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Home > India > News > Columnists > Sumit Bhattacharya

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Obama and the four-letter word



November 05, 2008

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The telephone rang early morning (for me at least); it was my sister. I was groggy, surprised and worried.

She is a hospital administrator who lives with her husband and two little devils of sons, aged 2 and 4, in Maryland, United States of America.

My sister and I do not generally talk on the phone -- we are as different as chalk and charcoal -- unless it's an emergency.

Mother has been very unwell since she returned from my sister's house last month. I thought I knew what was coming. We have had heated -- to put it mildly -- arguments on whether it is good or necessary to have my parents, both senior citizens, travel half-way across the globe every six months to be with their grandsons (who they of course, like all grandparents, dote on).

"Obama is leading! He's going to win!" my sister screamed into the phone.

I was taken aback.

But then, such is human nature, I thought later, as images of celebrations from Kenya to Bangalore started trickling in onto television screens and Internet links. We need hope. We pin it on symbols -- leaders, movements, ideas.

And at this point in history, mankind needs hope more than ever. Hope and change. Because unless we mend our ways, the Earth will be destroyed -- 100 years to a thousand, the timeline may vary, but our own science has been telling us for a while now that we humans have charted a course that will surely lead to the destruction of the world as we know it.

It is also foolhardy to try to encapsulate America's importance to the world; from the environment to the stock exchange, we know how the most powerful country in the world impacts our lives. And the life of the Earth.

My American colleague, Matthew Schneeberger, likes to gloat that the United States is the moral compass of the world; I tell him he has been brainwashed by his school history textbooks.

It looks like -- at least for now -- that America's own compass is firmly set to change.

But what change do we need most? We, who do not vote in America's election but we whose future is inexorably tied to world currents?

The politics of inclusiveness, is my answer. For far too long, we have let our leaders divide us: Into black and white and brown, into religious groups, ethnic groups. Into us and them.

It is only befitting that the world's only superpower should be led by a man who is an embodiment of the global village. Blame it on 24/7 television or a shrinking world, but few leaders in contemporary world history have embodied hope and inclusiveness as much as the 44th President of the United States.

And if Barack Obama [Images] can carry that change on his shoulders, if he can change 'us and them' into 'we the world', then history will remember November 4, 2008, as a watershed moment, not just a change of guard in one country.

Only then will history remember him as a world leader, and not just a fantastic orator who can give you gooseflesh by jamming on Dr Martin Luther King's words.

For now, from my sister in Maryland, who has seen the price of her house -- which she worked like a dog to save up for -- crash, to the man on the California street, hope is running high.

Let us hope that this time hope can defeat that other four-letter word that has become so intrinsic to the world we live in: Hate.


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