New Internationalist

Let us hope

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Issue 417
© Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Students sign a message board dedicated to President-elect Barack Obama in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, November 6, 2008. © Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Hope was a key word in the campaign of newly elected US President Barack Obama. Americans and citizens around the world were stirred by Obama’s oratorical prowess and his vision of change. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano argues that hope is now more important than ever if Obama is to meet the expectations of his supporters.

Once in office will Barack Obama prove that his bellicose threats against Iran and Pakistan were just words spoken to lure in a certain category of voter during the election?

Let’s hope so. And let’s hope he isn’t for a moment tempted to repeat the exploits of George W Bush. After all, the incoming US President had the dignity to vote against the war in Iraq while the Republican and Democratic parties cheered the announcement of this bloodbath.

During his campaign, ‘leadership’ was the most frequently used word in Obama’s speeches. As President will he continue to believe that his country was chosen to save the world, a toxic idea that he shares with almost all of his colleagues? Will he continue to assert that the US is the leader of the world and believe in its messianic mission to command?

Let’s hope that the current crisis, which is shaking the imperial foundations, will at least serve to provide the new government with a healthy dose of realism and humility.

Will Obama accept that racism is permissible when practised against countries that his country invades? Is it not racism to meticulously tally the deaths of the invaders of Iraq while ignoring with Olympian arrogance the far larger number of Iraqi dead? Isn’t it racist that the world has first, second, and third class citizens and first, second, and third class dead?

Barack Obama’s victory was universally celebrated as a victory in the battle against racism. Let us hope that from his first acts as president he accepts and lives up to this beautiful responsibility. Will the Obama administration confirm yet again that Democrat and Republican are two names for the same party?

Let us hope that the will for change that these elections have consecrated is more than just a promise and a hope. May the new administration have the courage to break with the tradition of the single party disguised as two that at the hour of truth behave almost identically while they pretend to be fighting one another.

Will Obama make good on his promise to close the sinister prison at Guantanamo? Let us hope so – and that he will end the sinister blockade of Cuba.

Will Obama continue to believe that it is a good idea to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep Mexicans from crossing into the US while vast sums of money move across without ever showing a passport?

During the campaign Obama never candidly discussed the subject of immigration. Let us hope that from today on, no longer having to worry about losing votes, he will be able and willing to abandon this idea of the wall – which would be far longer and more shameful than the Berlin Wall – and indeed all walls that violate people’s freedom of movement.

Once President will Obama, who enthusiastically supported the recent gift of 700 billion dollars to the banking industry, continue the usual practice of privatizing profits while socialising losses? I fear that he will, though I hope that he won’t.

Will Obama sign and abide by the Kyoto agreement or will he continue allow the biggest polluter on the planet to pollute with impunity? Will he govern for people or for automobiles? Will he shift the devastating course of a way of life in which the few steal the destiny of the many? I fear he won’t, though I hope he will.

Will Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, realise the dream of Martin Luther King, or the nightmare of Condoleeza Rice?

This White House, which is now his house, was built with the labour of black slaves. Let’s hope he never forgets that.

Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer and journalist, is the author of The Open Veins of Latin America and Memories of Fire and Mirrors/An Almost Universal History.

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This article was originally published in issue 417

New Internationalist Magazine issue 417
Issue 417

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New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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