Photo Credit: NYT
I hate sounding cynical. But I’m trying to be realistic here. This is not to say I hate the guy. I don’t even know him. And to be fair, it’s still his first day on the job. But seriously. Looking at how people are reacting to this. Especially the more westernized Jordanians here. You would think the Messiah has returned. And it’s not like this is ordinarily a bid deal. People are free to idolize whomever they wish. But to invest that much blind faith in a man who is bound to the predictable whims of an office? I mean Americans are free to do it. He’s their president. But for anyone in the Arab world to think things here will actually change?
Hey. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. I really hope so. But it’s like hoping it’ll snow tomorrow so you won’t have to go to work. Sheer will power isn’t going to do it. Mere faith and prayer isn’t going to make it happen.
Also. There is the general feeling that this presidency is being sold as some form of redemption for the past eight years. I recognize that tone in western media, between the lines of columnists and writers. And the truth is, it won’t be. The Arab world sees American politics as an ongoing play. Different actors might play the lead role as the years pass on, but the story remains the same. The plot remains the same. And to those who have watched the show a dozen times, the predictability remains the same. Atonement isn’t electoral. You can’t vote someone “better” in to office, close your eyes real tight and hope the past eight years didn’t happen. It won’t erase the horrors of Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine or Darfur.
And yes, Obama is indeed an elequont speaker. Perhaps to Americans that is quite a change of pace from the better half of the last decade. But for us, we live in a region where poetry has been pandered as policy for generations, and to no avail. We’ve been sold words many times.
Many. Many. Many. Times.
But. What really annoys me about all of this isn’t the poetry and prose. It isn’t the blind faith in hope and change. It isn’t the attempts at redemption. What really annoys me is the expectations. The bar has been set so high that unless Obama brings peace to our region – an act that is best performed alongside a miracle akin to parting the Red sea – then Obama will be deemed a failure. What will follow is greater disappointment. Not from our fathers or grandfathers who know better, but from us. Our generation. The young and educated who could afford a bit of faith in hope and change. Who could momentarily choose to ignore the realities of a repetitive history, in leui of something bigger. Something greater to aspire to.
And when that happens, it will send this generation and the next, in to an ever deeper abyss of cynicism.
During his inauguration speech, Obama boldly declared “we have chosen hope over fear”. And to those living in this region, nothing sounds more inspiring. Because fear is something we live with on a daily basis. You wake up to go to work one day and the country right next to you gets invaded. You wake up to go to work one day, and the country right above you gets bombed for a month. You wake up to go to work one day, and the city 300 km away is being bombed back to the stone age. And all you see for days and days and day are bodies. Burnt flesh plastered on TV screens. And if you squint real hard, you can see black smoke in the distance, from the very place that you’re standing in.
We haven’t chosen anything. Fear is signed, sealed and delivered to us on a daily basis. Like spam emails. You get it whether you want it or not. Whether you like it or not.
And as for hope…