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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Obama Le rêve d’une autre Amérique

Obama: The Dream of Another United States

Translated Saturday 24 January 2009, by Helen Robertshaw

The American dream lives on in its symbols. Barack Obama’s train journey is the same as that taken by Lincoln, he’ll swear an oath on the same bible and wants to follow in the footsteps of the man who abolished slavery and those of Martin Luther King, the hero of the civil rights movement. The man who in a few hours will become the 44th president of the United States describes his accession to the presidency thus: “There are those years that come around once a generation, that mark a clear break with a troubled past and give a new direction to the nation. This is one of those years.”

Apart from the messianic speech traditionally given by the new occupant of the White House, we must look at what has already changed in the world’s most powerful country, the country of the Ku-Klux-Klan, of buses and universities that excluded black people, of the rampant apartheid that dominated the 20th century. The country now has a black president. More significantly still, it has a mixed-race president, and this underlines an identity that the United States seems to be on the way to adopting. Obama commented: “It changes the way black children see themselves. It also changes the way white children see black children.” In a world full of bloodshed, this step forward for civilisation must be applauded.

The crowds Obama attracts wherever he goes expect him first of all to save working-class America, that of blue-collar workers plunged into unemployment, of small homeowners financially ruined by the subprime crisis, and of the impoverished middle classes who are anxious about no longer being able to afford healthcare or pay for their children’s education. Obama will first of all concentrate on domestic affairs, fearing that a “bad situation could get dramatically worse”.

He wanted to send out a message by redirecting the economic revival plan ($825bn) in order to help households rather than the Wall Street barons, but it’s the latter who are set to benefit most from the scheduled tax relief. These measures risk failing to curb the 400-600 thousand job cuts announced every month; and the new president’s resolutions risk being overridden by the political centrism he has chosen, as he works alongside ultra-liberal figures and Republican hawks. He wants to be the saviour of capitalism and has no ambition to create a more humane society.

What will become of the hope of ending the “war of civilisations” spearheaded by George Bush? The world is waiting for Obama to live up to his proclaimed intentions: “What I hope to create is a way of entering into dialogue with people who are not like you, who don’t agree with you, in order to change the mood of our politics.”

His continuing silence on Gaza has dampened some people’s enthusiasm; they fear his unconditional support of Tel-Aviv would sweep away the prospect of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and Israel as a neighbour, with no more concerns for its security. Does he intend to withdraw his troops from Iraq to feed the Afghan inferno, in a frantic flight from the world’s real problems? Will he stop making the rest of the world pay for the huge US debt? Will he redirect his country’s production towards sustainable development or will he reduce ecology to a new area of profit?

And while Obama is carried to the White House on the hope embodied in the words “Yes we can” – which have rung out to all four corners of the continent – his slogan has now become an obligation to bring results. Another United States has found its voice again that, along with the singer Pete Seeger, once believed that “this country was made for you and me”: a country of trade unionists and progressives who still dream of another America.

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