People keep asking me why I still care about Obama – they say ‘still’ as though they all cared at one point, every one in the world, but it is simply not in fashion anymore (‘Why do you still wear those ghastly hot-pink tights that you wore in the ’80s?’). Why do I still care if Obama wins or not? Why do I still care about the US Presidential Elections? In fact, why do I still care about the US and what happens there at all? Why do I care anymore? They say ‘anymore’ too as though once, there was a time, when I should have – but I simply need not bother anymore.
‘Why do you care?’, I’m asked. ‘You don’t live there. It doesn’t affect you.’ It’s true. I am not a citizen of the United States of America. I do not live there. I have never been there. I do not vote there. Who becomes President – this fact, you could say not only does not affect me, I really have no say in the matter. So why bother? Besides, the US has fallen from grace, and along with that, seemingly from the place it occupied at the top of the socio-economic ladder. It has also – repeatedly – failed to establish itself as a state that advocates and practices moral action. There is an increasing anti-West sentiment in our part of the world, and much of it is aimed at the USA, and not all of it is just political propaganda. Many of us feel disillusioned by the US: it was supposed set an example, it was supposed to be better. Many of us feel angry at the US: it continues to act as though it’s better. Many of us see the truth about the US: politicians there lie, too. The government there watches you, too. They are responsible for the death and incarceration of innocent people, too.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
So why do I still care about Obama? There are two reasons.
Reason No.1: I actually like him. While it’s true that he has failed to ‘keep’ many of the promises he made back in 2009, it’s important to remember that he has succeeded in making some of those promises reality, some very significant ones. These accomplishments are easy to sweep under the rug, because they are not fancy achievements. In the face of International Terror and Economic Decline and Unemployment – these big words that cripple modern-day USA – it’s easy to forget the ‘smaller’ victories, particularly when many of those victories are to do with the protection of human rights and may not seem to play an important role in saving a country from economic crisis. These accomplishments simply do not live up to the Americans’ idea of leadership: an over-aggrandized, Hollywood-based fantasy of dramatic slogans and moving speeches. But they are very real accomplishments.
He began removing combat troops from Iraq. He removed troops from Afghanistan. He ended the use of torture. He doesn’t believe in war. He knows what it means to work for your dream, to not have it handed to you on a silver platter, he knows what it means to struggle, to not belong to the privileged elite, to be American but feel like an outsider – his administration ceased the deportation of children of immigrants and made it possible for them to try and get an education or a job. He believes in equal rights for all Americans – even where marriage is concerned – and that America is for everyone in it. He repealed the horrendous ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, which enabled the state to discharge employees of the government (including members of the armed forces) on the grounds of sexual orientation. He believes that women have the right to make choices about their bodies. He is not a chauvinist – male or otherwise. His administration fully funded the Violence Against Women Act and all its activities, even increasing the national budget allocation for this purpose by $ 120 million. He believes that all Americans have the right to healthcare. He is against the USA’s unhealthy obsession with putting people in jail; he made reforms on mandatory minimum sentences, for example in the cases of non-violent, one-time drug offenders, attempting to fix the USA’s reputation as the country having the world’s highest number of incarcerated citizens. He cares about the environment – when he set out to ‘create jobs’, he wanted to create ‘green jobs’. He supports equal pay for equal work. He believes in – and understands – diversity. He believes in secularism.
Reason No.2: I still care about Obama, about what happens in the US, because I want to care. I want to care about the world around me. I want to care about the other countries in the world and the people in them – not just the one that is my home or the one in which I live. I want to care because it is exactly this lack of caring – this ability to look away, to ignore, until you are directly affected – that worries me. It worries me that we are able to not care simply because it is happening to someone else. But of course it does affect us – quite apart from the fact that we are talking about a man at the helm of a lot of power – and this power is exerted over us all, in some way – quite apart from that, I am affected because it affects me to know that injustice prevails. That inequality prevails. That religious fundamentalism prevails. That racial supremacy prevails. No matter where in the world it may be.
Look at the competition; you can’t deny it’s scary. Mitt Romney has astonishing views on women, homosexuals, the working class and pretty much everyone living beneath the poverty line. He doesn’t care about women’s healthcare, he doesn’t care about – nay, he is against – Gay Rights. He doesn’t care about Science – he’d rather have the Bible taught to everyone. He doesn’t care about the Arts. He doesn’t care about progression, about moving forward – he himself doesn’t even really seem to live in the present-day. How can that not affect us – that a man like that may rule a significantly powerful country? That he may sit on international committees and assemblies that decide important things that affect us all? That he will have a lot of power and money at his disposal? I think that affects me. I think the fact that he is even real affects me.
What if we were all to forget about each other? What if we were to forget about the West, like it chose sometimes to forget about us? What if we were to not care that people in the ‘developed world’ have no access to healthcare? That they were being discriminated against? How can that not affect us?
We can’t forget America. We can’t forget them. We can’t afford to not care if Obama wins or loses. We can’t look away while it is possible that America may be left to Mitt Romney. And if they are – God forbid – we must all show our distaste. We must all show that we are sad, and angry, and disappointed. We must be sad and angry and disappointed.
I care about Obama, well, because it’s the principle of the thing, isn’t it? I care because I care about people – about the choices we make, what they say about us, and how they shape our lives and the lives of those around us. I care about Obama winning because I still want to believe that good can win.