Tag Archives: elections

Will Obama win or will France sink or swim?

Over the past week, I have been engaged in numerous conversations about the U.S. presidential election, almost more than I can count. And every time, the French person on the other side of the table says something to the nature of, “You’re voting for Obama, right?” or “You’re making the right choice, aren’t you?” I always laugh a hearty “yes,” for I would be a fool to do otherwise (and have the absentee ballot to prove it), but what I can’t seem to grasp is that all of these people follow up the conversation with, “but he’s not going to win.”

Why, you ask? Because he’s black.

Yup, it’s true. In a country where no black person holds a significantly high office, the French simply cannot fathom a black man becoming our next president. In America, we make side jabs about the fact that maybe our racist minority will swing the vote towards McCain, but never such a resounding, surefire “no” like the one echoing inside France.

I’d like to think France is out of the loop. Like many other things, the French are ten years behind. Last week for the first time, they discovered that their teens had a binge drinking problem and thought that perhaps the all-you-can-drink bar tickets for high school and university students might need to be reconsidered. A few weeks before that, the government decided to put a stop to selling candy cigarettes that tempted children to mimic smoking. And last I checked, the post office still had one of those Apple computers from the 1990’s with the gray screen and Pacman block letters.

But not electing a black man to become president? I’m slightly shocked. While the French have a way to go in terms of technology or bureaucratic efficiency, they have one of the largest populations of Africans in Europe. And despite their rather stingy approach to immigration, France has not faced a major racial cleansing crisis seen in America or other European nations in recent history.

Then again, perhaps France is getting its comeuppance, only just now facing real and true immigration questions – ones they must face imminently. As it ships its immigrants out to the furthest suburban corners of the nation into degraded public housing, they put the questions of race and cultural integration into a hermetically sealed space where no decision has to be made for another ten years. So, I suppose there too, France is several years behind.

For the French, electing a black man is like a distant dream, something people dare to imagine but dare not deem reality. “He will be assassinated!” they say. Or simply, “It will never happen.” But when questioned why, they can’t come up with a response. It just is what it is.

France has lived stuck in its ways for centuries and we’ve loved them for it. The image of the baguette carrying, beret wearing, coffee drinking Frenchman still has relevance and most of the world’s citizens would like to hold onto that alluring picture for another century to come. But France’s cultural, technological and political growth is stagnating. As other European and Asian countries are sprinting to catch up, France has the choice to sink or swim.

I say, the French ought to kick start into a lightening speed freestyle and take their country’s old school ideals for all their worth.

And while they’re at it, put in a good word for Obama.

Pakistan – the other shoe to drop?

Call it a premonition, but I think the Republican party just dropped its bomb. Today, the AP announced that another suspected U.S. led missile strike was carried out on Pakistan in an area known to harbor Al Qaeda and other terrorists. Since August, the U.S. has purportedly been involved with nearly a dozen similar attacks, all of which it neither confirms nor denies. Is today’s bomb any different from the others or could this be a ploy to instill confidence in the U.S. military system – and subsequently the republican presidential candidate, John McCain?

It’s too early to tell whether this latest attack will make an impression on American voters, Pakistani officials or the U.S. government, but we could be leaning that much closer to a full-fledged war with Pakistan if we continue on this route. With Afghanistan’s war stretching on with no end in sight – and analysts suspecting it will take 5 to 10 more years to stabilize the country – the U.S. certainly does not need another war on its hands. But hey, Pakistan is right next to Afghanistan so that means it’s practically the same country, right? Wrong. Touching down on Pakistani soil, even if it’s related to the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, could set up America for another unwanted war.

A U.S. led, full-fledged attack on Pakistan would certainly put pressure on Taliban groups hiding out in border regions, as well as push the Pakistani government to take command of the terrorist situation within its own country. It was recently reported that the Pakistani border city of Chamam has played a key role in financing the Taliban, who is suspected to be funneling money through brokers in the United Arab Emirates where Chaman businessmen trade. This is just another example of how the Pakistani government lacks control over the Taliban and risks terrorist operations exploding across other regions in the country.

However. Attacking Pakistan would put the world at significant risk, as the unpredictability of Al Qaeda is what makes them so powerfully dangerous. With our struggling economy, America literally cannot afford to go to war once again. Culturally, a war with Pakistan would put Americans in danger not only in Pakistan but also in bordering countries like India and Nepal, where travelers are, for the most part, able to move freely. Tourist, economic and trade relations would be threatened all across the region, and a general negative attitude towards the U.S. by Pakistanis and people around the world would be our final gift.

But what does any of this have to do with John McCain?

If the U.S. goes to war with yet another country, there is only one man Americans will trust for their country’s military survival – John McCain. As more of our country’s young people get sent to war, we will be comforted that we have such an experienced war veteren to pull us through the hard times – John McCain. And if the going gets tough out there and we start losing the fight, there’s only one man who will be able to pull us out of the mess – Barack Obama? Most Americans won’t have thought that far ahead. And by then, it will be too late.

Perhaps this latest Pakistani air strike won’t even make the nightly news. Maybe it will get dusted over with talks of an approaching recession in America and around the world. Why should we care about Pakistan when we’re busy trying to figure out which corner of the mattress to hide our money under?

But, if it’s not Pakistan, it will be something else. The Bush administration has something up its sleeve as the election gets closer, and it’s not a tax-free cure-all to the world economic crisis. Think Watergate. Think 9/11. Think Monica Lewinksy. As John McCain slips in the polls, his best ally right now is his own party’s status in the White House. While Barack Obama seems to have the support of the majority of the American people, the proportionately small amount of Washington politicians have enough power to drop a literal or virtual political bomb at just the right moment that will sway the vote one way or another.

But after the financial meltdown, unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a general negative attitude towards America spewing forth from all corners of the world, what will it take to make John McCain shine before our eyes as the better candidate? Perhaps what’s done is done and Bush’s republican administration has no ammunition left. But then again, John McCain is a born and bred military man and is no doubt always ready for a fight.