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We can too!

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Studs Terkel a left leaning American journalist, author and actor died on 31 October 2008, aged 95, before he could see Barack Obama elected. The BBC, in tribute to him, had a rerun of his Hard Talk interview which I watched from my hotel room in Windhoek on the morning of November 4; the day the Americans were creating history with their biggest voter turnout on election day. 95% of African Americans, 63% of Latinos and 43% of white Americans voted for Barack Obama to make him the first African American President in American history. If you have been to the US and spoken to African Americans you will understand the significance of this election result. Let’s come back to that later.

First,  Studs Terkel. In his interview, one thing he said struck me the most out of all the gems that were gushing out of his mouth: “You must have a lover’s quarrel with the country you love. Not for what it is, but for what it can be.” Throughout his adult life, Terkel had a lover’s quarrel with his country as did Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and many others. One other person has just concluded such an argument: Barack Obama. I have not read his book, The Audacity of Hope, yet but what audacity for a first term African American senator to run for President, beating a big name Clinton along the way in the primaries and producing a result celebrated the world over. Every now and then, humanity reminds us that the biggest obstacles can be surmounted: Lewis Hamilton’s father took two jobs to support his son’s karting lessons because he had the audacity to believe his son could one day be formula one champion, so did Maria Sharapova’s father. The stories of Jesse Owens, Nelson Mandela and countless other inspirational people have repeated this truth over and over again: Nothing is impossible; the impossible only takes a little bit longer. From now on when we say, “do an Obama” we know that hope triumphs over pessimism.

I was in New York, Washington and Philadelphia in October last year and the word that I heard on most lips of African Americans, especially in Philadelphia, was “impossible” with reference to their social condition.  Escaping poverty was impossible, staying out of jail was impossible and getting a job was impossible and they all blamed it on the system. Well Barack took on the system and showed that it worked as you long you harnessed the audacity of hope and his first words in his acceptance speech reflected that very statement. He gave that moment on November 5, when he took to the stage, as proof that America works. The system is not the problem!

Mandela had a lovers’ quarrel with apartheid South Africa, Odinga with Kenya and Ian Khama is having one with SADC. Africa does not have enough lovers’ quarrels, it has too many wars inflicted on defenceless civilians. There is no romance in it, no fruit that follows the wars that have ravaged the continent and still continue to do periodically in various regions displacing millions of Africans and leaving wallowing in a perpetual cycle of violence and poverty. Enough already!

Wherefore art Africa’s lovers that we may quarrel as Barack Obama has done? Where is the vision fulfilled of Mandela, Lumumba, Nkrumah, Kaunda and Khama? Who are the quarrelsome lovers who will stand and put us back on the track to development and an honoured place among the peoples of the world? Are they all in prison or under surveillance? Have we become comfortable with amassing wealth at the expense of our brothers and sisters? Who will create wealth for the commonwealth of Africans? How did Singapore do it? Where is the leadership with the audacity of hope? Barack Obama lit “a candle instead of cursing the darkness.” It is time for Africa to do the same.  There can, no longer, be the excuse of slavery, colonialism, the north vs the south or even the illuminati. There can only be hope and that hope can only come from the lovers in us who love Africa enough to want to quarrel with her. We have said many a time, Africa’s time has come. It’s time we made it happen. Barack will be a President for America, as he rightly should. Africa must grow its own visionary leaders. Somebody once said: “the first time something bad happens to you, you are a victim. The third, fourth time it happens, you are a volunteer.”

Shall we have a lovers’ quarrel?

One comment to “We can too!”

  1. Comment by Perry de Havilland:

    “95% of African Americans,”

    Which is deeply depressing. I do not care *who* won as I found both candidates utterly loathsome, but the fact such a large number of African Americans voted on the basis of race means presumably African Americans can have no complaint if other ethnic groups vote on the basis of race, If African Americans vote ‘black’ then I assume it is okay for whites to vote ‘white’.

    The fact is 95% of African Americans were on the winning side of the election because large numbers of non-African Americans did *not* vote ‘race’ but the disconnect here is hard to ignore.

    Racial voting is disastrous.