Soon after the last presidential debate between US president Barack Obama and his then challenger Mitt Romney, an elderly American woman was asked by an Al-Jazeera correspondent whose side she was on after the candidate's performance. She answered that there wasn't much of a choice between them. 'It's a choice between a bigger evil and a smaller evil; hope the lesser of two evils win.' She opined with a smile.
Frankly, I couldn't agree with her more. And though I am not an American voter we all know that US elections is one national exercise with a global impact. So when Barack Obama walked up the stage to the sound of Aretha Franklin's classic "Here I am, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours" last Wednesday morning, I had to wonder whether he was 'ours' as well. Four years ago, when he declared that 'Change had come to America' he had raised all our hopes.
His fellow African-Americans had danced to 'Ain't no stopping us now' on the streets of Harlem, and people like Rev. Jesse Jackson had openly shed tears of joy, while the rest of us had heaved a collective sigh of relief that a new America was unfolding. That is a new America that will be very different from the one George W Bush had led disastrously for eight years. Needless to say we celebrated too soon. Obama went ahead to break all his campaign promises, especially those regarding America and the rest of the world.
Instead of an urgent pull-out from Afghanistan after Bush's decade-long misadventure, Obama initiated a troops' surge, which saw thousands more American soldiers deployed to the Central Asian nation; with disastrous consequences. One of his first acts in office, on January 21st 2009, was to sign a document authorising the closure of Camp Delta, the illegal detention camp operated by the Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Well four years later the inhuman maximum security prison is still fully operational.
Barack Obama went to Ghana and promised a new and better engagement with Black Africa, apart from a few more handshakes with our leaders than George Bush had condescended to do, we are yet to see this new model of engagement four years after. Then he went to Cairo and offered an Olive branch to the Muslim world, in place of the hot iron rod Bush had given them, but apart from his government's ill-concealed involvement in fuelling the Arab Spring, nothing really positive came out of his Cairo declaration.
On the ever-thorny issue of Israel and Palestine, Obama had made no progress towards peace in the whole of his first term. He did earn himself the title of America's first 'Jewish president' though when he declared full support for Israeli's main wish of having Jerusalem as its eternal, undivided capital. According to news analysts, no American president had ever echoed this particular Israeli demand before Barack Obama.
His criticism of Guantanamo atrocities made people think Obama will lean more towards the rule of law, not only because he is a trained lawyer, but because everything about this detention facility goes against both US and international laws, but by the time Obama launched his own version of the War on terror, Bush's detention and interrogation tactics seemed more humane. Barack Obama chose drone assassination while going after terror suspects. And between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, Obama's drones have killed tens of Muslim men tagged al-Qaida, Taliban or whatever terror tag will make their killing seem less odious to the world. More often than not these drone attacks come with collateral damage because men targeted while at home with their families mostly end up dying along with them.
While some of us were naive enough to think Obama will open another enquiry into September 11th, with the hope that the real culprits of that atrocity will be found, America's first Black president only reinforced the lie that was 9/11; both in words and in deeds. In fact he went as far as to stage his own post-9/11 hoax, the second killing of alleged mastermind Osama bin Laden. Any way you look at it Obama certainly did not make the world better or safer than he met it in his first four years in office. We have no reason to believe he will be different in his second term.
He might have promised Americans that the best was yet to come, but it is doubtful if this promise includes the rest of us. Still, as people of faith we never under-estimate the power of prayer. So hoping that the power of this prayer can touch Obama's heart and guide him to do what is right with regards to other inhabitants of Mother Earth, l again present to you Kansas Senate prayer (first published in this paper during George W Bush's first term).
Kansas Senate Prayer
When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this was what they heard.
'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance. We know your word says 'Woe to those who call evil good' but that is exactly what we have done. Yes, there are those in government who have led us astray by calling evil good! We have lost our equilibrium and reversed our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word and called it pluralism. We have exploited the poor and called it lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn children and called it choice and we have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi born and unborn children and called it 'worth it' instead of genocide (so says Madeline Albright) and 'doing God's work' (says George Bush Sr.) We know in our hearts that You do not need any puny human to do Your work, Father.
.....We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics and we have been selective in recognising crimes against humanity, calling it good one time and evil another time, depending upon the country doing it and ignoring our own crimes against humanity......We have trapped the American taxpayer, people of all religions, into subsidizing theft of land through murder, deceit and lust for a neighbour's possessions, racism and bigotry by the apartheid state of Israel (so that all Americans have become a party to actions that are considered criminal in the US) and said that You, God did it!
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it Freedom of expression, and have quieted the voices of dissent by calling them anti-this or anti-that. We have ridiculed the time-honoured values of our fore-fathers, some of whom (George Washington) warned us not to get entangled in a foreign government and called it enlightenment. Search us O God and know our hearts today: cleanse us from every sin and set us free from the evils of government policies that turn all of us into criminals.
Guide and bless these men and women (the senators) who have been sent to direct us to the centre of your will so that they can say 'No' to the evils of AIPAC when it comes knocking with bribe money; to influence them to lie to all their constituents that Israel is a friendly ally, the only democracy in the Middle East and is culturally and historically close to us; so that we are being blinded to the crimes we are being forced to accept. A true democracy does not discriminate against those of a different religion and a friendly ally does not reward spies with praise and money. AMEN.'