Citizen of the World

“Barack Obama captured the hearts of tens of thousands of Europeans, mostly young people, that acclaimed him yesterday in Berlin as the unexpected leader that can return the optimism to the world that it is currently lacking.” So began the note of Antonio Caño, special correspondent of the Spanish newspaper El País that covered the appearance of the Democratic candidate for President of the United States in Berlin, before 200 thousand people. It is this exact line of hopeful sentiment that provokes the strength of the candidate’s word, in front of the disappointing moment that confronts us in politics in general.

We attend, under a brutal inertia, a twilight moment; ours seems to be a time of demolition of the public in the state, of ethics in politics, of morals in society. The principal face of this decadence is the prostitution of the word, and therein the downfall of everything else. We don’t believe in the things we say, we don’t think about the things we do.

Two friends have written to me with extraordinary essays about this sensation. Francisco Barrio reminds me that President Vaclav Havel defined the greatest problem of the Czech Republic as “moral contamination,” that during decades of communist dictatorship, “we all got accustomed to saying things that didn’t agree with what we thought; and since we didn’t say what we thought, then we learned to not believe anything or anyone; and, if we didn’t believe in anything or anyone, why would we have had to commit ourselves to anything or anyone?”.

For this reason, Obama, a lawyer for the downtrodden of the race that hardly 40 years ago was discriminated against, is now only a few small steps away from acquiring the power that had once subordinated the people he defends; a Harvard graduate that didn’t leave for corporations but for community social service and from there jumped to politics, is causing a resurgence of hope and optimism, of believing in someone or something, by returning to forgotten words and constant ideals, instruments of his offer of change in North American politics, calling himself a “citizen of the world.” Because sublime oratory emerges as invincible if it is based on what the person truly believes and thinks.

How right was Héctor Chávez Barrón, my other friend: “Obama’s case should encourage us and teach us that it is not harshness that breaks indifference and egoism, but the simplicity of truth. The consistency with our principles is what redeems us from this world that frequently drowns us.”

I think of Obama, and I am also moved by the hopeful image, and I’m overwhelmed at the same time: how much responsibility for such a young man to have on his shoulders.

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