October 23, 2008 - Issue 296
What is America to Me?
Thoughts on the US Presidential Elections
By Mukoma Wa Ngugi
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator
Cullen, a black American poet, once asked: What is
Why should the
outcome of the
What my heart feels and what my mind knows are at loggerheads. My heart, nationalistic and black, beats with the ups and downs of the Obama campaign. But my mind, at times cynical but always searching for the bottom line of things, knows an Empire is not run on good will, that there are no gentle giants and that history is not erased overnight.
I want to reconcile my heart and mind. I want to speak freely.
I want to ask
some hard questions because Obama, with his unflinching analysis of race
relations and the state of the
I did not fully
understand Obama’s candidacy and its historical importance until I saw
him speak in
It occurred to me that Obama, a mosaic of cultures and experiences, is probably the first political leader to fit snugly into the skin of globalization, with all its promise and contradictions. He is one of those rare historical figures that come to embody a historical period and offer it promise while inspiring hope.
And we from Africa,
as well as Latin America and
But more than
that, Obama has created a rare opportunity for us to reflect upon ourselves
as peoples and nations. As an African I ask: were I to hold up Obama as
a mirror to reflect
We are not alone in all this: it is just that in using a telescope to see the world, we cannot see ourselves.
George Bush, the architect of the war on terror who also presided over
It gets crazier.
How do we explain
this? Is this adulation because George Bush is white? An American with
money? A nice Christian gentleman? Has George Bush done more for
legacy to Africa will be the creation of the
Now throw in his faith-based “ABCs” HIV policies that have set back the fight against AIDS in Africa, and his 80 percent approval rating becomes a symptom of our myopic reading of the world.
Enough about Bush
- what would McCain or Obama do for
Let’s start with John McCain. As the chairman of the International Republican Institute, the foreign policy arm of American conservatives, McCain has already revealed himself. The IRI wants to consolidate democracy in an American image. That is, it actively works for democracies that will open their markets to US interests and their borders to US military operations.
What would happen
if a McCain presidency encountered a real African democracy that wanted
to do more trade with
philosophy is simple, country first -
But will Obama
be any better for
Obama says he
is against the Bush Doctrine of preemption. And that in his administration,
Sounds fair enough
except when we consider the fine print: Who names and defines a terrorist?
It was, after all, only this year that Nobel peace prize winning Nelson
Mandela was removed from the
And it is well
and good that an Obama administration would intervene in cases of genocide,
whether militarily or by supporting allies with money and logistical help.
Now, you know
things are bad when you compare numbers of the dead like this: but the
question is valid: why
So would Obama
be good for
I see the war
on terror continuing in an Obama presidency. After all, he wants to end
the war in
I see unequal trade continuing to cost African countries more in lost revenue than they get in foreign aid.
My mind tells me that if you are looking at issues that really matter, such as ending the militarization of US Africa relations, or fostering equal trade, where African countries have equal access to US market to the same extent as the US has in Africa, the answer is no.
So my mind tells me no.
But if you are thinking more handouts, more sensitivity to African problems, and more foreign aid, Obama will do better than McCain.
We, Africans, need to lose that telescope and take a hard look at ourselves, my heart, wounded, cries out.
story, difficult but possible in the
My heart, nationalist
and black, wishes Obama well. But my heart and mind say to fellow Africans,
- Don't pin your hopes on the
My heart says
- We too have to answer Countee Cullen’s question: What is
Mukoma Wa Ngugi, is the author of Hurling
Words at Consciousness
(AWP, 2006), a political columnist for the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine
and the Assistant Editor of Pambazuka News. This article was commissioned
by and appears courtesy of the BBC World Service. Click here