Today was a memorable day. The inauguration of Barack Obama is truly a significant step forward for the world. Given the segregation which still existed in the US even 50 years ago, it is truly remarkable to see a black US President. He may have won a lot of support simply because he is black, but fortunately he seems like a decent and intelligent bloke as well.
I’ve always found racism totally ridiculous. I guess it’s understandable for some people to have difficulty understanding other cultures and to be xenophobic if they don’t know any better, but to judge someone because they are a different shade of brown is SO laughable. I would apply this statement anywhere in the world, actually. Please don’t think I am trivialising anything or disregarding the struggle for black recognition. I’m white and Western, and have never been on the receiving end of generations of racist stupidity and evil, and I simply can’t imagine how that makes someone feel. But I think racism is just so last year.
I actually think Obama’s blackness is potentially more significant to the rest of the world than to the US. The ramifications of having a non-white man with the middle name of Hussein in that position is fascinating. It’s a shame he can’t tick the foreign policy box on his CV but hopefully he’ll learn. If he doesn’t, he’s going to look like a white plonker in a black skin. Anyway, he has done his job. He was voted in. He made history. Top bloke.
And finally I get to my point. The election of Obama is highly significant, but when, oh when, are we going to address the huge elephant in the room? Today’s ceremony encapsulated it all – popularity, intelligence, style, Aretha Franklin (respect!!), great policies, uplifting speeches, ceremony, solemnity, 21st-century technology, ambitions of world peace, and…. religion. What?!
I am so saddened that politicians have to pretend to have religious belief to be successful. I guess they have to because it gives them credibility by making them appear honest (and gets them the ‘religious’ vote) but essentially it’s because senior positions in establishments still demand it. Why are we in the Dark Ages over this? I know my history enought to know how religion has shaped the establishment over centuries, but this is the 21st century! We have science, we have education, we have free-thinking. Much of the world lives in a secular way and most educated people are skeptical or agnostic at the very least. We are hanging to to a part of history which has no place in the real world.
To me, this pretence at religion completely undermines any trust I may have for a person from all the other evidence. (Of course, they could (like Tony Blair?) actually believe it, which is even more worrying.) I am simply at a loss to know how an educated, intelligent person can seriously expect real respect if, in the middle of doing their job admirably, they scuttle off to mass to mutter mumbo jumbo to their imaginary friend or try to pretend what they’re saying is driven by something akin to fairies at the bottom of the garden (not my phrase – Richard Dawkins’). Credibility? Honesty? Don’t be ridiculous.
The giant leap I refer to? The vitally necessary secularisation of major Western governments which would allow the appointment of an atheist to a senior position in world politics. The colour, race or gender of that person is unimportant they would get my vote for their honesty every day of the week. I can’t see this happening in the US for a very long time but then who thought there would be a black President 50 years ago?