Dreaming with Obama

I want to write about Barack Obama, but I find myself thinking a lot about Toussaint L’Ouverture.Toussaint who dared to think that he had a right to be in control of his own destiny.

Toussaint who did what no-one thought was possible.

We all know, or at least we’re supposed to know, the story of Haiti, even as now Haitians languish in 200 years of punishment for the sheer farseness of thinking that they could rule themselves.  Toussaint, the revolutionary, the great black hope, who died in a French prison. Haiti, that great statement of fight that was forced to pay reparations to France for the loss of their most lucrative colony.

In the past few weeks, in a flurry of e-mails sent back and forth around the world, in the din of endless debates and polls and reports and never-ending coverage, I’ve been thinking about Toussaint.

What would it mean to this region to have a black man as President of the United States of America?

What would it mean for a region that has so consistently since Independence been disappointed by leaders, African, Indian, European and in-between?

In truth, we haven’t had much luck with people who look like us. In fact in many cases, the people who look like us have turned out to be even worse colonials than the colonials themselves.

It’s a peculiar and troubling time to be black in Trinidad, in the world. And I’m not on any victim trip, but Jah, why is it that we’re still so uncomfortable with talking about race? We daily refuse to acknowledge the thing that is most used to divide us.

African-Americans are overcome with hope. It’s a huge deal for them because there’s never ever been a black President of the USA. They want it so badly, they can taste it. They don’t know like we do that it’s possible for your leader to look like you and still jam you with dry pommecythere seed.

The problem with Obama is that he fits none of the stereotypes that the world has of black America. He’s not a rabble-rouser, or thug gangsta, he’s no jive-talking mofo. And so perhaps he is more dangerous, because the possibility in his eyes is infectious.

Perhaps if he weren’t so near the ideal image of a dignified, well-spoken, determined black man I’d be more comfortable with him.

I would not invest any emotion in him. My heart wouldn’t skip a beat at the beginning of a debate as if it was Brian Lara’s wicket I was terrified of being taken by the dreadest of the Australian spinners.

I don’t want to like him just because he’s a black man, in the same way that I don’t want to like Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman.

Those characteristics don’t necessarily a great leader make. I almost don’t want to make myself like him, because I don’t think I would be able to take it if he turned out to be a disappointment in any form.

The closer and closer it gets, the more terrified I get. That they’ll try to kill him. That he’ll turn out to be a huge disappointment. That he’ll try very hard but the neo-cons and the big business massas will undermine his ability to make a difference. Because in America, just like in Trinidad, it’s not just the President that’s running the country, but the people with the paper.

The problem is that Obama will inherit a civilisation in decline. On the brink of collapse and of course it will all be the black man’s fault.

I fear that the people who want things to remain the way they are will not permit someone like Obama to survive.

Or maybe the time has really come where even a black man can get a bligh.

We would all really like for Obama to be the one. To make us love America again. To make things okay again. To see Martin Luther King’s much bandied dream come to light for real.

Barack Obama must have a terrible weight on his shoulders, to return hope to a generation of men and women who have known more disappointment than is reasonable, given our lack of chains and our wealth of resources.

Who are tired of martyrs and even more tired of sell-outs.

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