Remembering the first time we did it with Obama

By | | comments |
(Image via https://c2.staticflickr.com/)

Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence revisits 'The United States of Obama' — that halcyon time of promise and the fruition of audacity and hope. 


A WHITE man is about to repossess the White House as president. But there is trouble in paradise. Real estate billionaire mogul Donald Trump is about to lob rent-free into the hottest political real estate in the world and there is palpable international trepidation and fear about his erratic temperament and capability.

This is in marked contrast with the international goodwill and euphoria of Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20, 2009. Let's revisit that halcyon time of promise and the fruition of audacity and hope ...

THE DARK KNIGHT IS INAUGURATED, the Black Messiah is installed in The White House and not since the funeral of Princess Diana has the world come as close to beating with a single heartbeat.

All is far from right with the world or as it is in heaven, but in the many hells of our own making the audacity of hope today prevails over yesterday's fog of despair.

Give us this day.

The word on the world street is Obama. He's the man. The main man. Hope, change and optimism made flesh. Bring it on. Flick that switch. Leave the old world disorder behind. Game on.

What a love affair it is ― and how fine to be caught up in its warm embrace in a world that for so long has heard little but the rhetoric of war and the politics of hate from an Oval office free-basing on fear, malice and mismanagement.

Okay, so it was more an ordination than an inauguration; more a coronation than an invocation.

Barack Obama Presidential Inauguration — Prelude


His address to his nation and to our world was an exquisitely crafted soliloquy rather than sermon. He fell to earth in the nick of time; surely borne by the archangels of democracy's foundling fathers, grounded control to Major Tom Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin, Adams. More Henry V than Hamlet. He said things we long to hear politicians say. He said things politicians should say. He talks our language.

Not polispeak. Not dumbing down. Not treading on dreams. He makes you feel all good things are possible if we help one another. As indeed they are.

He makes you ponder the calibre of our own politicians; many wanting in their collective ability to communicate, to galvinise, to inspire, to truly lead.  Obama has upped the ante in our expectations. For too long we have genuflected to mediocrity.

We know we should free our governments from the strings of corporate puppeteers. And weak oppositions simply aid and abet politicians who promise us the world and then snatch it from us once elected. Real power lies in the separation of power ― and the separation of the powerful.

The economic contagion's mutating virus seems to have paralysed our fiscal systems and our courage. Never again should behemoth monetary cartels manipulate the universe. We need to return to our villages.

To hear America's president talk unequivocably about harnessing the mighty energy of sun and wind exposes the inadequacies, impotence and subservience to vested interests of our own political system, and those ministers who once pranced and championed the environment onstage, who now warble from a government songsheet drafted to accommodate big business at the expense of We, the Great Unwashed.

Other peoples in other countries are looking at their own leaders and thinking similar things. We now have a world leader with whom we can compare our own.


Already, the knives are out for Obama; scribblers deride his rhetoric when they did not deride his predecessor. Give the kid a go. Of course, he's not the messiah and, of course, so many of us have placed a leaden burden on his lean shoulders. But we have grown used to standing on the shoulders of giants fattened through our own apathy and indifference.

We so often keep quiet when we should speak. We ignore screams and simply turn up the music. We turn away when we should stop to help. I love it that, without showing anything other than utter respect for the office of the presidency, Barack Obama did not shirk from telling George W. Bush and the world what he thought of all that had happened on Dubya's watch. That's Democracy, with a capitol Dubya!

Obama has surely earned his time in the sun ― and it may be that a harder rain's gonna fall but, brothers and sisters, I hear echoes from the very past that Obama so often summons; a past younger than these strife-weary days. Though not quite the past of the Kennedys, or that more congenial spot, Camelot.

To me, Obama seems more Mandela than Doc Martin Luther King.

It is as if Dr King, the Timelord, was our blistering clarion to the future, awakening our colourless souls to the obscenity of treating black brethren as the least among equals, was to be a sort of John the Baptist to the handsome boy who grew up to be Barack Hussein Obama, President of the United States of America.

The Great Doc Martin helped pave the way for all humanity; to think he was merely 39 years old when he was killed by an assassin tells me too many of us are wasting time.

How sweet it is that Obama's inauguration seemed enchanted, almost Merlinesque, if I can introduce Arthurian metaphor into an international KFC precinct. Global, after all. The stars toying with us; a tantalising hubris: the anniversary of Dr King's birthday and then there is Obama's Illinois compatriot Abe Lincoln, upon whose Holy Bible he will wwear the Oath of Presidential Office.


Helen Suzman on meeting Nelson Mandela

The late indomitable Helen Suzman, South Africa's fearless anti-apartheid politician and campaigner, told me last year she saw much of Nelson Mandela in Obama, both a physical resemblance and in the shared humanity expressed in his lexicon and consciousness.

I understand Madiba has already written to Obama to congratulate him.

Something in the way Obama walks and talks reminds me of no other; something in the way he moves me — and millions like me. What's that all about? He leads me to remember the long deflowered power of the "swinging sixties", hippies, incense and the incensed; when we were brave and fearlessly marched together against injustice and unjust wars. IUDs not IEDs ― long before hummers and humvees hooned off the desert's storming sands onto civvie street, and army camouflage became a fashion statement.


Peace, love, another dawning of the Age of Aquarius; dreams my generation sold out on the Dow and Nikkei; insiders trading jokes at the expense of the homeless, the voiceless, the jobless, the hungry, the poor, the uneducated, the voteless — clinging as they irritatingly do to the white cuffs of pinstriped history, their grasping fingerprints leaving smudges that only White Kings can remove.

Obama is all about the People. By and for and of the People. It will forever be writ large that the America that spawned and tolerated the likes of George W. Bush is the America that reclaimed its nation from the greedy clutches of an administration that defied and defiled the ethics and tenets on which the Union was built.


Recap of President Obama's First Term

We cannot contemplate President Obama's extraordinary personal journey without acknowledging the recent political and economic terrain of the nation that led him to walk up Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day.

He has, quite rightly, called upon America as individuals who make up the whole, to put their collective shoulder to the waterwheel, to not suckle entirely of the Government's welfare teat ― surely a worldly message we all must heed.

Obama has life experiences of such cultural and geographical variation, and this emotional ringbarking means that he can identify with us and we with him.

What must Barack Hussein Obama have thought when he was taking The Oath of Office and looked out at the vast acreage of humanity sown before him, waving and shouting his name in a mantra of happiness, pride and joy?

The people of his book came by plane, on buses, bikes, and on foot from all around the country, to pay homage to and honour Obama and to welcome him as their new President.

Nor was this confined to The Americas ― all around the world, Barack Obama's name was being extolled.

We have never seen anything like it. Welcome to Pollywood. No rockstar has been so feted. No sports event so attended.


The feisty Senator Diane Feinstein, chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said it all when she spoke of the supremacy of the ballot over the bullet.

All through his political career, Obama has fused his achingly incisive intellect and word-power to build confidence, unafraid to thread emotion, poetry, history, rhetoric, hope and imagination with the brutal pragmatism that lines the soul of all true optimists.

He spoke of self evident truths that had corroded The American Dream into a nightmare and courageously did so before the very man who was the architect of such corrosion. Occasionally, the cameras would catch Dubya's face and you could see the fear etched in the pained face of this ignoble leader who caused such injury to a mighty nation once held in high regard by so many.


Bush is already yesterday's man. Even when he was the president he was YM, eclipsed by this black Caesar of America, now claimed by so many of her many lost tribes. Bush is now consigned to the marginalia of history ― not entirely the legacy he doodled for himself. Without doubt, he put the "con" in the Constitution.

True, Bush's speech after 9/11 was his best. But after that his seed was spent. Rhetoric alone is never enough.

We need to seriously note what Obama has done thus far, with his sheer force of personality ― and this gift called rhetoric. What an orator.  Cynics so often demean rhetoric. Rhetoric has different dialects and motives. Our shared histories confirm that so often rhetoric can both conspire and inspire human endeavour. Not always for the best.

We need to note that Obama has got this far – and taken America this far – and much of the world with him, without military posturing or threat. Check out other countries and their bullying leaders, who terrify their peoples and intimidate them into subservience and submission.


And for a moment we can all sip from the same sacred chalice of a common humanity, poisoned or no from the sleight hand of George W. Bush and his cronies, among them Rumsfeld and Cheney; those horsemen of the modern apocalypse who politically trashed and defecated on their own country, and the countries of others; on history and jistory.

They trashed the reputation of The Americas and did their best to trash the reputations of others. Theirs was bleedership not leadership. Stalking not talking.

Let them skulk into the barren intellectual wasteland from which they emerged ― but let not obscurity be their collective fate. Oh no. In due course, may they come to be charged with crimes and misdemeanours against humanity – even against inhumanity – and a pox on all who remained compliant and did not speak up loudly enough ― myself included.

Donald Rumsfeld's "known unknowns"

The Coalition of the Willing turned into the coalition of the swilling. Check out what the likes of Halliburton and KBR, Blackwater and their brethen reaped from the public purse ― including our own. Now that certain boulders, legislation and wars will be upturned, we look forward to the tipping of the tables of moneymen in the temple of democracy. But look out for the servants of apologia who will wriggle out and insinuate themselves into the busy tasks of re-writing historical text and presidential records.

Hopefully, with Dubya gone, former acolytes might have the courage to now write the truth. Prepare for a series of kiss-offs and sell. A fat lot of good for the thousands of civilians killed and wounded, and the thousands of defence personnel killed and wounded in the past eight years.


Theirs were lives bartered for a pocketful of lies, known unknowns, enemies real and fabricated; the Bush Administration the incubator, providing investment funding and the world's largest PR machine devoted solely to talking up and promoting "the terrorist", and the ill-named ridiculous "War on Terror", elevating cowards, criminals and murderers to the status of freedom fighters, taking its cue from Goebbels, and turning the facile and gutless bin Laden into a sex symbol for the pornography of violence ― so that every crim and thug who wages war in the name of gods of their own making, plants bombs, rapes, pillage, kidnaps and loots, claims the Laden mantle as his/her own.

Moderate Muslims found themselves both cornered and abandoned, and used for political propaganda. If they're not with us, they're against us.

But what if they're not with us, but not with the terrorists either ?

Sorry, computer says no.

We bought it. And we have the fridge magnets to prove it. By the way, kids, how's the terrorist hotline going? Had any calls from bearded cave-dwellers lately ?

As I've said, more than a single letter of the alphabet separates Osama from Obama.

President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

Barack Hussein Obama said it plain and simple. We will not apologise for our way of life and it was good to hear. Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden had an ally in George Walker Bush. They shared leverage, needing one another to promulgate their agenda. Feeding off each other, sharing the same oxygen mask. How now Osama ?

In his speech, Obama referred to Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and non-believers and told the Muslim world that America was seeking a new way forward based on mutual interest and respect. This will be anathema to bin Laden and his thugs — and their ecumenical fundamentalist counterparts, I might add.

To hear Bush mewling about his regrets in his departing press conferences was sickening. Save it, Dubya. You had your time. You left America the worse for your regime. You left the world worse for your regime. You left the Office of the President of the United States of America worse for your regime.

And too easily We of the Never Never, of the Coalition, slid up the political rectal passage of the Bush Administration as easily as a suppository lubricated with promissory notes of contracts and armaments, and the spoilers of war. Yes sir, no sir, eight body bags full, sir, at last sorry count, sir.

Whether warmongers wear Galibayahs, Brooks Brothers suits or Manolo stilettos, uniforms or civilian dress, it is surely an indictment on us all that we continue to resolve conflict by killing and injuring one another.

I feel that the world is a safer place now that President George W. Bush has left The White House building ― and the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, Michelle, their girls and Gran have moved in.


A very quick look at President Obama's first term

I feel that, on this day, the United States of Obama is a safer place. Feeling this feeling is good. I like to dream and I was dreaming of an extension of the European Community into a global organisation called The United Nations of the World. Every country in the world would be a member. War is abolished. Illegal.

Instead of ministers of defence, we have ministers for peace. No country is allowed to abstain from voting on anything.

Like the European Community, leadership rotates, so that the leader of each country, no matter how large or how small, has a turn at being The President of the United Nations of the World.

That is what the audacity of hope can do. That is what change can do.

To live The Dream you first have to be free to dream it.

To come:


Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Monthly Donation


Single Donation


Support independent journalism. Subscribe to IA for just $5.

Recent articles by Tess Lawrence
#7 TOP STORY OF 2021: The night Porter and allegations of rape

The horrifying rape allegations against Christian Porter proved to one of the ...  
The night Porter and allegation of rape

Attorney-General Christian Porter deserves the backlash received from the public ...  
Trump impeachment: He's so bad they did it twice

The destruction of democracy in the Capitol on January 6, live-streamed by proud ...  
Join the conversation
comments powered by Disqus

Support IAIndependent Australia

Subscribe to IA and investigate Australia today.

Close Subscribe Donate