I am still in awe that Americans actually elected a black man as their leader. And while it is encouraging that the colour of Obama's skin failed to impede his run for the presidency, I still worry for the man. Perhaps if the United States did not have such a long and ongoing history of racial inequality and a long list of politicians who have been the target of assassination attempts, I might be less concerned. But history is not on his side.
Obama's emergence in American politics has been meteoric. Before I'd ever heard of him, I was convinced that the only way an African American could be elected President would be if he or she was a republican. My reasoning was that it would be incredibly difficult for a black democrat to win over people who tend to vote for the GOP, but a black republican would more easily be able to lure staunch democrats, many of whom are black. But when I saw Obama's speech at the '04 democratic convention, I knew that one day he would take a serious run at the presidency.
Why? Simply because the party has been for so many years completely starved of charisma. Clinton was certainly a tough act to follow, and Al Gore and John Kerry, while certainly very intelligent and capable men, were about as inspiring as a cactus is cuddly. Obama's speech that night was loaded with energy, and made me think that if he was white, he'd be a shoo-in.
The fact that he has come this far and is poised to be steering the country through some difficult times is a testament to just how compelling a politician he is. And while he has been able to overcome the most significant hurdle to ever face any presidential candidate in American history (no, I'm not talking about McCain and Palin, formidable as they are), I still have a bad feeling Obama is putting his life on the line.
Perhaps I am being paranoid, but I would not at all be shocked if at some point over the next four years, someone takes a shot at the guy. It's not just the black thing; he's also pro-choice, and if a relatively moderate McCain had accused him of planning to redistribute wealth (a sensitive issue in the States), who knows what kinds of things those on the fringe of the American right are saying about him. combine all this with the fact that his middle name is Hussein, and you've got yourself a contentious character.
But even if Obama were white, pro-life, and as vexed by taxation as Howard Hughes, there would still be one thing left that would make him a target, and that is his stance on the war in Iraq. Do not forget that by many accounts, JFK was poised to end any prospect of a long, drawn-out war in Viet Nam before he was gunned down under notoriously suspicious circumstances. While much has changed in the United States over the past 45 years, the military-industrial complex has only become a more entrenched kingmaker in American politics. If Obama decides to take on this institution, he could find himself in the cross-hairs, with some white-supremacist kook acting as the perfect patsy. I am not saying that Obama is doomed, but if something were to happen to him and the suspect was some angry white guy with a suspicious past, I will be the last person to take it at face value.