Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The inauguration of Obama

You can always rely on journalists to lose all sense of perspective and proportion, then fail to ask any awkward questions. Was Barack Obama's inauguration really the Second Coming?

I'm not trying to traduce or belittle the thousands of Afro-Americans, standing in the freezing cold with tears in their eyes. After living through the nightmare and bitterness of segregation a black face in the White House must have seemed like liberation day.

However, just how much does the rise and rise of Obama equate with or reflect the collective black experience in America? He was raised in Hawaii by his white maternal grandparents who paid for private education, from there he graduated to Harvard. True he had to overcome the prejudice and 'handicap' of his skin colour, but one or two black faces in the corridors of power cannot mask the every day life experience of the majority - poverty, poor housing and low educational achievement.

Obama represents hope after eight bleak years of George Bush, in a similar way Blair was hailed as a saviour after eighteen years of Conservative government - a skilled orator who dealt in generalities, Hope, Change.

Obama attracted record numbers of small donations from millions of supporters to his campaign fund, but he didn't raise the billions needed from that source alone, he needed the money from large corporations, in order to compete with Clinton and Bush.

In a crisis democratic systems use voting to vent social discontent through the ballot box. What was the contrast with the Civil Rights Movement? Millions were involved in debates, marches and they formed permanent organisations. In Obama's campaign his supporters were reduced to the role of cheerleaders for the chief. The Democratic Party doesn't debate or vote on policy the conventions are there to anoint the new leader.

Like all American politicians Obama subscribes to the myth of the ‘Founding Fathers’. So what did most of them have in common, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? They were white slave owners. Afro-Americans only won the right to vote some two hundred years later.

There was a massive groundswell for change, particularly after the banking crisis and the threat to people's homes and jobs. What will Obama do next? He will be judged on what he does not what he is.


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