When Fanny Kemble, a famous British actress known for her performance in "Romeo and Juliet", first arrived in the United States in 1830s, she found the young country a familiar sight, just like one of the remote areas in England. However, when she visited the United States again 35 years later, she found herself in a entirely different country. Other than the language, there is no trace of Britain.
More than one-and-a-half centuries later, had Kemble stayed on, she would have noticed that such profound is the changes in U.S. that even the master of the White House carries no trace of Britain. At least for the next four years, the dark skin and profile originated from Africa and the slightly black-talking tainted tone and voice will be the main shade of the political scenery in this nation.
An inevitable victory
Over the past 2 years or more, Obama has made The Change We Need the center of his campaign and political stands. As Obama now faces the U.S. and the rest of the world as president-elect, we suddenly realize the significance of his victory. It has not only altered the existing status quo in American politics but it has also put a stop to the whites' absolute hold on the White House for more than 200 years.
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood." Martin Luther Kings impassioned speech delivered more than 40 years ago must have been conjured by many as Obama was declared the winner of the election. Indeed, scenes of eruption of euphoria and tears by the Black when they learned of the election outcome broadcast over the television testify the realization of this dream.
However, many remain puzzled as to why a white-dominated country like the U.S. elected a Black President. Does this happen by chance or is it an inevitable outcome given the contemporary political scene and tides of history?
Judging on the current political situation in the U.S., opportunistic elements do come in play in sending Obama to the White House. If the Bush administration had been well-loved and trusted by the people, if US economic outlook were rosy, if Obama were a Republican, if he didn't have had any political experience as a senator, if his opponent were someone equally energetic and charismatic, Obama might have been left out of the race.
However, even if these "if"s are valid, they cannot fully explain Obamas progressions and the lead he established right at the beginning over the two-year-long campaign. In relation to these factors, there are stronger underlying forces that move Obama to the White House. Such forces stem from the American society. Had Obama not made it, an "Obama-ized" President will take stage one day.
On-going assimilation culminates in a new America
Under conventional impression, the U.S. remains very much a Anglo-Saxon society. Indeed, the U.S. has conserved the principles and traits in its social system and core values. At the same time, the U.S. is constantly refining its national identity since its independence from British colonization.
Americanization has been so successful that Americans of Anglo-descent address themselves as Anglo-American." Thats why when Kemble arrived in North America from Britain more than a hundred years ago, she found that other than the language, there is no trace of Britain.
Americas search for national identity has been closely related to the on-going mass immigration from the World into the country. An American scholar once said that while these new immigrants suffered difficulties, discrimination and humiliation, they would be eventually Americanized after staying alongside with the earlier converters. They know that this is the only way to realize their dreams.
In this process, the U.S. evolves into a plural society with Anglo-Saxon population declines in domination in terms of numbers. As a result, the U.S. put a new face. Changes are still on-going today.
Historian Lucas once gave an account of the revolution of American Society. In 1900, when large number of immigrants rushed to the U.S., Americans originated from England and Ireland dominated important positions in the political, legislation, banking, industrial, education and culture sectors. In short, these people form the upper class of the society, ordering others and setting the tone of public opinions. However, post-1950s, as Anglo-American factor become key in many areas, Anglo-Saxon population lost its leadership position.
Americans are no longer the same old Americans
More than half a century has elapsed since the 1950s and the American national identity has undergone several landmark changes. As the society evolves around the existing frameworks and principles, the complexity of the population spawns multifarious manifestation of this identity across more fields and in more facades. From politicians to musicians, from war heroes to sport heroes, from celebrity journalists to superstars, regardless of birth, culture or social background, would be Americanized upon entering the American melting pot. This would help them to gain acknowledgment and acceptance of the society, and thus, form part of US national identity.
If Henry Kissinger, a Jew, being made National Security Advisor and Secretary of State was something of the past, then Powell and Rice running of the government at the top level currently reflects fully the respectability of the American society. Why is the U.S. different from Europe? Why is it different from any other countries? The answer lies in its unique national identity.
Undeniably, racial discrimination, tribalism, individualism and occasional spat questioning one another's patriotism are still alive in America. However, America has proven its worth in social cohesion and national identity building over more 200 years. It is making strides towards civilization and progression. It never look back, and ever ready to change.
As aforementioned, the author opines that the election of Obama as the U.S. President is inevitable from a historical point of view, given the ever-changing nature of the American society. America is no longer the same old America, so are the Americans. It is the different America and the different American that have made President Obama who he is today.
The author is a commentator with "Lianhe Zaobao"