I never thought I would live to see an African American becoming president of the United States. The fact that Barack Obama was voted in as the next president of a country with a turbulent racial history, and where African Americans are in the minority, is an event of such historical magnitude that I think it will take some time before anyone grasps its full significance.
What do the results of these US elections signify? I think that, for the United States, this was a result of an entire nation thirsting for new, inspiring leadership. But I think, on a broader scale, that election result signifies a major cultural change that has been occurring for some time.
I think that Obama represents the world as it is today. When you walk through any of the large cities, let it be London, New York, or Johannesburg, you quickly notice how cosmopolitan they are: the many different cultures, languages and religions; millions of individuals with differing life stories, interacting together in the incredibly large melting pot that is the modern world. Obama represents the Spanish born woman whose parents immigrated from Algeria; the English born man whose mother is Irish and his father Turkish; the Rwandan child of both Hutu and Tutsi decent; and the marriage of an atheist husband and Christian wife.
I wonder if Obama represents the fact that, in this day and age, there is no longer such a thing as pure culture or belief, or an absolute, one sided way of thinking and doing things. If the modern world has done anything in recent times, it has blurred the lines of demarcation between different languages, worldviews, religious beliefs, and ways of thinking. The old colonial view of separation, which frequently used violence to protect a certain view of ‘superior’ culture and to force this culture on others, has been slowly replaced by a world where many people are starting to cross historical boundaries to interact with others. Could it be that this paradigm shift has been growing for some time, but only now – through the election of Obama – it is finally represented at the highest level of leadership?
Obama might fail in his presidency; he might only serve one term and be replaced by someone much more mundane. But the fact that he was voted in to begin with is a sign that major cultural changes are afoot. And these changes will continue in all spheres of society long after Obama leaves office.
I am excited that Obama is the next president of the United States. But more than that, I am excited to be living in this time of cultural change.