The rise and rise of Barack Obama —Mahmud Sipra

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Whatever the outcome, it is the post-November 4 scenario that America must brace itself for. Just how responsible and gracious either man or his supporters will be in victory and or in defeat is what will set the pace for the next four years

There are numerous epiphanies that one could attach to the rise and rise of Barack Hussein Obama, the Democratic Party’s candidate for the office of President of the United States of America.Senator Obama has spent twenty-two months of his 47 years on this planet in the US Senate. And now he is running for President. Not bad for a kid who grew up on the mean streets of Chicago. When other black kids were swaggering around playing mean and hip-hopping, young Obama was preparing himself to go where no black kid had ever dreamed of going — the White House. Not as a guest or to perform, but as its lawful occupant.

Looking back now to his formative years, one would imagine that was probably the time his ‘first’ epiphany occurred.

Mr Obama seems to have had many mentors, both spiritual and political. Notable among them is his ‘friendship’ with a man named Bill Ayers, a former “terrorist” responsible for a spate of bombings of government buildings. Let us accept Mr Obama’s explanation on this one — that “he was only eight-years-old when Ayers went on his bombing spree…”

But then how does he explain his having allegedly written the foreword to Ayers’ book after he came of age? Maybe this is a false argument and one should again accept the other half of his wisdom of keeping interesting friends: “I thought he (Ayers) had by then been rehabilitated!”

And what of the other, about being of the flock of one Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Senator Obama faithfully sat and listened to this pastor spew racially charged invectives from the pulpit for twenty years before opting, only a few months ago, to distance him self from this rabble rousing demagogue.

Senator McCain on his part has signalled to his supporters that the Obama-Wright relationship, although wrong, should be considered out of bounds as an election issue. Even if Obama were to win the election, this one is not going to go away anytime soon. Neither is an entity called ACORN.

The Encarta Dictionary lists a number of meanings for the word ‘epiphany’ — there are some that may have a direct bearing on Senator Obama’s political and personal profile.

Here are a few: “a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.” And, as an example of usage, “it came to him in an epiphany what his life’s work was to be.”

Given Mr Obama’s messianic appeal, there are those that might relate to this one: “the supposed manifestation of a divine being.”

Senator Obama has made light of such epiphanic or biblical references to himself by stating: “No, I was not born in a manger!” Even so, some of Obama’s other self-deprecating remarks clearly carry a self-serving racist tone and tenor. Like when he famously remarked: “I don’t look like those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

He has through most of his campaign maintained a standard in his speeches reminiscent of the eloquence of JFK and Reagan, and on occasion displayed a caustic wit, which his opponent Senator McCain, with his straight talking approach, has very wisely steered away from. But then most American elections seem to run more on style, or the lack of it, and sadly less and less on substance.

While Senator McCain painstakingly hammers away at not burdening the average American with more taxes and lessening the oil import bill by allowing domestic drilling and switching to alternative energy solutions, Obama opposes both, choosing instead to counter with a bizarre promise of ‘spreading the wealth’! What wealth? Obama’s idea of spreading or sharing the wealth is sending close to a trillion dollars overseas to pay for the oil America imports.

Senator Obama seems to have surged ahead of his rival in the polls in recent weeks as has the vitriol. “The venom endures largely because not only is the Illinois senator the first African-American who’s ever come this close to the presidency, but his background — biracial, lived in Indonesia for a time, grew up in Hawaii, has the middle name Hussein — isn’t the stuff of past presidential resumes.” Fair comment, but he is still ahead in the polls.

The Republican defence, as articulated by strategist Kieth Appel, is: “What you have (from the Democrats) is an attempt to shame people to vote for Barack Obama by trying to paint those who would vote for John McCain as people who somehow, someway, harbour racist sentiments. That’s disgusting”.

If one separates all the partisan vitriol and takes in the world view of this young American leader, it may become clear to some of his detractors why Barack Obama has succeeded in reaching out to not just his own country’s fellow citizens but beyond to Europe Africa and Asia. He has done this in a world that seems more and more divided along religious lines, as he articulated in an address on June 28, 2006:

“If we truly hope to speak to people where they are at, to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. Because we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion in the negative sense of where or how it should be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our own obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome, others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.”

There is this side of Barack Obama as well.

This particular presidential election is going to the wire with the polls showing Senator Obama substantially ahead and Senator McCain having to defend his bid against Obama’s rapier sharp attacks on the soft underbelly of the Republican Party’s policies of the last eight years under George W Bush, charges that finally forced Senator McCain to come up with a spirited defence: “It is not George Bush who is running for the presidency here…” A one-liner he ought to have come up with at the very outset of his campaign.

A recent exchange between Senator McCain and one of his supporters went like this: “Senator McCain, I don’t trust Barack Obama…he is an Arab.” “No ma’am,” replied McCain, “Senator Obama is a decent family man, a citizen. It’s just that I happen to have disagreements with him.”

Whatever the differences between the two rivals, only one of them is going to eventually occupy the White House. The next two weeks may be crucial for both candidates. Whatever the outcome, it is the post-November 4 scenario that America must brace itself for. Just how responsible and gracious either man or his supporters will be in victory and or in defeat is what will set the pace for the next four years.

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 23/10/2008


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