounding wildlife ... and proud, vibrant indigenous peoples, such as the Kuna."

To avoid any undue confusion, I should perhaps add that, far from being adopted by some island tribe, the future Republican Senator was born at Coco Solo Naval Air Station on 29 August 1936, at a time when the the Panama Canal was under American control, and the McCains, a naval family, were stationed in the Canal Zone.

Being an idealistic as well as internationalist sort, I sincerely hope that US-born Senator Obama resists the urge to use this fact in the campaign to cast his rival as a foreigner, or, say a somewhat unconstitutional contender for the Presidency of the United States.

Welcome to Appetite and Aversion, counter-intuitive though hopefully not counter-factual...


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