Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The flip side of Obama

THE euphoria surrounding the election of Barack Hussein Obama has not quite died down in my heart. I followed every twist and turn of this fascinating election between Barack, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, and John McCain, the candidate of the Republican Party, otherwise known as the Grand Old Party (GOP). That name, 'Grand Old', perhaps encapsulated the problems that most people in the world had with the Republicans.

The party had drifted so far to the right, and had sold itself to the Hawks, people like Mr. Rumsfeld, the uncanny and unsmiling, erstwhile secretary of defence who, together with Vice President Dick Cheney, trundled America off into the Iraqi war over the objections of all decent nations in the United Nations. With the notable exception of Britain, under Tony Blair, irreverently described by Mandela as George Bush's foreign secretary, all other nations knew that it was an illegal war.

But what a fascinating election! The initial traction that the upstart Senator from Illinois had over other Democratic pretenders, including poor old Hillary Clinton, was attributable to the fact that he had voted against the Iraqi war! To be honest, I did not give him half a chance when he set off on what I regarded as a quixotic quest for the White house. I fully expected that, like Jesse Jackson before him, he would have made a statement that 'we blacks are also here', and been quietly shooed off into a corner, basking in the glory of having once been a contender (an 'also ran') for the most powerful office in the world.

But Barack refused to 'go away' even after the Clintons reminded us to 'get real' in the heat of the primaries. All the pundits had predicted confidently that this would be Hillary's year, and I think she deserved it too. I have a personal connection with the Clintons, and so I may be biased. A couple of years ago, when Bill came calling at the First Baptist Church in Garki, I was the choir master then. After the service, Bill came up to the choir podium and shook my hand, saying 'you have a great choir'. I did not wash my hand for the next one week, even though I thought our performance on the day was not particularly stellar!

And so I had to take my time to get to know Barack. Who was this upstart? Well to start with, I am bemused that they keep calling him 'black' when clearly he is also half white, his mother being a white woman from Kansas. I had to ask my niece, Funmi, holidaying with us from Texas, and an 'all American girl', why they kept calling him black. In Nigeria, we would have had the 'decency' at least to call him a half caste, or more irreverently, a mullato. In all probability, we would have called him an 'oyinbo' even if his skin was not exactly lily white. One of my neighbours, a Jamaican lady, blacker than the darkest Ghanaian, is still called 'mama oyinbo' in the compound just because she speaks English with an affected Jamaican accent!

Funmi was bemused and said that in the peculiar racial lingo of America, if you as much as had a tenth of your blood being 'black' that was enough to 'taint' you! I don't expect that Obama did himself any favours by marrying a clearly black Michelle when he could perhaps have gone for a whitie, ala Kofi Anan. In the early days of the election, I had thought that would have made him more 'acceptable' to the largely white electorate!

Incidentally the fact that he was born of a white woman did not seem to have swayed the Kansas electorate as they still ended up giving it to the GOP! However the fact that he was raised by his grandparents in Hawaii seemed to have turned that 'paradise' solidly blue, with its four electoral votes. I remember I spent a couple of weeks in Maui during my training in the Haggai Institute Christian leadership training seminar.

Therein perhaps lies my problem with Obama. Make no mistake, once he had trounced Hillary, and perhaps even before he had accomplished the feat, I was already sold on him. His soaring rhetoric was so captivating that I always strained to hear every word that he pronounced whenever he was addressing a rally or speaking on TV. My heart skipped a beat when, briefly after the GOP convention McCain appeared to have taken a four point lead!

I never really stopped to ask myself quite why I was so subconsciously rooting for Obama. Was it for the mere fact that he was black? With hindsight, I would be deceiving myself if I said that never counted. Was it his magnetic personality or his 'star quality', relative youth, or daring do, superlative gift of the garb or 'audacity to hope'? (incidentally I pointedly refused to buy his book, 'The Audacity of hope' now a standard fixture of all airport lounges in Nigeria until, I thought, he became president, or at least his life was more, shall we say, challenged, on the bigger stage!).

A closer look at his policies and life philosophy gave me, however, some cause for pause. I have no problems with his taxation policies, his inclusive foreign policy bent, and his relatively dovish military outlook. My issues are with his 'pro choice' stance, essentially a sanctioning of abortion when the woman so desires. In my early days as a medical practitioner, I confess I saw not much wrong with that, particularly if the woman was willing to part with some dough. May God forgive the sins of my youth!

Now, I see abortion as nothing but murder of the innocent. I am firmly convinced that life begins at conception, possibly even before. Remember what is said in Jeremiah, "before you were formed in your mother's womb, I knew you, I have called you by your name, I have appointed you a prophet unto the nations'. Also, the man Cyrus, the Persian, who eventually freed the Israeli captives after 70 years, had been named a hundred years before he was born by the prophet Isaiah! Women who carelessly get pregnant, or who are unfortunate victims of rape, should not presume to decide on life or death of the unborn fetus.

I am also disturbed by Obama's liberal stance on the issue of Gay relationships. This was forcefully brought home to me when during his acceptance speech he said that 'there is no red or blue America, whether you are straight or gay, there is only the United States of America.' , or words to that effect. I thought, keep it to yourself Obama, it rankles when you say that! I am glad that proposition eight was rejected by the state of California. Proposition eight asked of the electorate whether the state should officially recognise gay marriages. A footing on CNN showed two men 'tying the knot' and sealing it with a kiss! Ughhh!! Disgusting!

There are some other issues to do with his views on stem cell research (he supports embryonic stem cell research) and his nagging difficulties with giving up his smoking habits, in spite of protestations to the contrary! I am however happy that there is so far no whiff of a scandal concerning his marital relationships and I do hope, given his superstar status, he keeps this up.

Senator Obama, I wish you well, but please concerning these outlandish liberal views of the world, totally out of consonance with the teaching of the Scriptures, I pray that you see the light and move a little more to the right! I now understand why Obama could not switch many of the Bible-belt Southern red states Blue: States like Georgia and Alabama. His views on these moral issues just do not sit right with me.