This world dream can't be deferred
By OP Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-14 07:51

A little over a week is not too late to bow one's head to American voters for making the impossible possible. By doing so, they have burdened Barack Obama with a bigger task. He was already carrying the burden of history, especially more than 300 years of slavery, but now he cannot afford to fail to make a greater dream come true.

He has to live up to the notes of Huddie Ledbelly's 12-string guitar, rise to the baritone voice of Paul Robeson and the operatic brilliance of Marion Anderson. He will have to measure up to the songs of Josh White, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Odetta, Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba (she spent long years in the US as an exile from South Africa, and died four days ago in the land of her birth). The immortal music of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis will seek justification, too. And of course, he has to honor crusaders on the folk trail such as Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

Guthrie brings us to the Great Depression. Much has changed, especially in the US, since the 1930s. That's why the world may not see another Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, Claude McKay or Marcus Garvey - or even a Richard Wright, James Baldwin or Ralph Ellis. Perhaps, it may not see a Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison either.

There won't be any more Dust Bowl refugees and Tom Joads (as in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and later in a Guthrie song). But the crisis Obama inherits is no less severe. The financial market is in the doldrums, and not quite unexpectedly reacted negatively to his victory. That's a sign of the things to come - not everything will go according to plan. This is where Martin Luther King, Jr, whose ideals he has talked about on his campaign trail and before, is important. Obama has "been to the mountaintop", seen "the promised land", but now he has to lead the people there. No doubt, he is aware of the symbolic message sent from phone to phone across that country: "Rosa (Parks) sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack ran so your children can fly."

Let's hope that will symbolize the new millennium, not only for people of every color in the US, but also the rest of the world. That's exactly why Obama's task is so difficult.

There's no reason to doubt he doesn't know it better than a journalist that the financial world can be brought back to life from the brink of death, but not the natural world. It's understandable that he wants the US government to help the auto industry thrive again. After all, thousands of jobs are stake, and the economy needs to be stabilized. But the economy is a thin line he has to walk.

For instance, the melting of Arctic ice is music to the oil industry's ears because it means more reserves to exploit. It's good news for the auto industry, too, because more oil means cheaper prices means higher sales of vehicle. But that is disastrous for the environment. So where does one stop?

Obama could review the US government directive to drill oil offshore. But that won't be enough to save the natural world and make the US the leader it used to be, not the bully that many countries see it as today. Think of the Yellowstone National Park, created 136 years ago when the rest of the world was still burning coal and cutting down forests to fuel industrial growth. That is the sort of America the world needs. That is the change the world expects from Obama. And neither he nor the world can wait any longer because global warming is already the biggest threat to our children.

Any further delay would mean (Hughes') A Dream Deferred: What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun? / Or fester like a sore / And then run? / Does it stink / like rotten meat? / Or crust and sugar over / like a syrupy sweet? /Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load. /Or does it explode?

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com

(China Daily 11/14/2008 page8)