Here in the US, it’s Martin Luther King Day. A day most lucky Yanks have off work so they can go to the mall, or a movie, or watch a re-run of Oprah. What can I say, it’s a meaningful day.
Meaningful especially this year, the year when Martin Luther King’s great dream finally seems to have come to fruition, with the US’ first African-American president – a Commander in Chief currently doing so badly in the opinion polls that only Dwight Eisenhower was ever hated more.
A dream, some would say, turned to nightmare.
A nightmare of a president who has fumbled healthcare reform to the dismay of both Democrats – for whom he hasn’t gone far enough – and Republicans – for whom he has already gone far too far. A president who has bailed-out corrupt banks and the failing automobile industry.
A president who won a Nobel peace prize despite his continuation of a war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And worst of all – and a cardinal sin to most Americans – a president who has raised taxes.
Barack Obama has seen his country’s unemployment rate skyrocket to almost 10 per cent since taking the oath of presidency, while house prices continue to sink into the ground.
This has, of course, been the perfect excuse for those with a racial axe to grind. At a recent demonstration, images of protestors carrying signs declaring “The zoo has an African lion and the White House has a lyin’ African” and “‘Cap’ Congress and ‘trade’ Obama back to Kenya,” set the tone.
“Lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification,” indeed.
According to the Times, in the week Obama was elected, gun sales across the US shot up by 50 per cent.
Hardly the “oasis of freedom and justice,” of which Martin Luther King dreamed. And the “vicious racists” are not confined to Alabama anymore either, but are beamed into every American home courtesy of Fox news.
As racism and bigotry continues to rear its ugly head, even amidst a stagnating swamp of political correctness and affirmative action, calls for the US president to ‘go back where he came from’ shouldn’t really shock or surprise anyone.
After all, long before the Nazis and Fascists of Europe thought up their ‘relocation’ plans for undesirables, Southern slave owners faced with abolition came up with their own solution to send freed slaves to the African nation of Liberia, rather than have to suffer their uppity free-ness at home.
This resulted in some 13,000 freed slaves being shipped over to Liberia, where they faced decimation at the hands of hostile local tribes and deadly diseases.
So much for the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners all sitting down together at the table of brotherhood.
So much, also for this nation rising up and living out the true meaning of its creed, for that old “truth” to become “self-evident”: that all men are created equal.
Or maybe MLK nailed that one right on the head, because even in a time when a still profoundly racist society can elect an African American president, it still can’t bring itself to elect a woman.
Dr. King was indeed a visionary, and a great man, who had a dream for America in which race didn’t matter.
Although Obama is the first black president, it seems more doubtful than ever that the racial divide has been healed, or ever will heal. Because, for a start, true equality will only really have arrived when someone is elected or unelected because of their policies and not skin colour.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” declared Martin Luther King that fateful day in Washington.
Character. Now there’s a thought. Does Obama have the character to fulfill the historic role of the most admirable François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture of Haiti? Can he cast off the shackles of inhuman dignity and poverty? Right the historic wrongs? No, he probably can’t and he probably won’t.
So perhaps MLK was right about that one, and maybe Obama has indeed done his bit for equality – showing the world and America that failure isn’t limited to just one colour.