Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God Bless America!

I am not often excited about politics. Certainly not foreign politics. But like many, I have been swept up and away by the Obama campaign.

In common I suspect with many British, I had never heard of Barack Obama until recently, and I suppose vaguely wanted Hilary Clinton to win because I had heard of her, sort of agreed with her, and she was a woman. (And surely anything must be better than the Bush administration …) But then Obama won the nomination and we all thought, who is this man? Learning on the internet that he had written two books, I popped into Waterstones and bought Dreams of my Father to find out more.

It is a wonderful book. Many times I found myself in tears, not only because of the powerful writing and the ideas expressed, but at the thought that this man, writing these words, might one day be president of the United States of America. Having finished it, the following week I snuck in and bought the Audacity of Hope as well (and I think, took the only copy in the shop – surely they should be piled up on the tables?).

This is a remarkable man. I think he brings hope for us all. Not just because in himself he crosses the divide between black and white, but because he is an intelligent man who thinks about things, and he is a powerful speaker who can communicate his vision to his people. Depressing times are ahead. If he can inspire his people, he can help them overcome their problems. Our problems.

Another beacon of hope, is the fact that his campaign was mostly funded, not by big business, but by the ordinary people of America. This means that he owes loyalty to them, not the big corporations. If anyone can stand up to the corporate bully boys it is him.

It was on the bus that I read these remarkable words in The Audacity of Hope :

"Instead of subsidising the oil industry, we should end every single tax break the industry currently receives and demand that 1 percent of the revenues from oil companies with over $1 billion in quarterly profits go toward financing alternative energy research and the necessary infrastructure …"

I was so thrilled by the vision of hope that this presented, that I was tempted to chuck a tenner myself into his campaign fund, although of course I can’t because I am not American.

The environmental problems facing our planet are so huge, we have no hope of dealing with them without America. The depressingly negative attitude of the Bush administration put the whole future of our planet at risk. In private moments I have even wondered if perhaps one day, if things did not improve, the rest of the world might be forced to unite to take hostile action against them. But Obama has changed all that. There are some wonderful scientists and initiatives in America (and also in Britain of course) which only need some support and help to get going. Hopefully they will now get it. And where America leads, the rest of the world will follow.

I am also enormously encouraged by his ability to get people to come together and work together. Like many, I loathe the negativism which pervades politics, and my usual reaction when politicians start their 'yes you did, no you didn’t' routine is to either switch off the TV or (if that is not possible) to walk out of the room. Obama has shown that co-operation and inclusivity can be popular and win votes. Let us hope that we see more of it.

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