Exhaustion and relief

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Now it’s all over, there’s a sense of quiet relief among everyone I know.

It’s a strange business when you think about it.

We Europeans can’t vote in a US election, but we watch with baited and sometimes frustrated breath because everything the US does affects the rest of us. It’s a relief to have it all done and dusted.

A historic event, as everyone says. Although Obama is about as white a black guy as you could ever come across, and although I would have preferred Hillary, it is probably more important for America that they get their first black president than that they get their first woman president. Women have always been discriminated against, but only when they were black were they slaves. 

I didn’t manage to stay up all night to watch. When I calculated that it would be 5.00am before the first results came in, I sloped off to bed at 1.30, then got up again at 7.00 to find a complete landslide.  It is impossible even for an old cynic like me not to be moved at others’ emotion at the result, and it’s fantastic to see so many people actually involved in the election process, no matter which way they voted. 

Personally I would have liked to see more substance to the Obama campaign – more meat on the bones of what he stands for – so it now a case of sitting back and waiting to see what will happen. At least a Democratic Congress might help matters along and the US might, for the first time in 40 years, see some real social reform if all goes well, though I think the health insurers have the country so firmly by the balls that improvement in that area would be very difficult. 

And how will Bush be remembered, I wonder? To the European mind, Americans have a habit of electing dumb fuckers as President (I well remember the howls of anguish when Reagan got in), but Bush has got to be the worst of the lot. Incoherent, stumbling, full of malapropisms – a clown who tapdanced on the White House steps – he had me reaching for the ‘mute’ button every time he appeared on television. I found him unbearable.

In terms of his policies, he was a disaster for his country and his people. Under the Bush administration, let us remember, the rich have got richer and EVERYONE ELSE in America has got poorer or stagnated. This is not a good legacy. NOT signing the Kyoto Protocol is not a good legacy. Iraq, Guantanamo Bay with its torture chambers, extraordinary rendition, the Patriot Act, the attitude to North Korea, Cuba, Iran, are not good legacies. The endless faith-based initiatives, the brakes put on science and stem cell research, Terry Schiavo, the resistance to equal rights for gay people, the worst financial cataclysm in a century, are not good legacies.

It remains to be seen how much Obama can regain America’s respect on the world stage – there is a great deal of damage to repair – but at least it’s a step in the right direction. And it will be a relief to not have to reach for the remote whenever the President appears on the television.

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