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Mad about Obama
I haven’t been feeling very well lately. It started with a thumping heart and a light head. Then dizzy spells preceded by feelings of extreme euphoria. I started taking an unhealthy interest in US politics. I got this unshakeable urge to buy novelty items off the internet. Pass me my smelling salts — I’ve got Obamamania.
And I’ve got the T-shirt to prove it.
From the moment he took to the steps of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his famous House Divided speech against slavery in 1858, to announce his presidential bid, Barack Obama was a sight for sore eyes of the political, apolitical and, dare I say it, female variety. It was a defining moment. He was a breath of fresh air.
Obama certainly isn’t the first black man, or woman, to appear in the senate. Nor is he the first to run for president (Shirley Chisolm, and Jesse Jackson pipped him to it decades before.) But neither of them captured hearts and minds like Barack. What makes Obama different is that he is the most viable black candidate America has ever seen. He could actually win. And that's what makes him so exciting. He’s a gamble you have a 50/50 chance of winning.
I won’t pretend that much of his appeal isn’t the fact that he is a novelty. He’s politics’ equivalent of Michael Jackson. Is he black? Is he a white man in drag? In fact, critics argue that Obama has achieved such god-like status that he is neither. He "transcends" race. Some believe he can actually turn water into wine but that would just be mad. Oba-mad.
As much as the media has tried, the man (the myth, the legend!) cannot be defined: he grew up in Hawaii and Singapore and his first taste of Higher Educartion was at an average college. He studied law at Harvard years later. Obama hardly knew the father whose name he shares. He admits to dabbling in weed and cocaine as a youth. He fits none of your average boxes but, ironically, ticks so many. People of all ages, races and social classes relate to him.
So when The Chosen One flew into the country into the country last week as part of his foreign tour in the run-up to the November elections, British politicians were queuing up to touch his robes in the vain hope of catching some of his magic.
Boris Johnson even jumped on the bandwagon, publicly admitting he is endorsing Obama because it would be a great "boost" for black people, "to prove that they could actually win". I’m sure that there’s a compliment in there somewhere.
Political rivals Gordon Brown and David Cameron both held court with the man of the moment. For either one of them could be "Yo Blair-ing" with him at a G8 summit after 2010. But in the same breath, this could be Obama’s first and last visit to Downing Street. Because the harsh truth is, it could be John McCain, the Republican nominee, who wins at the polling booths. Slavery ended 100 years ago, segregation in the US ended in just under 40. The times are a-changing but they’re not changed yet.
One of the ministers who also greeted Obama was his friend Tottenham MP David Lammy - one of Britain’s most senior black politicians. On Lammy’s shoulders rests the burden of constantly being compared to Obama. Will he become Britain’s first black Prime Minister? There are even rumours afoot that he plans to run for London Mayor.
But I just don’t think the world is quite ready for another Obama. And to be perfectly honest — I don’t think my heart could take it.