An Aussie view of the U.S elections

The U.S is just like Australia in that it wants a change, a break with the past. The free world suffered a major shock in 2001 when the Twin Towers were attacked by Muslim fundamentalists. This was a turning point in history.

In one foul deed, we learned that we had serious enemies and from then on Muslims were regarded as foes. It didn’t help matters that there were few Muslims prepared to decry this vile act of murder.

We all waited for Muslim leaders to separate themselves from the murderers and when this did not eventuate, we naturally assumed that all Muslims were the same. It was not enough for some of them to say that this is not how Islam works. They actually never said that it was wrong. It was hard to convince any of us in the West that Islam is the religion of peace. We could only judge by the disappointing reaction of most Muslims.

The Western world was dealing with a different sort of mentality, the kind that straps explosives onto men, women and children. The kind that doesn’t care whom it destroys, even its own people. Very strange and hard to comprehend.

The whole Iraqi war has been very tragic. In hindsight, It would have been better had Iraqis disposed of their dictator themselves.

I am convinced that September 11 has coloured the entire Bush administration and the American people want to forget all about it. Not that they can, of course, but they want to. They want to be happier and less fearful than they have been so far in this millenium.

The same feeling has dominated politics in Australia as well.

We wanted to start afresh. We didn’t want to hear about external dangers, even though they are present. We longed to be optimistic about the future and sadly, every time we looked at John Howard, he reminded us of the terrible apprehension that pervaded our every day life since that fateful day in September.

It’s interesting how many countries in the world have changed their governments from Right to Left and from Left to Right. Think of Holland and France. Countries that used to praise liberalism are now hunkering down. Russia has gone back to the old days because liberalism was too frightening. The Russians are too used to being told what to do and have floundered when left to their own devices.

It’s as if the world has done a 180 degree turn. In Australia we wanted a government that was optimistic with new slogans that made us feel happier. We wanted to forget the misery of the last six years and it’s ironic that even our flourishing economy was insufficient to cheer us up.

When I look at Barack Obama I see a similar break with the past. He is almost black and that will please voters who want to prove they are not bigots. He talks well. Sadly, President Bush is not an orator. Obama makes all the right noises even though i’m not quite sure what he stands for. What I do know is that he represents change. He’s riding on the crest of optimism the way Kevin Rudd did.

I doubt that Hillary Clinton can do that because she represents a past regime. She is not new. Somehow she is old school and her talk is tired.

As for the Republicans, the only one who even has a hint of not being tainted by the gloom of September 11 is John McCain even though he has been around for a while. When one thinks of McCain one feels that he is more ethical, more his own man. Again, it’s just an impression, but in politics it seems to be about impressions and moods. After all, policies can be modified and we don’t really know what a candidate believes if he is in the election mode.

Our gut reaction is usually more powerful than our considered thoughts. I’d like to think it is otherwise, but we are swayed by impressions. When it comes to electioneering, I agree with the philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who wrote that “the heart has its reasons that Reason cannot comprehend.”

In my opinion, the candidate who makes Americans feel good about life is the one who will win. To complicate matters, all the candidates will have to address the problems of a troubled American economy. This should prove a daunting challenge for a man who wants to make his electors feel positive.

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