Dare we imagine that a person of color will become the President of the world’s most powerful nation? Isn’t that a perfect example of the Audacity of Hope?
But I won’t vote for Barack Obama because he is African-American. I will vote for him, if I get the opportunity, because he is poised, intelligent, humane and reasonable.
Reasonable. Isn’t that what we used to cite as the mark of an educated person? And isn’t that what has been lost in the shrill extremism of partisan politics?
We used to think that an educated human being would listen to the views of others, and would either be persuaded by compelling evidence or agree to disagree in an amicable, civilized way. But how often do you see that happening today?
Around the globe, people are killing each other over philosophical and religious differences. The message today is, “Agree with me or I’ll blow you up!”
That’s why Obama’s reasonable approach is so refreshing. That’s why crowds of idealistic young people flock to his side, daring to hope for change.
Make no mistake; the fact that Obama is African-American is of very great importance – not just to Americans but to persons of color around the world.
I believe his election as President of the United States of America would enhance the credibility of all non-white people. I am sure I don’t have to explain the symbolic significance of such an eventuality.
Television commentator Dan Rather compared Obama to Tiger Woods. And I would compare him to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball, and Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world.
But this is so much more important. Golf, baseball and boxing are sports. The leadership of the free world is a matter of life or death. Elect one of the Republicans who would be President, and we can look forward to wars and the rumors of wars, the retreat of compassion and the rule of “the free market.”
I translate that kind of freedom as, “The powerful are free to plunder and ravage; the weak are free to go hungry and, if they get sick, to die.”
I cannot conceive of a Jamaican expatriate voting for a Republican. When I listen to the white, middle-aged men vying for the Republican nomination, I hear the echo of hooves at midnight and see the shadows of sheet-shrouded horsemen.
I recall the indignities and injustices of Apartheid and the horrors of European colonization. I cringe at the memory of terrifying tales I was told as a child about the slave ships and the slave masters.
Could the election of a person of color as the head of a predominantly white nation sweep away the memory of such atrocities? Maybe not. But it could pave the way for other historic breakthroughs.
There would be hope for a dark-skinned Prime Minister in Canada, Britain or Australia, for example.
And in some predominantly dark-skinned countries, a light-skinned leader might be acceptable once in a while.
Martin Luther King’s dream might yet be realized, not only in America, but also around the world. People might actually be judged by their character and achievements, and not by the color of their skin or the birthplace of an ancient ancestor.
Bob Marley’s evocative refrain might yet prove prophetic.
One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right.
George Graham is a Jamaican-born journalist and author who has worked as a reporter in the Caribbean and North America for more than half a century. He lives in Lakeland, Florida. His books are available at http://stores.lulu.com/georgeg.