Saturday, December 26, 2009

Obama: Were We All Naïve?

"People will not readily bear pain unless there is hope." — Michael Edwardes

How fast time flies! So, it is already almost a year ago now that the whole world was in a euphoric mood to usher in the 44th president of the world's pre-eminent power, the United States of America: Barack Hussein Obama.

Not since the election of the highly charismatic John F. Kennedy has the world been so enraptured by an American politico.

JFK brought dynamism, beauty, youthful energy, and new paradigms to the governance of his nation. He was well-educated, urbane, sophisticated with movie-star winning looks. And that he was stupendously rich didn't hurt at all. Even though the man suffered from the life-threatening Addison's disease, JFK's handlers (spin doctors in today's parlance) did their best to sell their candidate as the epitome of youthful fitness and vigour. They even went as far as accusing his opponent for the Democratic Party nomination, Lyndon Johnson, as not been healthy enough. JFK won the election.

In JFK, Americans elected a man who brought fresh ideas into traditional American politicking. His election represented the passing of the baton from old tired horses to a new generation of vital leaders with lots of youthful exuberance.

JFK was a leader that any sane society would love to have as its own. He inspired Americans like few other leaders before him. A very brilliant man, he had immense confidence in himself and in his abilities to lead his compatriots to conquer any and all obstacles to reach for the highest heights. When the Soviets blasted their Sputnik into space, thereby bruising America's ego in the race to space, JFK challenged his people to reach for nothing but the ehm, eh, moon.

American scientists and engineers were given a marching order by their president to land a man on the moon and bring him back within a decade. The inspired American engineers beat the deadline in a feat engrossingly captured by Norman Mailer in his Of a Fire on the Moon, which remains one of the best books I've ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Accepting his party's nomination, JFK said, inter alia, "We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier... the choice our nation must make... [is]... between the public interest and private comfort -- between national greatness and national decline..."

JFK brought new dynamism into the American Presidency. He came with an agenda: to make his country better.

A nation's foreign policy is a reflection of its domestic policy. JFK's vigorous and very populist domestic agenda (he termed this the "New Frontier," which is meant to use the federal might to address the social and economic challenges his country faced) was matched by a robust foreign policy.

Of course, he doggedly pursued the imperial national interests of his country, but he didn't forget that America, however powerful, was not an isolated island in the spinning globe we all call home. As he pledged in his inaugural address: "To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required -- not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

Poor people all over the world remember with fondness the faces of young Americans, members of the Peace Corps, bringing some solace into deprived lives. Although many members of the Peace Corps were thrown out of many countries on charges of espionage, the Peace Corps remains one of the most enduring and endearing legacies of US foreign policy.

The world was not naïve to believe that imperial America had changed its way with the election of JFK and his Peace Corps, but it showed that something good could indeed come out of a nation that has wronged so many neighbors and inflicted so much pain on the rest of the non-white world. If ever there was a time when non-Americans genuinely loved the leader of the imperialist world, it must have been during the JFK interregnum.

And even though Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs, and for us in Africa, the planning of sabotage against nascent African nations just emerging from colonial rule, represent the low points of the JFK administration, his domestic and foreign (and space!) policies accomplishments permanently engraved his name in the annals of the world's greatest leaders.

Sadly America, nay the world, lost a great leader when an assassin's bullets cut short the life of the youthful president who had given the world so much hope.

It is difficult to believe that the same country that gave the world a leader like John Kennedy also foisted on us a certified moron like Mr. George Bush Jr.

If the JFK presidency represents the finest period of Pan-Americana, Bush Jr.'s tenure represents the ugliest manifestation of America The Ugly.

The Bush Jr.'s regime was hardly with any redeeming feature. Although he traversed the African continent and made the same time-worn promises to help, it is difficult to have anything good to say about Mr. Bush Jr.

In President Bush Jr. we had a seemingly tongue-tied, intellectually-challenged man apparently high on some brain-enhancing drug. To call Bush an illiterate is inadequate; the man has problem speaking his own [English] language! And what about those jerky walks; those fogged expression like that of a drugged and demented moron. How about those finger waggings like a Biblical patriarch whose children have disobeyed Jehovah!


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