Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Young King and the Selfish Giant

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

As he waved to the cheering hoards after his victory speech, Obama looked like a vanquishing hero from a big-budget Hollywood movie. This would be the perfect place for the credits to roll in the inevitable Obama biopic that will be made starring Will Smith as Barack, Halle Berry as Michelle - in an Oscar-winning portrayal that will finally revive her career – and the armour suit from the original Robocop movie as his Republican opponent, Mitch(?) Romney. It is a great story! The opposition threw everything they had at Obama. Continuous denial of his legitimacy, allegations of voter fraud, blocking legislation that would help the economy recover, blaming him for things that Bush was responsible for and using dog-whistle rhetoric to keep reminding their base that he’s black. Yet he still came out ahead, winning a decisive victory by pulverizing Romney in the Electoral College. And the non-crazy half of America and the rest of the world heaved a sigh of relief when they found out that the next commander-in-chief of the largest military in the world wasn’t going to be a cartoonish Bond villain slash Business Consultant. The End.

Hopefully, the movie version would be better than election day coverage we saw on teevee. It was a prime example of why news viewership is at its lowest ebb.  Al-Jazeera was continuously wondering how a country could change its President without first having a huge number of people gather and protest in a large, historic park. What do you mean the President leaves office after losing an election? And the military has no say on choosing the winner? You must have a really kind emir! The BBC World Service was bemused that anyone would want regular, timely updates about an event that could potentially have an impact on their lives. Oh sure, you can have election coverage. But, first, here’s a six hour documentary on making biscuits. Meanwhile, CNN seemed to have been broadcasting from a dystopian future in which humans only exist as holograms and the dominant species on earth is made up of large screens which constantly need to be swiped. As the night progressed and Obama’s path to victory began to look apparent and it became clear that at least for the next four years a majority of Americans had vetoed the Republican party’s plan to install a President named after a glove,  Fox News – America’s election HQ for racists, bigots and wearers of adult diapers –  was self-destructing on live teevee. One of their analysts, Karl Rove, even called the swing-state of denial for Romney. That was because he had been given millions of dollars by anonymous billionaires to spend on defeating Obama and he had nothing to show for it. Karl Rove was last spotted outside a bus station, offering to give a hand-job in exchange for a ticket to Mexico.

Watching Indian news channels was a real learning experience. Apparently, Obama battled ‘anti-incumbency’ to keep his ‘vote-bank’ together and was at an advantage because of still being able to maintain his image as a ‘youth-icon.’ The most important issue in the election was ‘friendly relations with India.’  And no matter who won, they would cancel all outsourcing to India, forever.

Our journalists seemed confused by the events of the day. Not that I blame them! America has such a strange way of selecting their President. The political parties in America choose their leader a long time before election day so that the voters can at least get to superficially know who they are voting for. The large number of people present for Obama’s speech had gathered there voluntarily without being provided with any alcohol or poultry related incentive. And they were cheering not out of subservient formality, but out of actual love & respect for their political leader. Americans don’t realize that choosing your leader can be hard work. This is why real democracies just let the party high-command pick them.

Now, here’s what we won’t see in the movie: collateral damage from drone strikes, secret kill lists, the war on whistleblowers and the continued dominance of the military-industrial complex.

But, hey, that’s what crappy sequels are for!

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