Saturday, August 26, 2006

Barack Obama in Kenya

Is He the Man...?

I was interested to read in today's New York Times about Senator Barack Obama's ecstatic reception in Kenya, Bush. "He's our lion," one fan is reported to have said. And another: "He will help us."

Born of a Kenyan father--a "goatherd-turned-economist" reports the Times--and a "white mother from Kansas", Obama spent little time in Kenya while growing up, but remains to his father's former countryman "a role model; a black man succeeding in a white man's world [...]; a friend in a high place; and the embodiment of American opportunity and multiculturalism."

I remember his brilliant, inspiring speech at the last Democratic convention, Bush, and the great hopes that came to rest upon his (rather young, still) shoulders. Judging from media reports--or largely the lack thereof--there has been little drama or glamor around his freshman senatorial term, but from what I have heard he has chosen the path of least resistance, remaining very much in the middle of the political road, making no waves and attracting little attention.

Now, recalling his charisma, the breadth of vision he conveyed in that one speech, his articulate presentation, his youthful energy, I watch from afar this man with feet in two cultures, two races, two continents and delight in the warmth of his reception amongst people who claim him for their own despite his transplantation to the other side of the Atlantic; I delight in the prospect of the planned visit to his father's rural African native village, to the sit-down with his grandmother who speaks no English and awaits him with the traditional grandmother-grandson offering of an egg... There seems to me, somehow, much hope for humanity in this encounter.

So is this the man, I wonder, Bush? Is this the man who will prove capable of seeing beyond his parochial national interests? Who will be capable of connecting with the Earth and its people as that singular, fully interactive organism that I tried to describe just the other day (with the help of Ervin Laszlo)? Who will be empowered by birth, by intellect, by inner emotional integrity, by cultural maturity and awakened consciousness to nudge the rest of us finally past that old destructive thinking and into a new era of international cooperation, compassion and mutual understanding?

But then I read Obama's comments in response to a question about "lowering American subsidies on farm produce so that African farmers could compete," and I worry. Many of his Illinois constituents were soybean farmers, he said carefully. "It's important for me to be sure I'm looking out for their interests. It's part of my job."

I hear this and I think, no, this is not yet the man. This is a man who is not yet bold enough to step beyond his own political contingencies. We will have to wait a while longer for men and women capable of seeing further than their own narrow interests, beyond the interests of small numbers of powerful constituents, beyond the interests of political parties and nations.

It may be that, like the archetypal drunk, we Earth-dwellers will have to descend much lower into the pit of our own misery and abuse before we "hit bottom" as the saying goes, before we "come out of denial" and see the truth about the addictions that threaten to destroy us.

So there it is for Saturday, Bush. Some hope. Some sadness.


Angela said...

Thank you Peter for sharing your thoughts. I'm enjoying reading them.

I have been thinking for a long while that we are suffering from a lack of leadership. Our nation follows an old model of violence and domination, a "king of the mountain top", winner-takes-all approach to power. When I consider leaders like Gandhi, I wonder how the world could be different if we followed a different model, where we projected ideals other than greed and consumption.

Would we still be a world leader if we began to level the playing field economically as in the case of Kenyan and US farmers? Have we encouraged the rest of the world to adopt our aggressive behaviors and in shifting to a more compassionate model, would we be relinquishing power only to be dominated by someone else?

I wonder what kind of person could lead our country out of the past of brutality and into a future of higher awareness, while at the same time encouraging other countries to follow.

PK said...

I believe, honestly, that Obama is trying to get a toehold in the door before doing anything. He will choose his words carefully to keep himself in a good place for now. I know that appears two faced, however, with what he's having to deal with right now, I think him smart. This administration could take him down in a heartbeat. So, why be aggressive right now? Wait until there are more in the Senate, and Congress before stepping into the fire. He will be good for the country, once he has more body's in there to back him up. I'm sure he has a lot he would like to implement, just can't at the moment, it would go nowhere fast. I could be wrong, been known to be:), but I just want to kick back, watch, and give him a chance.