Sunday, June 22, 2008


Barack Obama, the US and values...

I'm sure there is a feeling amongst many of you that I haven't quite covered the Lisbon Treaty in enough detail here on United Irelander. I'm sure a lot of you are baffled as to where I stand on that issue for which I apologise.

However I figured I'd turn my attention at this point in time to the United States who, as we all know, have their own election concerns to deal with. Obviously the US presidential race will be followed with great interest by many countries with Democratic candidate Barack Obama squaring off against his Republican counterpart John McCain.

In the past I haven't followed US presidential races with great interest until the eve of the election itself, but this time, like many people, I've been following the campaign closely as it's been very intriguing. I won't pretend to be an expert on American politics or claim that I know a great deal about the day-to-day worries that grip the nation at this moment in time. Admittedly I view the whole affair from an emerald prism and look upon the election with a view as to how it will affect my country and the rest of the world as a whole.

I must say however that I have found myself becoming increasingly impressed with Barack Obama and would add myself to the growing list of people who admire the innate charisma of the man.

I must say too that I wasn't terribly concerned with who would win the Democratic nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I've found Obama a likeable soul, but I also remember the good work the Clintons did for the Irish peace process and felt that the Clintons in the White House would have been good from this island's perspective. A woman running the US might have been good too for America. (then again there were some Brits who said that about Thatcher and look how that turned out!) Overall I was pretty much on the fence for that whole situation but with Obama getting the nod from Democratic supporters I've since taken the time to read up on the guy and I've been most impressed.

I've been reading a book of his that I picked up in Easons called The Audacity of Hope and the Senator certainly writes a damn good book. He essentially outlines his political philosophies and I've found many of them to be both progressive as well as profound. I've so far only read the first couple of chapters in the book although perhaps I'll write a review of it when I'm done. One quote of his that I found particularly insightful was this passage from his chapter on values. It might not be considered a revolutionary viewpoint but in the world of politics I consider it very refreshing. He writes:

"I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush's eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him. That's what empathy does - it calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision.

"No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.

"Of course, in the end a sense of mutual understanding isn't enough. After all, talk is cheap; like any value, empathy must be acted upon. When I was a community organizer back in the eighties, I would often challenge neighborhood leaders by asking them where they put their time, energy and money. Those are the true tests of what we value, I'd tell them, regardless of what we like to tell ourselves. If we aren't willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren't willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all."

I'm sure this has been said about every Democratic nominee put forward over the past few decades but I honestly see a bit of JFK in the man. I'm sure there's at least a few people in Offaly who would think just as highly of him since he apparently has Irish roots there. Poor guy. (joke)

With regards to McCain, I wouldn't be too down on him. I've seen him a few times on TV and I think he's one of the good guys. I know there are many fundamentalist Christians in America who consider McCain to be too liberal-leaning for their liking which would indicate to me that McCain can't be all that bad! I have a feeling that the US in the end will endorse McCain as president as I'm not sure if certain US states are quite ready yet for a black man to run their country. It's a shame race has to be an issue but let's be honest, it will be.

Personally though I'll be looking on and wishing Senator Obama well. I feel he is an articulate, thoughtful and genial sort. If one compares the charm of Mr Obama to our own Mr Cowen, it's kind of like comparing Frank Sinatra to Frankenstein. I feel a President Obama in the White House would be a breath of fresh air for America and that he would repair much of the damage done to his nation by his predecessor.

It will be up to Americans to decide their own fate but I just hope they make up their minds based upon the issues at hand and not upon the skin colour of the respective candidates.


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