Wednesday, November 12, 2008

waaw, men nanu!

the other day i was on a horse cart going through the bush and a man saw me and shouted (in english) "hey, toubab!" ("toubab" means white person/foreigner/frenchie/non-seneaglese)

i yelled back, "i'm not a toubab, i'm an american!"

he yelled back, "where are you from?"

i responded, "americans are from america!"

and he pumped his fist in the air and hollered "OBAMA IS YOUR PRESIDENT!"

i cheered.

it's been amazing to see the response that obama's win has garnered here. the range of knowledge varies but everybody is excited about this man, this american with african roots, that has been elected the president of america. they associate ideas of peace, hope, the end of war, a new era with his name.

my villagers were giddy and eager to ask me about obama. i talked about politics for the first time in my village after a year of living there because people are finally interested. even fatou -- who is so not interested in things that don't involve new earrings or a dance-off or village gossip -- asked me if i voted and who i voted for. how excited would they all be to know that when obama spoke, "and to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world...", he was talking to them!

of course i am thrilled too and am eager to see if this man will live up to the expectations he has made for himself. everybody calls him the first african-american president, but i consider him the first president of color. it really seems to me that he understands multiculturalism and pushes for diversity and understanding. this is one of several (personal) reasons why i voted for obama. (i could go into the political reasons, but that would make my blog just like every other soapbox blog, wouldn't it?)

simultaneously, i am cautious. i know that we cannot put all of our hopes for a better world on one man (as it is everybody's responsibility) nor do i think that simply because we've elected him in a momentous spot in time does that mean the entire world has changed. it makes me cringe when i read audacious statements made by the media about the end of racism or that "the election of barack hussein obama as the 44th president of the united states swept away the last racial barrier in american politics..." (international herald tribune, 6 nov 2008) when it is clear and obvious that there is still a lot more work to be done. i worry about those who will use obama's win as evidence of the fact that america is no longer discriminatory or that equal opportunity exists for all.

anyway, i seldom use this blog as a sounding board of my opinions but want to throw out my caution and reluctance to fully embrace obama as the answer to all of our country's wretched problems. as excited as i am about him and as much as i get that rockstar admiration for him, i know that it is personal responsibility that moves this world. we can cheer him on and swoon at his speeches, but if we don't actually live personal lives of active effort, compassion, and understanding (or at least the attempt to understand) all this "yes we can" stuff and hope in a better tomorrow is all just a lot of talk.

("waaw, men nanu" is "yes we can" in wolof)

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