November 8, 2008

What Obama’s Election Means Abroad

The American media noted the street parties that broke out all across the country, including here in the great city of Washington DC, after John McCain conceded the race and Barack Obama gave his victory speech as President-Elect of the United States.

What was subtly missed until the next couple of days, and even then only on talk radio programs dedicated to real analysis (read: NPR programming) is the fact that the rest of the country breathed a sigh of relief along with us. Even conservatives in the UK and Australia were thrilled at the news, and celebrations broke out around the world on every continent cheering for a new day in America’s standing in the world – what was seen as a mistake made in 2004 following an innocent mistake in 2000 were finally rectified, and the rest of the world was watching closely to see if they really were mistakes, or a real course America wanted to chart for itself.

Thankfully, we all knew they were just mistakes – we just had to ante up and prove it to the global community. When we did, they were estatic – front pages around the world heralded a new day in politics, and world leaders rushed to call President-Elect Obama to congratulate him in the middle of the night.

As Wednesday dawned rainy and gray on the Champs- Élysées, a Parisian waiter spontaneously gave a fist pump and shouted, “Obamamania! Yeah!”

Johannesburg, South Africa – The world, which has tracked this American election like no other, sees Barack Hussein Obama as their president, their choice. And they see him through their own geographical and cultural prisms. To many, he represents the restoration of faith in American democratic ideals, of equality. The global euphoria over the election of the first black US president is also partly an expression of a populace that wants to believe that the same principles can apply to their lives, too.

Of course, as the son of a Kenyan goatherd, he’ll be Africa’s man at the White House, say Kenyans. But his appeal seems to transcend his heritage or his skin color. In Pakistan, for example, where politics has been the province of a wealthy elite, Mr. Obama is a powerful symbol for the dispossessed masses. Yes, he went to Harvard University. But also went to a Muslim elementary school in Indonesia. “They will say, ‘He is one of us,'” says Rasul Baksh Rais, a political scientist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

In Saudi Arabia, many young Saudis have been affectionately using his middle name, dubbing him “Abu Hussein,” or “Father of Hussein.” Here, he symbolizes a restoration of faith in the democratic freedoms that Saudis don’t yet have. “Saudis … did not really believe in the American version of democracy. How could they when all the presidents of the so-called ‘melting pot’ were Anglo,” writes Eman Al-Nafjan in her post on the Saudiwoman’s Weblog. “But now they are rubbing their eyes in disbelief.”

Similarly, Liu Na, a high school teacher in Beijing, China, said Wednesday that “his victory proves that there is real democracy in the United States.” She added, “He is not from a family of profound influence…. Obama has a very international background, which represents America’s special situation; so many citizens are immigrants. He relied on his own hard work and abilities to go so far.”

It’s more than heartwarming to know that not only are so many of us here at home incredibly proud to be Americans – more so than we’ve ever been – but that there are so many people out there looking at the people of our humble corner of the world not with the suspicion, fear, and wary that have been cultivated over the past 8 years, but with thoughts of love, peace, justice, and like us, hope.

[ What Obama’s Election Means Abroad ]
Source: The Christian Science Monitor (courtesy of TruthOut)

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