Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Preface: Ok, well here it is.  For those of you who don’t know why this may seem like a tail-between-the-legs, admitting I was wrong moment, the short story is that while many of my friends joined the election-spurred Obama craze, I chose not to participate.  The long story is linked here, where I wrote a pre-election op ed for NYU’s student newspaper on why I was refusing to vote, as a protest against a flawed voting system.  I do still think our voting system is flawed and I do still think that people have fallen into an ‘Obama will change things’ mindset instead of trying to change things themselves.  That said, now I can get on with it.

“Coming from?”  … I swear I get asked the question at least ten times a day.  At least half of those times, the conversation continues as follows:

“America,” I say with a smile.

“Obaaaaaamaaaaa!” they return with glee.

On the bus from Amma’s Ashram to Varkala, the cliff top beach town where I’m staying for a few days, a man turned to me and we shared this very exchange.  I swear he looked at me with more respect after I told him that I was an American.  He tapped the arm of the man next to him and said something in Malayalam.  The only word I could understand was ‘Obama.’  The other man looked at me with a smile and sang the name.  As the bus churned forward and I stared out at the passing palm trees and rice paddies, “I’m proud to be an American”  very nearly started to play through my head.

Although it does seem that India and the U.S. have had cordial relations for quite a while, and these relations are certainly strengthened by a common enemey in the militant insurgency in Pakistan (I say that from what I’ve gathered from the Indian newspapers I’ve been reading), I have to admit that Barak Obama has lifted the view of Americans in India. It does go beyond that, though.  I run into many European travelers here, and the sentiment is similiar. Hopefully Obama will change things, people say.  Hopefully now that Obama is in office things will get better.

That brings me back to my primary concern with Obamaphila; the tendancy to hope Obama will fix all of the escalating problems we’re facing, and to use that as an excuse not to think how ordinary people can change their communities for the better.  Obama has done this for us- he has made us look better on the world stage.  Perhaps he’s even sparked a new way of thinking and living that promotes civic engagement.  But unless everyone does what they can to push for the promise of  ‘change’ that got Obama elected, then this slowly growing confidence in the U.S. will quickly dissipate.  One man cannot change an entire nation.  But maybe one man can change an entire people, and through them mold a country that reflects that change we are all looking for.

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