A victory for hope, and the redemption of a people and the idea of their nation

*Warning: this is going to be a looooooong post*

Yesterday, after all the months of worry and anxiety, and not a bit of superstition – don’t mention the word, “victory”, or “remember Florida!” – it can now be said with utter conviction: Barack Obama has won.

An African-American will be sworn in as the 44th President of the most powerful country on Earth.

I held off writing in here, my “Mentat” blog, for fear that my overly pro-Obama sentiments would detract from the supposed “objective” (more or less) analyzing that I’m supposed to bring to any issue discussed here. I already gushed, albeit with some measure of control, in my personal blog over at my Multiply. I was worried I’d still be gushing here!

Well, dammit, so sue me!

I wouldn’t be alone, anyway. Even a cursory tour of the world’s blogs and online news websites (even Fox? Haha, I haven’t gone there yet. Should I?) will show I will be but a small drop in a sea of gushing and sighing of relief and, yes, tears. People cried for joy as the United States’ media proclaimed the new American President. To me, the moment came when CNN itself reported the concession call from John McCain (Huffington Post had reported it earlier, but I wanted to see it on an MSM site). William Kole of AP shared in this article over at Yahoo News how a total stranger gave him an affectionate peck on the cheek in a bus in faraway Vienna on the way to work, after almost a decade of getting rude remarks and even a thrown beer can for being American. I think that, of all others, captures the mood post-Nov. 4, more than anything.

Its like the whole world – except for Russia and Georgia, it seems – let up a collective cry of joy and suddenly the Earth became a better place that very moment Barack Obama was proclaimed the winner of a bitterly-fought two-year election campaign for the most powerful post in the planet.

The mind is awash in a sea of… oh, hell, let’s call a spade a spade: happiness. Yes, dammit, happiness. Eight years of seeing the world go dark, in trying so damned hard to rouse one’s self to believe that anything good can still come about in this Bush-and-Bin Laden World, can you blame me and the thousands – millions? Yes, I think so: millions – who, at least for that one moment, could afford to be happy?

In a democratic country, the person elected to office necessarily reflects the electors. Yes, even in rigged contests, because the Ballot is anonymous, and the Canvassers and process known and is subject to scrutiny. If you give in to the bribe or the intimidation, then you will get the President you deserve. If you refuse or fail to protect your vote, not because you were forcibly prevented from doing so, but out of sheer apathy, indifference or even arrogance, then you will get the President you deserve. Ping Lacson might be the worst person to quote to drive the point, but his retort to a complaining FPJ after the 2004 Elections here in the Philippines was apt: don’t complain about getting cheated if you didn’t do your best to protect your votes.

And Barack Obama getting the privilege to be sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States of America this coming January 20 speaks volumes about the American people, at their core, and the true aspirations of a Darkened World.

I am actually envious of Americans right now, especially their young and their very old: for a culture criticized for its excess and even outright hedonism, of disinterest bordering on the criminal, America went the extra light year to ensure that their voices were heard and their hopes and dreams would be given a chance flourish.

Set aside the altruism, if you cynically will, but don’t deny the fact that Americans, young and old alike, of every conceivable background, mobilized in unprecedented numbers to take back their lives and their country. I have read stories of people who quit jobs and put to hold their very lives just to see this day happen, this new dawn break. I have read about young men and women who, rather than spend a weekend partying, would go door-to-door to ensure that hope continued to spring eternal. And perhaps what brought the most tears to my cynical and jaded soul were the stories of old people literally clinging on to life just so they could vote. There was this tale of an 80 or 90 year-old woman who came into a polling precinct, cane and all, asking for assistance because she wanted to vote. Pictures and uploaded videos tell the tale of Americans lining up in the minutes after midnight on Nov. 4, just so they can take back their country, of the long, unbroken, “I’m staying here until I vote!”, lines of an hour or more of waiting, just so they can exercise their Constitutional right to choose their leader.

In a time when the word “hope” is easily scoffed at so you won’t have to feel really, really bad at it being crushed… the American people stood up, and said, yes, you can. You can hope. You can dream. You can believe in the goodness of people, and the greatness that can be achieved by a community acting as one.

In a time when its easier to be afraid and to regard the Other as varelse – to take from the Heirarchy of Alienness of Orson Scott-Card – because that’s what we’ve been made to believe in and accept by Karl Rove and new High Priestess Sarah Palin… the American people choose instead to remind the world that what made – makes! – America great is that it refused to be dominated by fear or to regard the neighbor as too different as to be destroyed at first sight. That somewhere in the world, there is this place where a “half-breed” from an “ordinary” background who has a middle name that (unfortunately) usually evokes suspicion… is now its highest-ranking official and Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military force.

And it goes beyond the “feel good” stuff. Amidst the scoffing from cynics and the sobering-up after the euphoria – and President-Elect Obama himself never said anything about the road to be trod not being difficult; in fact, he has never failed to remind people that it will be a hard journey ahead – there are a lot of “real world” implications to an Obama victory.

First, I think, is that the American people have delivered the worst defeat to Osama Bin Laden. Yes, you heard me: the worst defeat to Osama Bin Laden. And all the Americans had to do was go to the polling booth and cast their vote.

There are many problems when dealing with warfare that has gone asymmetric, like the War on Terror. Unlike such “stand up” conflicts like the two World Wars and even the Vietnam War (which had asymmetrical elements), the Bin Laden-provoked and Bush-promoted War on Terror has no clear-cut fronts, and where one side is… nebulous in its identification, at best. Even worse, its not about one country trying to invade another (although, there appears to be elements of such. Like with… Iraq). Instead, the War on Terror is as much a battle between ideas as it is between armies.

Bombing the production capacity or even the populace of a known enemy to knock it out of a fight is one thing, but how do you bomb to oblivion an idea?

I think this is the thing Bush and Cheney never understood about Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: bombing camps and killing Jihadists won’t end the Jihad. No matter how many Fedayeen you fell, there will always be more because of the idea of the Jihad and the “Great Satan” its supposed to defeat. Bin Laden is a salesman for a product that counters the American “brand,” and the key to his sales pitch to the Muslim World in general as much as to the insane and/or fanatical fringe of Islam is that America is… Bush. Or Palin. If you don’t understand that definition and all the concepts contained in it, then have you been under a very large rock in a very deep crater these last eight years?

That’s why, IMHO, America has been bogged down in Iraq and is reeling in Afghanistan. Why the State Department has to advise Americans going abroad to keep a low profile even in Continental Europe. Because the idea of America, in the last eight years at least, has come to mean something negative, something evil even. And when compared to someone really evil like Osama Bin Laden, that’s… really sad.

But with a single vote, a simple exercise of their Constitutional Right to Suffrage, the American Public has done what no multi-million dollar war machine has done since 9/11: hand the extremists and terrorists and would-be imperialists – yes, Putin, I’m looking at YOU – their biggest defeat.

Its so much more harder to use America as the scapegoat demon when, look at that, they elected a half-black, working-class, man whose middle name is, of all things, Hussein. He was painted a Muslim, and Americans said, “so?” He was painted a socialist, a Commie, even, and Americans said, “so?” He was said to have palled around with terrorists, and Americans said, “Get thee away from me, you lying, conniving, hate monger,” and voted for Obama. Several extremist fundamentalist preachers had the gall to pray to a Merciful and Loving God to bring McCain victory so His ascendancy would be unquestioned.

And the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who sent His only Son to save the world, the God who sent Archangel Gabriel to speak the Koran to Muhammad, the God who, through that Son and through that Prophet preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs (while not necessarily surrendering ours), told the God-fearing Americans…

Vote for the new guy.

This is profound. What Americans did, choose hope and positive change over despair, fear and more of the same Rovian/Bushian reality, in my opinion, took quite a bit of wind out of Bin Laden’s sails. How do you tell respectable Muslims everywhere that America is the Great Satan when its people just voted into its highest position a guy with dark skin and a middle name familiar more to Muslims than to Christians? Extremists, whether they insult God by doing their despicable acts under the Cross, Crescent or Star, are a “non-scenario”; do you reason with a rabid dog? Its to their supposed “base” that you do battle in. It was hard to tell the rest of the world that America was the good guy when you have people like Bush, Cheney, Palin (*shudder* the world avoided a very big artillery shell there) and, sadly, McCain, bombing kids and weddings to smithereens.

Now, what are these extremists going to do? The leader of the Free World is someone that most anyone from the Old World to the deepest heart of the Cradle of Humanity can relate to. From the American Heartland to the war-torn, drought-wracked fields of Africa, people lookat Barack Hussein Obama, President-elect of the United States of America, and see themselves.

How do you call a Jihad on that idea?

And how did he win? This is also important: Barack Obama won through a hard-fought but clean campaign. Oh, sure, there were moments, but there were no Rovian-level stoking of fears and prejudices like openly declaring that, say, one State in the Union itself was less American than its southern sister.

We Liberals (and I use the classical, European definition here) are a crazy bunch sometimes, believing as we are in concepts and ideas that run counter to the more basic instincts of humans. But, unlike Karl Rove, Liberals believe that humans are wonderful, intelligent creatures; in fact, we believe more in the fact that humans are made in the likeness of God than those stupid – yes, I’m actually calling you idiots that – religious extremists because we supposed Godless Liberals believe in the inherent goodness of man. Perhaps the Extremist God is a pre-Christian God, the one so ready to smite transgressors and unbelievers alike at the slightest misstep. I’m sorry, but the God my Church introduced to me was one who is ready to forgive and take me back despite everything.

To us and, it would appear, the grand majority of the American people, processes matter. Goals mean less than how you attained that goal. The Protestant Ethic, to which America is supposed to have been built on, places an emphasis on hard work. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about prosperity being bad: the Protestant Ethic placed emphasis on the getting of this prosperity, that if you worked hard to give your family a good life, then God probably blessed your efforts and there’s nothing bad about a big house or a nice car, or the kids having college degrees.

McCain winning would have meant that America subscribed to an ethic that emphasizes the achieving of objectives regardless of the manner in which it was achieved. The Ends justify the Means, in Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin’s world. This was how Florida happened. This is the world of Abu Ghraib, of the Invasion of Iraq, of Muslims being arrested without a warrant, of the suspension of freedoms and liberties even of one’s own people. In this world, Bin Laden was free to spread stories that America, through conniving with the “Zionists”, could kill thousands of its own people just to justify the further persecution of Islam. It was believable in Palin Country because the disgusting lie of the extremists resonated truly with the image presented by Rove, Cheney and Palin.

But Americans know that their country isn’t Palin Country, or that the world America strives to build isn’t Cheney’s World. It is a country and a world where losing doesn’t necessarily mean defeat if only the battle was waged with honor and adherence to truth and fair play. Debate – free, informed and respectful, if oftentimes passionate –  is encouraged in a democracy because winning isn’t the ultimate goal; getting the best for everyone is.

With the victory of Obama, America has given notice that it does not subscribe nor accept Abu Ghraib or the way the War on Terror has been conducted. At least not anymore. Americans have given notice that they are sick and tired of fear, loathing and despair.

America, as Americans proved last Nov. 4, is about hope, and the belief in the goodness of humanity.

Their President-elect, that wonderful man who now stands as the reflection of the real America, said it well in his victory speech in Chicago: “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

My congratulations to Barack Obama, and my most profound thanks for coming as he is in what is perhaps the most important turning point of history in the early part of the 21st century. You have told us that we can, and that simple creed is perhaps the one we should be thanking you most of all. Because we have forgotten, through eight years of Bush, Cheney, Rove and Palin.

But my congratulations and thanks also go out to the American people, for showing us that freedom, democracy, and the dream, the hope, that America represents, is alive and well. You have showed us that not only can we, but it is. You did. You have reminded us that the world of Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Luther-King is not simply a dream but a reality.

The world today is little different, yes, when you look at it. As everyone has pointed out, there are two wars, an economic meltdown and genocides happening. Hell, Russia just sent short-range missiles near the Polish border, as if it was the 1960s and not 2008. There is a lot that needs to be done.

But now… Now we have the chance to fix some of this. Now, one can roll up the sleeves and get down and dirty with new vigor. Its a long hard road, and we all, Americans and everyone else in the Free World alike, have to pitch in.

Yet now… the work is lighter. And even through the stress and the sweat, the noonday sun shining mercilessly on our backs, we can stand up and see not strangers but neighbors and brothers and sisters working together to build a better world.

All thanks to Barack Hussein Obama, and the wonderful, wonderful people of the United States of America.

God Bless you guys and gals, indeed.

Yes, you guys did!

And the world is so much brighter and nicer for it.

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