By Jay Scott Kanes
(Originally published in FUNWORLD magazine, November 2008)
As a clown finishes eight years in the United States presidency, many of the results aren’t exactly funny.
Wars in the Middle East drag on with no easy solutions. Untold thousands have died. Drunken-sailor-style spending has turned the U.S. budget into a black hole. A once-invincible financial system teeters near collapse. The economy roils in disarray. Environmental conditions look nearly lethal. Americans have lost respect in the world. The U.S. has diminished in stature.
Why should non-Americans take a keen interest in the U.S. election? Well, it’s highly entertaining and shows democracy in action (albeit imperfectly), a spectacle that too many people elsewhere rarely see at home. The election winner’s policies will affect the entire world too.
On November 4, voters in all 50 U.S. states, from sun-bathed Hawaii and the Alaskan wilderness to Florida, that hanging-chad haven, will cast ballots. The campaign action has been fast and furious.
In the Democratic corner stands the dancing, jabbing, charismatic contender Barack Obama, flanked by vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden. Kitty-corner to them in the political ring stands a slumped Republican warhorse, John McCain, and his running mate, newcomer Sarah Palin.
For weeks, these tag-teams have grappled and gouged. As the bout nears its end, the result still could go either way. Unless someone scores a political knockout, uncertainly will remain until the judges (voters) evaluate everything they’ve seen and heard.
In this election more than others, there’s reason to ponder the impact of prejudices. At age 72, McCain, a long-ago Vietnam War hero, looks ancient. Is he too old for the top political job? If serving two terms, he’d celebrate his 80th birthday in office. By then, Palin may push his wheelchair, allocate his medications and remind him which day of the week it is.
If Obama wins, he’ll become the first U.S. president of African-American descent. How many voters will oppose him for racist reasons? The U.S. isn’t the world’s most racist nation, nor its most tolerant one. But the racist individuals living there could fill many voting booths.
Born in Hawaii, 47-year-old Obama has family links to Kenya and lived in Indonesia as a child. He has wide appeal, worldly views and international experience.
The Republicans try to bill McCain as a man of vast experience and wisdom. But he’s better known for his short fuse and fierce temper, definitely negative traits in someone keen to control a big military and nuclear weapons.
In September, speakers and delegates at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota scolded Obama for lacking “a record” like McCain’s. If having “a record” looms so large, then any prison inmate might do.
The essential thing when selecting the next U.S. president isn’t what anyone did in the past. It’s which candidate will have the vigor, character and charisma to achieve great things in the future -- for Americans and for everyone else.
By focusing on the future, voters can decide wisely. Isn’t that an easy choice?