IT IS FOUR YEARS since the night in 2008 when we celebrated the first victory of Barack Obama as president of the USA. At a countdown party here in JA, an ecstatic young woman went home with a life-sized cut-out of a gorgeous black man with a smile that would stop traffic. The reign of Obama had begun.
Four years later, celebrations were on again, this time to mark the second White House victory. This time, there's much grey hair in the neat trim of Mr President. The smile comes less spontaneously. The countenance is more sober. The four years have left their mark. Where now is the cut-out which that happy young woman took home from the party? "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" (Shakespeare). "It's not an easy road" (Buju).
Barack Obama has been bullied and badgered by opponents who didn't even bother to conceal their disrespect from the word "Go". The plan for his downfall began from Day One of his term in office. He's survived, but not without battle scars. The scourges of balancing budgets, national debt, unemployment, house foreclosures, bitter opposition to his health care plan and allegations of flirtation with socialism, among other things, were on his plate every day.
The world - Jamaica included - took a deep interest in the recent election campaign. We had no vote in the events leading up to November 6, but that didn't inhibit our interest. It's not because we expect any "pop off" from the victory, but that we've become more joined at the hip with the US of A. We cannot forget that there are as many of us There as Here. I've never been quite sure of the actual statistics, but it is not too hard to believe. The minute America coughs, we reach for the cough syrup. We talk their talk, we walk their walk. Visa or no visa, we go there, if only in our dreams. America is our postal zone, our central ATM, the remittance centre of our universe, our introduction to the Dream. We talk more about Democrats and Republicans than JLP and PNP. We find it hard to believe that the streets of 'Merica are not filled with gold.
FOUR YEARS AGO, we fell deeply in love with the bright-eyed, optimistic, comparatively young black man with the gorgeous wife and two lovely children - the image we want for ourselves. Many saw in him a new Messiah, a bearer of hope, the messenger of better must come. (Remember Michaelmania?) All too soon, however, a serious attack of reality set in. Our hero was sailing into choppy waters. Some were ready to sing: "Captain, the ship is sinking", but he took the battering. He never stopped proclaiming his faith in America and a brighter world. He rode out the storm and came safely into port on Tuesday night.
The media did not give him a minute to savour the taste of victory. Immediately, the declaration was made, the pundits were quick to remind him of every challenge which lies ahead. Lest he forget, they made sure to analyse the deficit, unemployment, tax controversies, and above all, how hard it will be to get the Republicans to cooperate with his Democrats and what failure could mean. No one spoke of success.
Mr Obama's victory speech late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning refused to give in to self-doubt. He did what he does best. He lifted the message to a higher plane, calling upon the best in people and reinforcing belief in the American dream, even if some seemed ready to deny its existence. Then he went home with his family to catch a little sleep, thank his support team and head back to Washington, to begin the battle all over again.
On the issue of making friends and influencing Republicans, in an urban vox pop, a man advised: "He should give some dinners, lunches, that kind of thing at the White House and invite them to attend." So now, he must be caterer, negotiator and leader of the Free World, all at one and the same time? Question: Is a dinner invitation to the White House the same thing as a curry-goat feed in Jamaica - election time?
SINCE WE'VE MANAGED to pull our political culture into the America story, it should be interesting to hear how Jamaicans in Florida and other critical "swing states" dealt with challenges which they thought they'd left behind when they migrated. Long waits at polling station, endless lines and even intimations of bogus voting, who would expect to find that in 'Merica? Then, there was the controversy about foreign observers coming to see how the voting was conducted. (They do that to us all the time.)
No way, said members of the Rigid Right. The thought that the USA was being treated like some Third World country was unthinkable. Last time I checked, there was no report of how the story ended.
Question for our Jamaican diaspora family who found voting challenging: (a) How did you manage? (b) What made you stay the course? (c) Would you have put up with the inconvenience if you were voting back in JA? Interesting times, wouldn't you say? Controversies or not, we hail the man, Barack Obama. Jah guide, brother.
GO POCKET-ROCKET: Congrats to Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce on completing her degree course at UTech, receiving her award at last Saturday evening's UTech graduation. Not many of our star athletes in the various areas of sport seem to place emphasis on "life after the race can no longer be run". The money and the fame are coming in now, but it would be wise to reflect that there's always someone in the pack behind, practising to get to the tape first, attracting the roving eye of sponsors. Nothing wrong with "succession planning".
WHAT SAY YOU? Should students who took part in the hounding and beating of the allegedly gay student on the UTech campus be punished too? The security guards have lost their jobs. People are asking, shouldn't the students who were on YouTube vying for their chance to "gie 'im a lick too" also be made to pay? Some public voices think they should be punished, even as others think they should be thanked for a public service. Count me out on that one. Hooliganism is hooliganism, no matter how you cut it. We expect more from future leaders.
SPARE A THOUGHT for the diaspora family in New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas now, shivering in a snowstorm after Sandy, the superstorm. Many are still without electricity, water, public transport and gasolene. Send a message of encouragement. Defer the "beg yuh send someting fi me" and send something, however small, to show that we understand. Remember "More blessed to give than to receive"?