Friday, July 4, 2008


I imagine people often think I’m trying to give one-sided pictures. Not really. I just don’t here much of republican affairs here in South Africa. So this is my plea for any republican-favoring democratic-bashing material. I almost didn’t include this one because I thought it was going to be funny but seemed very serious. Can anyone tell me if this is an elongated or full version of an advert running in the States? I’m guessing no.

I was going to tell you some personal information about Obama from when I was in one of his classes (he was my teacher/lecturer). Today I realized that those times I remember were simply dreams. But they were very vivid. The last one was last night. I’m not sure why I would even dream of the man but for some reason he was my teacher. And the nice thing is that because he was our (my class’s) teacher we were not super enamored with him. I mean we liked him, but we knew him just as Mr. Obama as opposed to some potential president or the Democratic presidential candidate. Last night, during class, as I was going to leave, he spoke to me, or I spoke to him. I actually think I thought-spoke (telepathy) to him so that he actually verbally spoke first but he must have been replying to my thoughts or extremely emotionally intelligent (very important for ANY leader including teachers and parents). I tried to explain to Mr. Obama how important it was for teachers to do something—to either set the rules from the beginning or to set the milestones and intermediate due dates for an overall project—something like that. He told me it wasn’t his style, that he likes the students to learn through the process or something. He thought his way works, too.

I noticed two things while talking to him. First he knew who I was in class. Secondly, he is really thin. And third, his talking voice is a bit different than his speaking voice. It’s not completely different and unconnected, but he definitely puts on a deliberate, slow, oratorical air when speaking. When he talked with me it was very relaxed, and I appreciated it.

He is the name on the lips of every African, European, South American (wait, do I know any South Americans, here?), Australian, North American, Asian, and (if there were any) Antarctican (Word says that’s not a word) in South Africa. I rarely hear the name McCain in conversation. In my experience, the only people who have mentioned him have been white people here, and even then, very few people. It seems to excite the world; HE seems to excite the world. People write me and email me and call me about him from all over the world. And everyone knows how the US primary system works.

It is exciting for African people because it represents a shift in possibilities not just in the US but in the world. Moreover, he’s not just a black American (just as he is a white American), but he’s a Kenyan American. And to us here, that’s super cool. It means you, an African, can raise a child who can become the president of the United States. It means US foreign policy might be more benign (at least to countries outside the US, especially in the third world). It means that US African foreign policy might be more active (at least in the eyes of African nations who would welcome the help where South African “hegemony” and Nigerian “hegemony” fall short).

Strangely enough, I had the wonderful opportunity to hang around some Americans this past weekend and here their perspective. Haley’s parents flew into Cape Town and stayed two nights before leaving early Monday Morning on a Zambia-Botswana-Joburg-Grahamstown (South Africa) tour. Well, a few interesting comments were made:

  1. Mrs. Fletcher, Haley’s mother, stated that to her the choice between Obama and McCain was not a racial one, that it was not about race for her. I thought that was commendable (though some would disagree). The only problem is that though it may not be about race for her, you really cannot say that that will be the case for everyone else who votes. In other words, there will be people for whom it will be about race. Moreover, even if no one votes based on race, it still has racial implications. Obama (who is both White and Black) would be the first Black man elected president of the US and that means something to a lot of people. More importantly it changes what is possible or at least validates what some thought and negates what others believed. One of my new friends here in South Africa is a Gabonese guy. He’s here with a group of other Gabonese young adults who are being trained to be English teachers in their francophone country. The government paid for them to come to South Africa for one year to improve their already-good English. Sadly the government ran out of money to house and feed them so they are going back about 6 months early. Two of them are in my choir. Anyone, one (not in the choir) wrote an undergraduate thesis 3 years ago on the possibility of a Black man being elected as the president of the United States. His teacher or advisor or committee thought the paper completely ridiculous and dismissed it. Now he’s laughing. Even if it doesn’t happen, the argument that the climate makes it sufficiently (50%) probably these days is tenable.
  2. I also thought it interesting that Haley then made a statement that if Obama loses, the US will lose its hegemony. Now, I always enjoy watching other families because when you are growing up as a young child, you don’t realize that families do things differently than your family. And so each discovery is a surprise. Anyway, I wasn’t sure if everyone understood her or not, but it was funny to me because the conversation sounded very academic when she said that. I wouldn’t use that word in conversation with my family so it was interesting to here. It was also interesting to here Jeannie and Haley talk about their parents editing their papers which is something completely foreign to me all my life. I wonder if it would be different if I were in the humanities as a daytime job (I am in the humanities). Anyway, Haley said this about US hegemony, and it reminded me of the fall of the US from a hyperpower to a superpower and the current continual fall it’s undergoing. Let me tell you (complete opinion and conjecture based on wonderful evidence but as this is not a paper I won’t go into it) I believe [opinion] that our position would be stronger today if we (the US) had a more proportionate representation of all ethnic groups in all sectors of society. It’s like Professor Richard Tapia of Rice University says, we cannot go forward growing healthily with such a large percentage of our population underrepresented in science, technology, math, government, policy, education, research, etc. In other words, imagine, if you can, that our growth has been stunted. We would be much farther than where we are, have political officials more representatively elected, enact a foreign policy more beneficial for foreign countries (backwards logic but in the end it helps)—all if we had a more proportionate representation in all sectors of society. The amazing thing is that the US has done well relatively (key word is “relatively”) in spite of this. But I believe it could have gone farther; we have left a number of our own behind, so it seems to make sense. Does it make sense? Now come to South Africa. Imagine the number left behind is not just 13% or 20% or 30% or 37% but 50%. What about 60%? How about 70%? What if it were higher (and it is)?

Can you imagine how stunted South African growth must be? South Africa is supposed to be a hegemony, and we had hoped it would become so since apartheid (read the last update—really good background), but it has fallen short. Specifically it has no hegemonic legitimacy in its own Southern region. We have no ability to stop anything going on in Zimbabwe, much less DRC, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia. Likewise, Nigeria though respected doesn’t have the economic power and military might of South Africa. And so it leads us and this country to a point of confluence.

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