Thursday, November 06, 2008

Congratulations On Purchasing Your New Obama!

I like to keep in touch with what’s going in the world by checking my friend’s status updates on Facebook and I’ve been overwhelmed the last couple of days by the news that some Obama chap has been elected President of the United States. After doing some research I also discovered he’s black!

Now the one thing that everyone involved in campaigning, covering and coveting the whole mess seems keen to stress is that Barack Obama being elected President of the United States is in no way to do with him being black. Except it is, but it isn’t, least not in an important way. But it kind of is. What it all seemed to boil down to was that History (whatever omniscient God that is we pray to) will look back and say, ‘Marjorie! They first elected a black president in November 2008!’ and this is ‘important’ however, as any rational thinking human established way back when families first waved goodbye to each other from the African shores, the colour of a human’s skin makes no difference to whether they fuck up or not on all the things they promised. This deliverance of promises/endorsements is what is ‘important’ right now.

Still, his acceptance speech was good enough to make me feel guilty about my automatic position of casual cynicism so I hope the rest of the world joins with me in giving Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt.

It is an impressive feat given the recent background of civil rights in America. After all, this is the office of the President of the United States of America I’m talking about. Many (Americans) consider this, the position of absolute leadership, the chance to lead the Free World (their term, not mine), the pure unholy power, to be the highest attainable position in the Universe (after Jesus and God of course, and a view of rulers apparently shared by the majority of civilisations). ‘One day, son, you could be President!’, that seems to be the thought that most immediately springs to mind when I think of an American father encouraging his son, but that might be because I watch too much Simpsons.

But after this Election the sex and the race of the parties involved no longer matter. Whilst Hilary Clinton didn’t exactly smash head first through a glass ceiling this time, she did at least admirably bump into it, like an albatross might a ship’s bayside window. And it’s an amazing thing. The importance of a woman and a black man running for President of the United States cannot be underestimated more than it is overstated. The 106 year-old Anne Nixon Cooper that Obama mentioned in his speech has gone from times of not being able to vote because of her sex and the colour of her skin, to... voting for someone she wanted to be elected as her representative leader a century on. Yes sir! these are evolved times.

Sadly, as wonderful as these things are in a weird way, my ears were pricked by a list of people that Obama mentioned at the beginning of his acceptance speech that don’t have the same chance of reaching this illustrious position simply because of accident of birth or their beliefs. He said that anyone who doubts whether America is a land where all things are possible has been answered ‘now’ (presumably meaning January 11th when things can actually happen), by the people who’s voices answered them, ‘the young and old… rich and poor… Democrat and Republican… black and white… Hispanic, Asian, Native American… Gay, straight… disabled and not disabled’ and I immediately began to ponder, in this new age of tolerance, how many of these people could conceivably be elected President of the US of A?

Obviously some of these conceivability conundrums are easier to answer than others, so let’s take them in reverse alphabetical order. By the way, any notion of likelihood I make up for a person being elected in no way corresponds to its moral significance. I don’t care whether the potential inconceivability of a poor, gay, disabled Native American atheist being elected President of the United States makes it more or less important than any other minority. So, from the rear we have:

1.) Young and old.
Bzzzzt! wrong if you’re younger than 35. Your opinion between 18 and 35 is important, but not important enough for you to actually make decisions based on your opinions. Same for anyone diving headfirst out of threescore and ten. And fair play as well. Anyone younger than 35 is clearly a liability, as are ye oldes. You can’t depend on your dependents. Inconceivable!

2.) Rich and poor.
Getting into the White House does not appear to be cheap. A soapbox bum with a sound fiscal policy and superb welfare reform plans won’t be heard if he can’t afford a million-strong team of propaganda merchants. That said, a child born into poverty who works their way to riches has just as much chance of getting to the White House as anyone else. Half-conceivable!

3.) Hispanic, Asian, Native American.
Three groups that all have something in common in that they’re all minorities who have been fucked around to varying degrees by the American government. This means they are generally discriminated against by white middle-America who finds the idea of ‘one of them’ ruling the world somehow wrong. This group four years ago would also have included African-Americans and been labelled Inconceivable! Of course Obama’s changed all that for the better, so who knows? (So long as they’re born in America). Personally I reckons Steven Seagal should run, that’s one Native American who would get my non-existent vote. Conceivable Due To Recent Events!

4.) Gay, straight.
For starters I’d like to add ‘single’ to this group. True, James Buchanan was a bachelor through his presidency and Grover Cleveland married during his first term, but nowadays expecting the voter to treat a grinning individual with no family home as anything but sinister seems to be going a bit far. Meanwhile gay activists continue to fight the good fight and it’s not Inconceivable! that in a few years the gay stereotype will have vanished enough for it not to be an issue. This does perhaps re-raise the question of a family life though. That’s a lot of prejudices you gotta cut through… And straights are the ones causing the problems, so fuck them. Perhaps Conceivable!

5.) Democrat and Republican
Well duh. It’s not like the Independents have got any hope. Conceivable!

6.) Disabled and not disabled.
The question here really is what counts as disabled and not disabled. Does a top Harvard graduate with brilliant intelligence and a beautiful singing voice make me somehow disabled in comparison, as I am unable to do the things he does? If so then disabled and not disabled are two vast categories that reside either side of what society determines ‘average’ and given the last President it would seem (insert your own George W. Bush joke here, I can’t be arsed). But if Obama means severely disabled people, such as paralysed folk, those with severe mental retardation, or a terminal illness then it’s Inconceivable! It’s a sad fact that deep down no one would let a cripple lead them. Would Jed Bartlet have been elected if he’d declared his MS while running? Inconceivable!

7.) Atheists and Muslims
Two notable absences from the list of people that answered the world and surely the most Inconceivable! to be President at this time in America. Obama’s speech admirably contained next to no reference to religion. Whereas McCain in his concession speech said that Obama’s grandmother was with God watching him, Obama simply said she was watching him. Slightly creepy but acceptable. But it scares me senseless that the majority of voting Americans just would not trust a presidential candidate who believes in rational thinking and questioning the religious dogma of the past. Maybe it’s that whole ‘connection to God’ thing that our Emperors have to have, if your leader doesn’t have a God, how can he be trusted to have morals? This reasoning is of course mindvomit but the type I’m irritably used to hearing.
Of course if you do have a God it’s got to be the right one. Enough fuss was kicked up about Obama’s name and whether he went to a Muslim school as a child (he did, but funnily enough not all Muslim schools are indoctrinating terrorist factories), that an actual full-blown Muslim running for office may lead to another civil war as inbreds scream in terror and shoot that which they don’t understand. Inconceivable!

It’s easy to take the pessimistic approach and say that there’s a deep-rooted part of America that would never vote for anything less than a God-fearing Caucasian male but if this election has taught us anything, it’s that idiots can be sold any idea, even if they think they don’t agree with it, and this can be used for the power of wholesome good. Allow me to demonstrate and end with this tale of a canvasser knocking on a family’s door in Washington, Pennsylvania. A woman answers and the canvasser asks her how she will be voting in the upcoming Presidential election. ‘
‘Hal!’, the woman screams. Hal is apparently in another room watching television.
‘What?!’ Hal screams back.
‘Who are we voting for this year?’
‘We’ve voting for the nigger!’
The woman turns back to the canvasser, smiles and says, ‘We’re voting for Obama.’
With that in mind I do feel like America is genuinely capable of anything. Even if it goes about it in the most roundabout, contradictory, cackhanded way, at least it does it or dies trying.