A new president is in office for barely a week. In view of this change of power, unrestrained optimism breaks out among three-quarters of Americans and half the world. Everyone – except for a few impenitent inhabitants of the Gaza strip – agrees that the new “most powerful man in the world” carries “our hopes.” About what, really?
Obama has started a program which has been summarized under the title “Change”: therefore transformation, remaking, a new day. What will not change is clear – to the politicians and the public anyway: Obama like his predecessors is concerned with the success of America, the success of the world power. And over the last few years there has been a lot that leaves to be desired – this is seen by American citizens as well as U.S. politicians, professional as well as amateur observers at home and abroad all pretty much the same. Two wars which although won just do not come to an end, and the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression – there is a lot of disorder.
The old leader and his staff are held responsible for all this. It can surely only be the fault of the messed up leadership of the Bush administration if “God’s own country” is not doing as brilliantly as is simply assigned to this leading nation of the world. Everyone was quite discontent with Bush and his group – whether they are those who now lose their homes in the mortgage crisis, their retirement savings in the banking crisis or their jobs in the economic crisis, or at least those who fear all this will soon effect them; or whether they are those who no longer enjoy flying their American flags as long as their country must reproach itself for failure in Iraq and torture in Guantanamo, whose hearts are broken over the bad reputation of the nation. But democracy has an offer in store for discontent – all the more attractive, the greater the discontent: A new leader is needed who credibly embodies the will to the renewal of the successful ways of this successful nation; already, only by the fact that he stands as a figure for “change,” he manages all the hardships in the world; who, because he promises to be different than Bush, deserves the predicate “better.” Actually, Obama owes everlasting gratitude to his predecessor Bush because only on account of the discontent with him can he be promoted as a screen on which everyone can project his special and arbitrary discontent with the Bush administration and hope that he will redress it.
“Change” is the correct slogan for this. Commentators criticized it: in its lack of “content” anyone can read anything they want into it! Precisely – this is exactly how it is meant: Obama rides the widespread discontent and must and wants to promise nothing more than that he will do “it” differently and each dissatisfaction is in good hands with him. He provides this deliberately indefinite promise with a just as indefinite, therefore energetic “Yes we can!” – and then needs only another: This must come across as credible. He has again obviously managed well in presenting himself as a new leader, as a totally different and unique one. He already is a beacon of hope just because he looks so clearly different than the 43 presidents who preceded him.
Because – this could hardly be emphasized often enough – the 44th president of the United States is black. He is the first of this skin color, at least half, but who will nitpick. The Afro-American part of the USA bursts with pride because one of their own has “made it,” a lot of whites do too, because they have outright managed to swallow their racism – they for once wanted to make an exception for this special leadership personality.
In the highly praised land of freedom and equality there have been for ages the most remarkable social divisions. The universal capitalistic division into poor and rich is complemented and hardened by divisions according to gender, national origin and skin color. And what has Obama to offer these badly treated minorities or even majorities? The elimination of their misery and its causes? Their ascent? Or even just a comfortable existence? Obama’s ascent, which makes him the perfect example of the “American Dream,” promises only that one or another individual can rise from the bottom to the top, being only a restatement of the old “from rags to riches” story. The firm basis of this promise is the fact that there is a bottom with a lot of people in it and a top with a small elite in permanent command. If someone from the lower layer then makes his way up the ladder, the many others who are and remain below rejoice. If they have not succeeded, then it’s their own fault because they live – as is just proven again – in the “land of unlimited opportunities” and they have just not seized these “opportunities” for themselves. So it is an extremely modest desire if the members of the groups who so notoriously get a raw deal are satisfied that they are now represented by one of their own (more accurately: formerly of their own), so that they can finally feel themselves to be “real Americans.” Their poor material situation is obviously of no further importance if they have merely found their “faith in America.” Obama has taken it as far as one can take it in America, even though his skin color really predestined him to the ghetto. And this “miracle” should prove that there are no racial barriers any more, that truly “everything is possible”? How then can it be such a miracle at the same time, such a fabulous and unique exception that this brings tears to people’s eyes all over the world?
What have blacks, Latinos and other disadvantaged people gotten and what do they see themselves so well served by? By nothing but the ideal reward that a black could climb the social ladder despite his skin color. Nothing in their situation has changed, none of the relationship between beneficiaries and losers of the social hierarchy has disappeared – but with Obama as a general example they have much less reason to complain about the conditions in which – whatever the “unlimited possibilities” – they never get anywhere.
With his highly personal ascent to commander in chief of World Power No.1, Obama is the chief witness for what has to be the real object of worship and admiration: the nation with all its social and political hierarchies is a single positive condition insofar as it opens the opportunity for individual ascent to each of its citizens. So a black president becomes the latest good reason for patriotism and therefore the fittest of all beacons of hope. The fact that a black is now the ruler over Americans of all colors and classes proves that one can judge the conflicts in which they exist to be insignificant and so can stand together again for the nation completely anew and untroubled.