Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The meaning of Obama's victory

THE United States of America witnessed a turning point in its history as a country on June 4, 2008 with the election of Senator Barack Obama as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party ahead of its November 2008 presidential elections. Two persons who reacted on this historic moment and pointed in some measure to the meaning of Obama's victory were White House Spokesperson, Dana Perino and Condoleezza Rice, the incumbent Secretary of State.

Perino said, "Sen. Obama came a long way in becoming his party's nominee. And his historic achievement reflects the fact that our country has come a long way, too." On her part, Rice said, "the United States of America is an extraordinary country. It is a country that has overcome many, many, now years, decades, actually a couple of centuries, of trying to make good on its principles." Until this historic moment the US Statue of Liberty had been meaningless, a Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias, 'ye mighty and despair.' But Obama's first stage historic victory has begun to fill its empty shells with definitive content and will be completed if he takes charge of U.S. affairs in the White House.

About 1607, European immigrants began in earnest to settle into the so-called New World, a world of the native Indians; committed a historic genocide against the autochthons, tilled the soil with black slaves and built a great industrial civilisation. The immigrants who were an assortment of criminal elements, apostates, the unemployed and refugees from the oppressing feudalist formations in Europe of the time in search of freedom turned others into slaves and cadavers on an ideological complex of racial superiority. This is the first historical paradox of the U.S.

In his Lectures on History of Philosophy, for Friedrich Hegel, Africa was for all practical purposes of intercourse removed from the rest of the world and its peoples were yet to obtain human consciousness and for that reason must be stripped of all respect and morality because their essentiality was adversative to the rest of humanity. This thought process had endured to this day because of the West's hegemony over the knowledge highway. It is in this insurmountable complex that slavery, colonialism and civil rights battles were fought and won; and it is also within it that the struggle to upturn primary and secondary uneven development on a global scale is being waged.

There were, of course, historical moments in U.S. history in which the tension between freedom and unfreedom was highlighted. Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg speech was one such moment; Martin Luther King Jr. 'I Have A Dream' speech is another while post-9/11 Bill Clinton's speech on the need to tame those dark nooks of the human mind that propel people to exercise evil swells the tally. These reflexive moments are the second historic paradox of the U.S. and they constitute the provenance of the Obama turn.

The global relations of capital and the single minded pursuit of national interest backed by all the arsenal of power relations with scant regard for other countries has made enemies for the United States. Its war crimes in Indo-China, especially Vietnam, the nearly half a century blockade of Cuba and the illegal occupation of Iraq readily come to mind. It has struggled at great cost to turn around the 'bad guy' image.

The first major weapon it has employed which, in my opinion, had helped a great deal to burnish its image is human rights diplomacy. Reminiscing on the choice of this diplomatic tool, Zbgniew Brzezinski, a former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, said, "I was concerned that America was becoming, 'lonely' in the world. I felt strongly that major emphasis on human rights as a component of U.S. foreign policy would advance America's global interests by demonstrating to the emerging nations of Third World the reality of our democratic system, in sharp contrast to the political system and practices of our adversaries."

Beyond, the instrumentalisation of human rights issues in international relations, Obama's victory which undermines racial complexes and its consummation by his predictable victory over Republican John McCain will do what human rights diplomacy has not done for it. It will applaud the Statue of Liberty and underline U.S. as the bastion of freedom and racial equality despite its abiding contradictions. This is the meaning of Obama's victory. It is left for Americans to choose between 'fear and faith' on one hand and freedom and equality on the other.