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Repackaging america

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By Gideon Levy

This is the moment to let emotion speak and cynicism fall silent. This is the time to let go for a moment of all the anti-American feelings that have spread among many of us throughout the world for the past 10 years. A moment before the United States itself became the axis of evil – it was already very close – a moment before it became a hated and ostracized power, the American people proved to the whole world on Tuesday that there is another America.

A moment before we were completely fed up with American hegemony, and the expression “leader of the free world” became no more than a tasteless joke, when the whole world saw America as aggressive, destructive, war-mongering, arrogant and racist, this marvelous power shook itself and showed the world a different face. For a moment, for just a moment, something else is in the air: “Change, yes we can.”

Of course, Barack Obama’s landslide election might still lead to a major disappointment; the huge hopes he aroused might turn out to be mirages – tricks of charisma and sophisticated political consultants. But the moment Obama stood on stage in Chicago and gave his victory speech in the middle of the night, one of the greatest speeches ever by one of the greatest speakers, the tears on the faces of many people in the audience – black and white, old and young, men and women, rich and poor – seemed about to flood the whole world.

It was a seminal moment for America. But the moment can also be missed. In conservative and partially racist Israel, quite a few people are already looking sour. Yet it is also possible that this moment will translate into change, to a new world and a new America. The man who stood on the blue stage in Chicago could bring glad tidings; the masses who cheered him and chose him might be harbingers of real change.

After almost a decade, few asked why their country is so hated – a decade in which America spoke only the language of force, sent its army off to two losing wars and did not prevent other countries, including Israel, from going out to other useless wars; tortured prisoners in Guantanamo and elsewhere like the darkest of countries; executed hundreds of its citizens like the darkest of regimes; and failed to use its influence and power to make peace, neither here nor anywhere. In the meantime, religion threatened to take it over until it became the most fundamentalist country in the West, tens of millions of its citizens were doomed to live without health insurance or a social safety net, and quite a few of its people remained illiterate. After all these dark years, suddenly a new day dawns: The man who stood on the stage in Chicago promised us that all this will change, and we so wanted to believe him.

If he succeeds, we will have a different world. If he really does substitute the threat of arms with diplomacy and economic aggressiveness with social welfare, Americans can once again go around their country and the world with a feeling of pride after years in which American tourists normally encountered animosity and resentment. It is important to America and it is important to the world.

Obama brought dignity back not only to his country, but also to the profession of politics. After years of seeing no inspiring leaders, neither in Israel nor elsewhere, but only drab or duplicitous politicians; after we had eulogized the possibility that one person could capture the masses, Obama stood on that stage in Chicago and did it.

After history had come to an end, Obama proclaimed it born again. With his election he also announced the rebirth of the expression “the land of opportunity” – for blacks as well, only in America, for the moment.

The test is still ahead of him, of course. His impressive and exciting ability to get elected is not a guarantee of his ability to lead and make the right decisions. He faces a discouraging situation, on the edge of the abyss, with the world’s economy threatening to crash and American soldiers bogged down in blood for nothing. In addition, the Middle East is still as far from peace as ever, and some nations and evil groups threaten to destroy it. And there is a hate-filled and dangerous Islam and a hungry Africa, sick and bleeding. But Obama comes to all these armed with credit around the world that probably no one before him had. Not only the United States, but the world voted for Obama; there is no country where the masses did not root for his victory, including even some Israelis.

From here on, there can be success or disappointment. But at this moment, writing these lines a few hours after the victory speech, when the tears refuse to dry, the heart says: Something happened. America is not the same as America before; the world is not the same as the world before. Thank you, Obama, and thank you, Americans. Good morning, America, good morning, world. A better morning than we have had in a long time.


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