Children, canteen staff, supermarket shelf stackers, random people in the street, I’ve heard them all discussing politics with excitement and hope. Something which just a few days ago so many people were claiming could never, ever happen – just did.
I’ve heard so many people say they thought white Americans were too racist to ever vote for a Black candidate let alone one pushing for progressive social change. That the American power structure would never tolerate such a thing. That it just could not happen. Now everyone has had their conception of what is possible in this world expanded. A bleak, shoulder-shrugging cynicism seems a little out of place.
We all just saw that the son of a Kenyan goatherd – once flogged by Kenya’s white rulers - become the elected leader of a mostly white country, the most powerful on Earth. In a world where power and wealth has overwhelmingly been in the hands of rich, white people for 2 centuries and in a country where black people were brought there forcibly as slaves, and even now cannot expect justice or voting rights in parts of the South and have a life expectancy below that of peasants in India. For African-Americans, knowing that the highest office in the country is not beyond reach is a powerful thing.
And consider – there has never been a black, Asian or even Irish Prime Minister of Britain. Or a Moroccan President of France, a Turkish Chancellor of Germany, a Roma Prime Minister of Italy, an Aboriginal Prime Minister of Australia, a Chechen President of Russia, A Muslim Prime Minister of India or – how about it? – an Arab Prime Minister of Israel.
European politics now looks rather uninspiring by comparison - see France’s embarrassing Nicolas Sarkozy and Italy’s flamboyantly corrupt and bigoted Silvio Berlsuconi. Our more impressive leaders are a prudent German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and a flailing, uninspired Gordon Brown.
Around the world, people are looking at the United States with higher expectations and goodwill. Possibly naively, but suddenly the prospect of democratic change in the heart of the superpower which has acted as if the rest of the world is irrelevant seems real, and it could be.
Pictures by Jetheriot and Blakespot under the Creative Commons Attribution License.