Obama's Day

I lived through a bit of personal history again. I recalled that I was in Dhaka on September 11th, 2001. Returning from office that afternoon, we watched with shock and awe the twin towers coming down, with a feeling of despair, uncertainty and fear. I knew the world will change, and it did. That moment is still vividly captured in my memory.

So will be this morning. At the cost of being late for meetings this morning and missing out on seeing a very dear friend, I watched, with hope and expectation this time, the election results coming from America. I held on till the time John McCain walked on the stage and gave a very dignified, gracious and courageous concession speech. I am again in Dhaka, by the way, and I knew that the post-9/11 veil of fear will now be lifted. America, almost unbelievably, has a President in Barack Obama. The world will never be the same again.

Why do I rejoice? Because this is a win for freedom, possibility and hope. John McCain was a very good candidate, one that could transform America and lead the world with courage. He would have won almost any presidential election, but this one. Like many gifted men before him, this was not a race he could win. He was competing with history, he was fighting with hope. He fought a brave fight, but he was on the wrong end of time. I felt sad to feel that this is possibly the last we see of John McCain, a tireless reformer and a great icon of whatever is good with America, but he was representing the past, the cliched equations and discredited theories, as disconnected with the modern, global world we live in as it can be. Someone on TV was saying Obama win will start a new millennium in America. Indeed, it will.

Obama's win is a long way off from the Slavery and the Freedom Riders. This is a day of hope - this is the day Martin Luther dreamt for. The African-Americans are celebrating as if they have won their freedom today. But this is indeed a victory for America - the land of possibility that it is and which McCain referred to in his concession speech - it sets another great example for world's democracies to follow. Democracy, everywhere, is beset today by class, caste, tribes, and has effectively been turned into a tyranny of the majority. This brings all glass ceilings down, makes everything possible, gives a new lease of life to democracy as a method. Many countries, India among them, will take the lesson and transform their democracies into meritocracies. Countries like Bangladesh will take the lessons from Obama-McCain contest and learn how you can both be Americans first and political rivals later. America has certainly gained its moral leadership back.

Will this change our lives? Most certainly. Our lives have already changed. Possibilities have opened, examples have been made. Someone was predicting that the recession will be over within 10 days of President Obama taking office; this could very well be, as the recession is a more psychological factor than anything else. Besides, Obama has so far demonstrated competence and projected himself to be fiscally conservative, signals the market needs to get credit flowing again. But, more than that, Obama will represent an America engaged with the world, a global power with global responsibilities, not the bully it has lately become. Obama will stand as proof of a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan America, one which can look into future with confidence and engage with the world.

The post 9-11 period is finally, truly, over.


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