Posted by: Yorgos | November 5, 2008

Text 30 – Obama As a Symbol

About 12-14 years ago, while I was still a young student learning English, I stumbled upon a quiz with a title like: “What do you think will have happened until 2020?” (it might have been 2010, I don’t remember). This quiz was probably there to teach us a tense: Future Perfect (what a lovely name for a grammar rule – and an even better one: Future Perfect Continuous), but I vividly remember one of the points I needed to decide if they would happen or not. It went like this: “An African American will have become the president of the United States”. I chose to put 5 stars to this statement, meaning that I was absolutely certain that this would have happened by 2020 (or 2010).

This question stuck to my head. How could I be so sure? There was no indication of anything like that. In my young teenager’s mind, I just wanted people to love other people, but I didn’t have that much hope in me; except for that moment when I chose to be absolutely certain about a thing that seemed impossible.

And now here we are. An African-American has become (will become) the president of the United States. I don’t have much love for the US and their imperialistic attitudes, but pragmatically speaking, in our age of media saturation and bombardment, the US play an important (perhaps the most important) role in how things evolve in this world; and I am part of this world. What’s more, even though I disagree with the mentality, I cannot but admit that they have done great things in many areas. One of them was to elect a black president, voted by whites and blacks together. This alone is an accomplishment.

Now, I don’t know Obama or what he has done. I don’t really care to be honest. I don’t think much will change in their foreign policy. I just think that he is smarter than the previous one and that instead of making both bad and stupid decisions, we will get away with only bad ones; maybe not even those; maybe we will have a streak of good admirable decisions (but what’s a good decision anyway, since you cannot satisfy everyone? I am sure that the decisions I think are good will anger lots of his supporters in the States; and I have no say in his election).

I also believe that there is a great possibilty that Barack Obama is nothing more than a media construct. I am not saying he is, but I do say it is possible. For those of you who have followed my blog, you would know that I am suspicious of media; mainstream and otherwise. Everyone should be. You should even be suspicious of this blog you are currently reading. For all I know, Obama might be a mere puppet, as many liberal and leftist voices are saying. Still, I am not saying he is; only that he might as well be.

So, why am I satisfied, if not happy? This is because, media manipulation aside, this election means that the world has some hope in it. And I am using the word hope not in the way many people do: that Obama, they say, was the right choice and people looked past their prejudices to vote for him. Not at all. I am saying that there is hope, because, even if he could be the wrong choice, he managed to win and surpass whatever racial obstacles. In that sense he might as well be nothing more than a symbol, an empty signifier of a still fragile equality.

I saw an old black man crying on TV. He was yelling “We got there”. His life might not change; his attitude towards it will. It is not enough, but it’s a start.

PS: Of course, if Obama turns out to be a mere media construct, then these hopes can turn into destructive, false ones. Let’s hope he’s not.

PPS: There are obviously a lot of holes in what I say. Constructive criticism is welcomed, so I can fill them up.


  1. My humble opinion is that something important for our times has happened in America. Let us hope that our continent can absorb some of the energy that is flowing from overseas.

    Obama has actually done another small miracle, he is the first President […] I can think of whose accent is not jarring but actually rather lovely to hear.

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