Saturday, October 10, 2009

Osama, Obama, and the Nobel Prize for Peace

I'll have to admit some good-faith understanding of the Americans who loathe President Barack Obama and oppose every last thing he says or does without regard for our country.

I felt much the same way about President George W. Bush and his father, President Geoge H.W. Bush. During both Bush presidencies, things got so bad for me that I quit watching national television news because the sound of the president's voice immediately pitched me into a towering rage.

I have never killed anyone, don't plan to kill anyone, and would never kill a president, but I hated both of these men with a quality and quantity of rage that could fairly be described as "murderous".

I get all that. And I would never let anyone convince me that I hated the Bushes because I hate rich white men. I hated them because I hated their rhetoric and policies and what I thought they were doing to our country.

So, I think it is possible to hate Barack Obama for his rhetoric and policies and what he is perceived to be doing to our country - without being a racist. I think much hatred of Obama is, in fact, entangled with racism and outraged white privilege, but I don't think all of it is.

And no one who hated the Bush presidents as much as I did can, with good faith, deny a fellow American the right to hate the president. (Just, please, don't kill him.)

Here is how much I have hated the recent Republican presidential administrations.

I am married to a woman from West Africa, and we own a postage stamp of land in Ghana. We looked at John McCain and, especially, Sarah Palin (who is, at least, easy to look at, at least for me), and we agreed that if our fellow Americans (my wife is now a citizen) wanted these people to run the country, that we would leave it. I was fully prepared to abandon my country and repatriate to Ghana if John McCain and Sarah Palin had won the White House.

So, I get it - I get the hating. I really do.

I wish the haters were as ready to repatriate as my wife and I were (angry conservative white people are welcome in many places, though fewer and fewer, every day). But it's their country, too, and they have every right to stay right here and hate it and everything about it, including the president. (Just don't kill him with those guns that you have every right to bear.)

I have been thinking a lot about Ghana, lately, after the surprising announcement that Barack Obama had won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Let me say, first, that I report for and edit an African American-owned newspaper that worked hard to elect Obama, through the powers of the press, and remains committed to supporting him and helping him to succeed. As our owner and publisher, Donald M. Suggs, said to me once, when he was privately criticizing a piece of public adulation of Obama, "Look - no one loves Obama more than we do".

No one loves Obama more than we do, but that doesn't mean we can't be puzzled by certain things and offer criticisms.

So, yeah, I was among those - and I am fairly certain Barack Obama himself was among those - who was puzzled by his receiving this high honor at this time in his life and career. However, come with me to Ghana for a moment. Maybe that will help us to understand this thing.

I first started visiting Ghana after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when George W. Bush was the American president. Ghana is a stong, proud nation of strong, proud people, quite preoccupied with their own challenges and initiatives. It is a democracy highly engaged with its own internal politics.

On the roadside and in the streets, one sees and hears mostly about Ghanaians. However, when one saw a depiction of someone who was not Ghanaian, more likely than not the bearded face one would see would be that of Osama bin Laden. One saw a symbol of the desire to destroy our country, the United States, and all it stood for in the world.

We went home to Ghana this past summer to bury my wife's father. It was our first visit home since the election of Obama. I was thinking more about the father we had lost than the president we had elected, but I was immediately struck by the omnipresence of Barack Obama's smiling face on the streets of Ghana.

True, Obama had recently visited the country, in his historic first visit to West Africa as president, and given one of his stirring speeches. And true, too, that Ghana was doing some of its own political soul-searching, with a torpor in its local politics, no local star to hold onto.

But, still, it was striking to see so many publicly displayed images of an American - the president of the United States, no less - in this proud West African nation.

I think this amazing and abrupt transformation is the only way to understand Barack Obama winning the Nobel Prize for Peace when he hasn't ended any wars or closed any torture camps or discontinued any nucleaur programs or even served as president for a complete year.

Yesterday, the most common international image on the streets of Ghana was of a man who wanted to destroy our country. Today, that face has been replaced by the president of our country, the man elected to lead it.

Can you imagine anything more remarkable - or hopeful - than that? Oslo is a long way from Accra, but I think the decision made by the Nobel committee can be traced to this change on the streets of Ghana.

Remember, this is not so much about Barack Obama or our country. It's about the rest of the world.

They look at us, and they fear us. They have very good reason to fear us. For starters, the United States is the only nation that has ever dropped an atomic bomb (two, in fact, when one would have ended the war) on another country. Our nation is powerful and dangerous and people are terrified of us - we, too, strike terror - and the rest of the world has every good reason to be terrified of the most heavily armed nation on Earth.

When George W. Bush ran this nation and its military, the world fantasized about a man who lives in a cave who wanted to destroy our country. With Barack Obama running this nation and its military, the world is fantasizing about our president and where he says he wants to lead us.

It may only be a fantasy, but I like this fantasy a whole lot better than the one that it replaced.

God bless America, and Ghana, and Norway, and you. Just don't kill anybody! Especially our president.

1 comment:

constant gina said...

Congratulations to President Obama!!!