30 October, 2008

Our first post-colonial president?

Rarely do I engage in my blogs on political issues since these are primarily for my classes, but I heard something on NPR coming to work today that forced me to pause and post. I heard an interview with Jon Meacham, an editor for Newsweek magazine, who was commenting on Obama's most critical experience. Meacham asserted that Obama's growing up in Indonesia has been extremely important since he could be the first president to have been on the "receiving" end of American influences.

WOW--this idea suggests to me that Obama's potential presidency--besides issues of race (which I believe are and should be irrelevant) is really about post-colonialism and--as many critics have asserted--an opportunity to "speak back to the empire."

As I think about this concept--that Obama could be the first "post-colonial" president--I begin to think that one of the conflicts we are seeing played out between Obama and McCain is the exact same conflicts post-colonial theorists are writing about. Consider the dynamics: McCain has all the trappings of the empire: his age, his wealth, his power, his military history. Obama, on the other hand, is the "colonized" nation: young, vibrant, rich in resources (I would point to his powerful rhetoric and his intelligence)--but "other." For the empire (aka McCain) this "talking back" (Obama's challenges on all of McCain's significant platform issues) is threatening and disconcerting.

And let's not overlook the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket. She, too, is emblematic of the "empire": first--she is clearly on the ticket to validate the "man's" place. Secondly--her intellectual deference to McCain further reinforces the role of the "man"--and by extension, the empire. Thirdly--she brings to the ticked the accoutrement that asserts the "man's place": her obvious display of role of wife and mother; her assertions about cooking moose and elk; her favoring of guns (I don't want to go down the Freudian bunny trail here--I will leave that for later). . . .I think readers get this point.

And Obama is--for all intents and purposes--the "poster-child" for post-colonial: he is exotic and mysterious--from his ethic mix to his name. He is threatening with his hard questions back to the authority. Obama is, as Bill Ashcroft describes post-colonial characteristics, "uncentred, pluralistic, and multifarious." And I am convinced that these aspects of Obama's character and his campaign are what so many find disturbing about him, instead of his policies. Why else would there be outright lies running rampantly across the web about his being a Muslim? Why else would there be a tempest in a teapot over the fist bump between Obama and his wife? Why else would there be misapplication of labels of Obama as a "socialist" or a partner with a "terrorist."

What would be the result of a post-colonial president? I hope that there will be a re-energizing of American democracy. I look for broader inclusion of different voices in our American experiment. Ironically--I believe a post-colonial president Obama would more emphatically validate the notion we've heard from Puritan times through this election cycle: the United States is a shining beacon to the world. What better way to make the light shine brightly than to show how American values respect--even embrace--other into the fabric of our nation.