Why it makes sense for Malaysians to care about the US elections

Irene finds it puzzling why people like Cal, Liz, and me care about US politics or policy. “Doesn’t concern us, what!”

I wish what she said was true.

The problem is that the US is the only remaining, intact superpower.

The USSR collapsed. The United Kingdom is turning ever more insular, not helped by Tony Blair’s idiocy while leading Britain and the EU is an institution more concerned with disagreements over the Euro, immigration and whether Turkey deserves membership.

I don’t give a damn about the US. If I believed what’s reported in the media and solely rest my judgement of Americans on George Bush, I would think that most Americans are ignorant, backward, right-wing rednecks who care more about guns and gay marriage than the homeless, the disabled, the poor. Who cut taxes for rich folks and corporations, while denying single mothers aid and the poor access to affordable healthcare.

Under Bush, we saw the US turn ever more inward, declaring “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

We saw the US turn its might on Iraq, not for peace, nor for freedom but for goddamn oil.

There was even talk of turning guns on Iran, further earning the ire of the Arab world.

Whether we like it or not, the US is a world leader, powerful and influential enough to affect the world economy and world peace. Then there’s the fact the country owes the UN millions – money that could be used to shore up the UN’s efforts in developing nations.

The US could choose to be an agent for diplomacy, for worldwide prosperity, for change.

Or it could remain what it was under Bush’s administration – an insular, selfish government corrupt enough to direct funds not to building jobs, but to making Haliburton rich.

So I wept when I heard Barack Obama won. Only two generations ago, blacks feared for their lives in Southern states but now the US is electing a man whose father was black as president. As one Obama supporter put it: “Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children could fly.”

This is the politics of hope. That even in these times of turmoil, where great evils are still happening, that there can be change, that old prejudices can be weakened.

It is not merely about Obama winning – it’s about a nation learning that it could change. It’s about idealism triumphing over apathy, and a reminder that we should never give up hoping and believing.

Today is a good day.

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