God Bless America…

I’m currently in the US and although some things should not come as a surprise, they still do! To my misfortune, I never get the opportunity to travel beyond the major cities and it may be for this reason that when I do travel away from the major centres that I’m taken aback by simple things that contradict established views about the only superpower in the world!

So, what do we expect from a superpower in today’s age? Well, it would be fair to expect a heightened awareness of global affairs; of the presidential slinging contest currently being played out on TV; recognition that America is one country in a world of many etc etc. I could go on and on.

The truth is so so so way off the scale that I needed to pinch myself to remind me that I wasn’t having a nightmare. I used to think that India was a land of contradictions – ultra wealth VS massive poverty, 650,000 graduates each year VS being the most illiterate country on earth etc. that I’ve now decided to award the mantle of ‘the land of contradictions’ to the US.

This is a complicated place. Can you imagine the cultural challenges of the two trying to work with each other?

Obama – The multicultural hero

I think it’s great that Obama has landed the Democratic Presidential nomination (even though the Clintons haven’t pulled out yet!). While many paint a picture of America as a land in which minority communities are treated as second class citizens, Obama’s success clearly demonstrates the meritocratic nature of its society and of its people.

Who would have imagined that a guy with a name that sounds like Osama, who has family residing in Kenya and has himself lived in Indonesia would one day succeed in being nominated for President. This stuff is of dreams.

Even if he doesn’t win the election (which I think he will), the simple fact that this guy has broken through sends a sharp message, firstly – to Americans, and secondly, to the world, that America has an improved understanding and appreciation of cultural issues than we’ve given it credit for in the past.

The knock on effect for America’s disasterous foreign policy is huge.

Senator McCain also understands this. Last weekend, he invited three contenders for the VP’s job to meet with him. Among the three was a relatively new and young Indian Senator called Bobby Jindal. Simply by asking to meet him, McCain and the GOP have also acknowledged the need to embrace diversity and multi-culturalism.

In Britain, we (including me) tom tom the egalitarian nature of our society, but we are so so far back when it comes to politics that I don’t see us electing a Prime Minister from the ethnic minorities for another decade or more – despite having a fantastic crop of minority MPs who are hugely talented in the House of Commons. I’m not for positive discrimination but I can’t see one of these breaking through in the same way as Obama.

What’s the solution? Do we need one?