Monday, 23 February 2009

Waiting for Obama

Even in Ealing, the tension is palpable; the wait is excruciating. Larry David described the unbearable last days of the election on the Huffington Post. Lady Antonia Fraser confessed to her own obsession on BBC Radio last week. Friends in Canada, Italy and Paris scour the internet for the smallest scrap of new news on Obama and send it along. If, two days from now, a victory is declared for John McCain, I believe that the whole planet will have such an enormous hissy fit, that you will be able to see the steam rising off Earth from the moon.

Just over a year ago I was on assignment in Scotland - at a glossy new spa on the banks of Loch Lomond. I'd sampled the massage, lolled in the sauna and, as bilious grey clouds settled over the loch, I wandered down to the dining room for dinner. At the table across from me were about 30 or so men with southern accents. They were about to eat when one of their number stood up and proposed a toast to "our president and our troops for the fine work they are doing in I-raq."

Every one of them stood up and raised his glass. As they were about to sit down, a lone Scot's voice at the table piped up: "But isn't there a wee coloured chappie trying to be president." The Americans roared with laughter and then the laughter changed and within seconds they were chanting: "Obama, Osama. Obama, Osama."

I wonder where that Scotsman is today, and if he has any sense of shock, surprise (we can't hope for shame) at where that 'wee coloured chappie' is today. Has he, like me, and like millions of people all over the world watched, mesmerized at the centre of calm that Obama has become in the electoral storms?

Watching the news reports of the final hours of campaigning today, I gazed at those slim shoulders - and thought of all the hopes and dreams that are being placed on them. Never has a candidate symbolized so much to so many people. He cannot possibly live up to our expectations but I pray tonight to the god I don't believe in that he will get a chance even to disappoint me a little. May the Great Mystery protect you Obama. And, when you take office on some snowy day next January may the world prove more mysterious and wonderful than all the cynics and pundits could ever have imagined.

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