Sunday, November 09, 2008

Say It Loud....

It's been a historic week for racial politics and make no mistake. Obama's election trouncing of John McCain was of course preceded by the flying Hertfordshire hero, Lewis Hamilton, becoming Formula One's youngest and blackest champion last Sunday.

I think we had better stick with US politics though. The whole Obama shebang really did feel like one of those epochal, where-were-you when-it-happened moments of history.

Where was I? At work actually following the whole thing on the Internet. At 10 a.m., after barely an hour in the office, it was all over bar the shouting. At 12, I found a TV set and managed to catch Mr O’s victory speech. I'm sure most of you saw it yourselves. It contained the smattering of platitudes and generalizations that all speeches contain but even a hardened political cynic like me felt curiously moved. Either that or the previous night's Padang takeout was repeating on me.

A little modesty, humility and intelligence goes a long way after the monstrous arrogance and bitter disappointments of the last eight years. He even seemed to actually believe his message of reconciliation. Amazing. The speech was sober though, befitting a president elect whose national economy has just gone down the toilet.

For me though, the most enduring image came when the camera found the face of Jesse Jackson in the crowd. A few months ago, in a not totally atypical Jackson outburst, he was accidentally caught on an open microphone saying that he would like to, "Cut Obama's nuts off". There he was though, tears streaming down his face as he listened, caught up in this historic culmination of a struggle that he and Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and so many others have given so much to. Oprah cried too apparently but nuts to her. I'm sure that Mr.Barrack can raise her tax (race attacks?) a touch perhaps. Mind you Lewis Hamilton is not short of a few quid either these days….sorry, I’ll stop mentioning Mr.H.

Later on that evening I headed down to the Bellagio mall in Mega Kuningan where Democrats Abroad had put on a huge victory party. As I entered, the victory speech was replaying on the huge screen that they had hung up in the lobby. Everyone was giving it with the "Yes we can"s. And then a shower of red, white and blue balloons descended from the ceiling like they do at those stage-managed party conventions and rallies. As I was lamenting the lack of any black balloons, a local Indonesian MC took to the stage in front of the screen and told us that Obama was a true son of both Indonesia and America. Then, tongue planted firmly in his cheek he announced that, "Now we know for sure that America will not invade Indonesia." Well let's certainly hope not anyway.

A friend of mine joked that Obama, in keeping with the traditional fate of African-Americans, has been given one of the worst jobs in the world cleaning up this whole mess. You can't really envy the man can you?
The Bellagio rocked hard all night and the next morning the sun rose on a new dawn and a massive hang over for me (they had been mixing tequila with beer down there at Amigos, presumably there are laws against endangering public health so recklessly).

Next year will see Indonesia also choosing a president. Alas secular, clean and progressive candidates that have the inspiring Obama factor seemed to be thin on the ground. Probably they'll stick with what they've got at the moment, which isn't tremendously exciting really but... you know... hey Ho.

An African American though. What would be the equivalent here? A Papuan becoming Indonesian president. I can't see it really. After running against an Indonesian war hero. That could be a tall order too.

The world does seem to be stuck right down in the U bend just at the moment though and you can't load all of your hopes onto the shoulders of one man of course. If Mr.O knows anything though, it’s that in order to have democracy, real democracy, everyone has to struggle. And it is a battle that never ends. The future is still unwritten though my McCain-verbal-tic friends. It's still open. Not for me though, my taxi’s just arrived and I am going down the pub.