Apparently the Republicans are getting all worked up about a black woman. Again. Getting their knickers in a knot, as we would say. And no, I am not talking about Oprah tackling their favourite pastime either – eating a Quarter Pounder from Mickey D’s. (By the way – who the hell was the bright spark at McDonald’s that thought Mickey D’s would be a sexy tagline?) Nope, and neither are they still pissed at Rosa Parks for taking “their” seat. Well, not that pissed anymore anyway. Just a little. No, they are getting ready to tackle a new black woman – Michelle Obama.

They are still pissed at her for saying that, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country”. All worked up that she wasn’t “really” proud earlier in her life. You know, she was just the run of the mill kind of proud of her country. Not “really” proud. Hum. Let’s visit this statement a bit, shall we?

So here she is. Black the last time I checked. And her husband is running to become the next President. Not because he is black, but because he is the best candidate according to some. Well, at last America is getting off the race issue. Or at least somewhat. According to polls, many Americans still believe that race will play a role in their decision on who they will vote for to become the American President. She must be “really” proud of the fact that her husband (or any black guy for that matter) can run for President on a non-race ticket and actually stand a chance of winning. That must “really” piss the Republicans off. But I would also be “really” proud for the first time as it is a first…

Or maybe she said, “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” (Different sources give me different quotes. That should not make them proud of their work…) Slightly different isn’t it though. Not a “really” in sight. One could have a problem with this now can’t we? Hum, maybe. Let’s have a closer look.

Michelle was born on 17 January 1964 – in Chicago. Lived there most of her life. 1964… The year after Kennedy got killed. She was born during the rule of LBJ. Not a time that reminds us of great hope does it? Okay – I’ll give you the moon landing. But she was only 5 and it was Kennedy’s idea anyway. And then came Nixon. Need I say more? And Ford and Carter followed. Again, not the good times now was it? Some would argue that Reagan brought hope. But sorry, he didn’t. Not universal in any case. He was a great leader for the Republicans. But he brought little hope to the world. Too many wars. Too many wrong decisions. Even if he was a good guy – he didn’t bring hope. And then Bush Sr. And another war. And no hope. Clinton brought some hope early on, but divided the country and got involved in too many “outside” activities. And then Bush Jr. More war and even less hope. Consistent during all these times were the lack of hope. Good Presidents and bad Presidents. But what they didn’t bring was hope. The one thing they didn’t have was this thing called hope. A future that the American people could see and believe in.

Oh, they all had their good times and their bad times. But not one single one of them painted a picture of an American tomorrow. They told Americans of a better tomorrow. But not of an American tomorrow. Just a better tomorrow. And then they all went and sold out to some vested interest somewhere.

I mean think about it for a minute. The 40’s – a just war against a true global threat. And America played a key role in changing the shape of history on that one. The 50’s – big infrastructure expansion, “good” businesses shaping the US, the building of America and the hope of a future so clearly depicted in art, movies, literature etc. The 60’s – people and their right, civil rights and the people speaking out against the way they were ruled and taken to war. And cool music. Then the 70’s – one bad politician after the other and disco music. Really. The 80’s – corporate influence over government takes shape like never before and continues to grow each year. But it started in the 80’s. And, of course, 80’s music and big hair. The 90’s – empty promises and big smiles. But little substance and even worse music (as if that was possible). And the new millennium… need I say more.

And then here he is. Her husband. Talking about tomorrow. And the future of America. And the hope of change. A better world. A better America. An America that we know and love. That stands for something good. Where America is run by Americans. The people. Not the vested interests. And she sees this and feels proud of her country for the first time because there is hope. She didn’t say that she didn’t believe in her country before. Or that she didn’t love her country before. Just that this is the first time she is proud of her country. Maybe even “really” proud of her country. Because the leaders who represent and embody what America stands for haven’t been that hopeful since that shot ended the dream in 1963. For the first time the shadow is pulling back and America is facing itself again. Facing what it is to be American. And all the good that comes with it.

It’s not a passport. It isn’t an accent. It is “state of being”. To fight the good fight. Do the right thing. To celebrate freedom. To let people run the country. Let the people govern. Where hard working Americans can make the American Dream come true. Where the poor doesn’t get poorer and the rich doesn’t get richer just because they are rich or because they are poor. Or because of where they were born or the color of their skin or their sexual preferences or their gender or their…. Well, you get the picture. Where there isn’t a sense of entitlement because you were born into it. Where Americans can show the world once again that being good, believing in freedom, working hard, standing together and staying true are the key ingredients that make America great. And what makes American Presidents great. Something to be proud of.

I am sure she had moment when she was proud. Olympic success, moon landing, civil right etc. But those are moments. Not Presidents. America has fallen to far behind. Not behind other countries. But behind itself. China is catching up on the economic side. Human rights are seen as an European thing now. Protection mentality and exclusion are seen as the American way. America hasn’t forgotten what it is all about. Hasn’t forgotten what their leadership means. It just hasn’t always measured up to its own high standards. American Presidents haven’t really measured up against what is expected from a truly great American President.

Yes, America remains better than almost every single country out there in our little globe. But just being better than others have never been the American way. Being better isn’t the American way. The American way is being American. And everything it stands for. Measuring itself against the American ideals. Looking back and making judgements against what the Founding Father fought for. Looking in the mirror and saying, “Not good enough. Let’s go for it again tomorrow. And let’s make it work this time”. America defines America. Not others. And that has been the failure. The loss of hope. America somehow started measuring itself against others. Instead of defining itself. And that is maybe why Michelle is “proud” today. Because she sees the hope of America being America – and everything that goes with that.

Oh, CNN also told me that people will look at the spouses of the candidates when they make their decisions. Not what they stand for, but what it says about the candidates and their choices. Here is how I see it. (Just in case you asked for my opinion.)

What does Cindy tell me about the decision making of McCain? It tells me that he will flip-flop. Had a wife and then saw something else he liked. And dropped the first one. A President that will make decisions and change it just as quickly if it fits better. McFlop will flip any policy if it means more to gain I guess. In this case it was a net gain of about $100 million.

And what does it tell me about Obama? That he will stay with is choice. Even if they don’t see eye to eye on everything. And even if she says things he might not agree with. He loves them for who they are – warts and all. A President that will stick with you even if you make stupid mistakes and do stupid things. Like go into a stupid war or something.

Of course it also tells me that one picked a partner who are encouraged to think for themselves and speak out. No matter what the consequences. Speak out. Speak up. Don’t mince your words. It is the American way. Celebrating differences. Freedom of expression. And being open, direct and honest. Put your cards on the table. At least we know who she is. A bit like Eleanor Roosevelt. Speaking up on civil rights. Not just nice empty words and a pretty face. That did not make her popular with everyone now did it? But we’ll remember her and what she actually did instead of just talk about.

The other one? Not sure what she stands for. Hardly hear her speak. At least on anything substantive. Except to tell us how much she admires and agrees with Johnny M. But we know she shops at Oscar de la Renta. And that she looks “hot”. It tells me that we won’t have much to talk about if we ever meet. (Unlikely! Especially after this piece.) Because she will agree with me. And things would be all good. And she will tell me how she fights the bad stuff in a good way. Poverty and all the things the “little people” suffer from. Sorry. Seen that before.

No thanks. Give me the girl and guy who tell me things aren’t as fine as what everyone is trying to tell me. That we might just have to put a bit of effort into this. That everyone is accountable. That is America’s future is in the hands of each and every American. That it will take some effort, that it will mean some difficult choices, and everyone will have to pull their weight. But that America is worth a shot. That it is worth fighting for the American Dream and an American future defined by the American people. All of them.

Give me Michelle Obama anytime. Because at least she knows why she is proud. That it isn’t an empty word or a little flag you hang on your jacket. That it is hard work. And straight talking. It might be Kool-Aid. But it tastes just damn fine.

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You know me. Pretty much a patriotic South African. Proud of our history. And deeply affected by Madiba – Nelson Mandela. I think the guy did an incredible job starting us off on the right track. Oh, we had a few other great leaders as well. But Madiba was our big daddy. Our Patriot. The John Adams of South Africa. The man who fought so hard to bring freedom to our little country down South. Just like John Adams and the other Patriots did over here in the US. (Oh yes, just like with the US, most of our subsequent leaders have been less “patriotic”, loved, reputable and effective as leaders than those original Founding Fathers.) So, I read with interest the recent flood of opinions regarding Nelson Mandela needing a special waiver to enter the US because he is still classified as a terrorist. As a South African I will refrain from commenting on whether he is a terrorist or not. That should be obvious. I will also refrain from blaming President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney for this as that would be easy, but also opportunistic and a cheap shot. The fact is that President Mandela’s good friend President Bill Clinton had 8 years to undo this injustice. As did his partner Senator Clinton. I am more concerned with the policy behind this terror list and the message it sends to other “liberation” organizations and individuals across the world.

Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress that he belonged to, were put on the list because the US government supported the Apartheid regime’s classification of the ANC as a terrorist organization. This indicated support of the Apartheid regime by the US government – both Republicans and Democrats. Again, I will refrain from discussing the Apartheid regime. I think we can all agree that it was a regime based on one of the most unjust and oppressive political systems in modern history. Really, take it from me and the people who suffered and died at the hands of that regime, they were not a nice bunch of guys to be associated with. Trust me, your mother will be most disappointed if you hung out with them.

On the other hand, the ANC was a peaceful organization for most of its history. It was established in 1912 in direct reaction to being excluded from having any political rights under the Union constitution of 1910. They remained an organization who believed in peaceful protest against the oppressive governments that gave no political rights to black South Africans. They did not even revert to violence when widows of black soldiers who died fighting in WWII received no pension whatsoever. It was only after 69 people were shot, mostly schoolchildren shot in the back, on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville that the ANC got banned for calling a national stay-away campaign. Note, still no violence called for by the ANC – just a stay-away. It was only after more murdering by the Apartheid government and the arrest of more than 2,000 people that the ANC took up the armed struggle against the Apartheid government – while they were banned from South Africa. Their “military wing”, Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation), was only established in 1961. They officially took up arms when exiled. They took up arms when their people got murdered, arrested and taxed to death and they were banned from being in South Africa to represent the oppressed in even a peaceful way. Remember this bit – people being taxed, not represented in government, no ownership, murdered and arrested left, right and centre AND their “party” being banned even though they are promoting peaceful resistance.

In short, the ANC was a peaceful organization for 48 years before they took up arms. And only after they got banned and people were murdered in public did they take up arms. And they continued this armed struggle against the Apartheid regime for the next 30 years. So yes, they were peaceful for much longer than what they were in the armed struggle. But still the US and many other Western governments declared them a terrorist organization. And before you get on your high horse – they only started taking in money and support from the old USSR when all those Western governments refused to provide them with any support against the Apartheid regime. Many, many years after they got banned and classified as a terrorist organization. A case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”

Let me put this in language and context you might get. A bit closer to home. Imagine you live in the US. Peacefully. Oh, there is a colonial power in charge, but you don’t care much for them. But then they start shooting your people when they protest against the unjust laws and taxes these colonial powers instituted against your people. And, of course, you don’t have full representation – only token representation. So after many years of continued oppression you say “enough is enough” and you stand up and have a big old war for independence. And you take support from anyone – even those who also have oppressive systems in place in their own country. Let’s say like asking the French monarchy for support even though they did not give their own people the rights you were fighting for and who were an oppressiveregime to their own people. Oh, wait – that happened here right? Imagine that, those Patriots who stood up against the British rule would have been branded a terrorist group if the current US application of the term terrorist was used by the colonial master back then. See, the ANC was like the Patriots back when you fought for your independence… And I for one will defend John Adams and anyone else who dare call them terrorists. They were freedom fighters on the side of the good and the brave. On the side of the oppressed. They were the good guys. They were the brave guys. Full stop. Not terrorists.

But the problem they would face today is that there is no clear guidelines on what will constitute a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US government.

So, does the US classify organizations based on their opposition to legitimate governments? No. As the case in South Africa highlights, the US government supported an oppressive regime and not those seeking democracy. It did the same in Angola and in Mozambique. It supported the warlords in both those countries who fought the legitimate governments. Governments who continued to win the popular democratic votes in elections from before, during and after the wars that ravished these countries. And, of course, the US supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and many Latin American dictators who were as oppressive as these African and Middle Eastern dictators. Yes, it was during the Cold War, but it still… The US build their partnership in the same way the ANC did – not being picky, but just picking anyone who will fight against the injustice they believe their own people will or are facing. Both picked dirty friends. And neither of them can claim that the other one had “worse” friends than the other. You willing to make a call on whether you would prefer the Taliban or a Communist? Not an easy choice is it? A bit like a pan and a fire choice I think. Hello pot, cheers kettle.

But it still leaves the question open – does the US classify organizations as terrorist if they take up arms against any type of government then? No. The US government is not averse to supporting organizations who take up arms. As mentioned before, they supported violent groups in Mozambique and Angola. And they have continued to do so – who can forget the call to arms of Iraqi’s during the first Gulf War? And the direct or indirect support for those who take up arms against oppressive regimes.

So what is a terrorist in the eyes of the US government? Who knows? And that has been the problem with declassifying Nelson Mandela as terrorist. We have no clear guidelines. How can we declassify someone when we don’t know the classification in the first place? It’s a bit like just building a road and seeing where it takes us. Or a railroad. And remember the big railroad bubble of 1893? This road is just waiting to blow up in our face and create panic.

At the very least we need to know what a terrorist is. I don’t mean some global definition we can all agree on. I am not that naive. All I can ask is for the US to have a clear definition. But there isn’t. Do yourself a favour – try and find a clear definition anywhere in the US laws. Too vague and too many loopholes. How can we win a war against terrorism if we can’t even define who or what is a terrorist? So far we have been more or less lucky. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were relatively easy calls. Sadam not so easy. And the more we go into this “War Against Terrorism” the more fuzzy it will become. I would really like Nelson Mandela to not be classified as a terrorist. And I really don’t want us to start a war against the next John Adams and his group of Patriots. He was a Patriot. And so was Mandela. Let’s not shoot at anything that moves. Not every shadow is a threat. Let’s know who we fight. Because how else would we know when we have won?

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Do you find this helpful? The deep analysis? Haha! Here we go.

1. British Airways going all British

Okay. That is enough. No more PC please. I draw the line right here. I was okay with the “we don’t want to our children to compete” stupidity in the schools when I was there. Yes, my child couldn’t compete in sport because they did not want there to be winners and losers. Failure was out – now called deferred success. Puh-lease! I think it was because she was going to kick some Pom butt. And on and on they went with their stupid ideas of the state controlling everything. But they have stepped over the line now. Now they won’t serve meat on British Airways flights anymore because some people have religious issues with beef (of course pork is out the window as well). Hang on a bloody moment here. You serve me tofu and soya and I’ll show you a place where the sun don’t shine. I have serious religious and cultural problems with eating anything but meat. It’s in my blood and in my bones. I am African. We eat meat. I find it offensive that you will pander to others but ignore my religious requirements. You have the option of ordering specific food before you board your flight AND you offer two types of meals. Let them phone you and make arrangement. Don’t you remember? We don’t have phones in Africa… And there is a serious consequence for all others as well – the non-meat eating… hum… humans. Can you imagine what they are going to serve us now? Crap fish and chips or rubber eggs. I am changing to Air Namibia next time I fly to South Africa – they serve biltong bites. Really. I have standards. Squash me into a box in the middle seat. Make me wait in line for an hour or two. Provide me with bad service at ticketing. Strip search me in public. But take my meat away? Tell me, do you still serve salad – or what do you call it again? Hum, oh yes – chicken? BA – Beef Away.

2. Honey, I am right behind you 

So the Prius will bring out a new version in 2010. And the Volt will also hopefully make its debut. And now VW says they will bring their super fuel efficient 1L concept to the roads as well. 1L is metric for 1 liter per 100 km, or 1 gallon going a full 230 miles. Cool isn’t it? Huh… No… Not even close. Volkswagen is German for Nation Wagon. Say what? You can’t even fit the bloody dog in there – never mind a nation. Seating for two only. Could be romantic hey? Huh… No… The passenger sits behind the driver. I can now truly be a backseat driver. Thanks VW, but if this is your answer to fuel efficiency then at least give it a few skates for wheels to use in winter. This way we can us it as a toboggan when the snow and ice comes.

3. Doctor Watson I presume?

Those bloody Nigerians. So here we are. With Idang Alibi going on about how Dr Watson was right when he said Africans are more stupid than the whities. Or rather, that black people are, in his humble opinion, not as intelligent as white people. Nothing humble about that mate. He goes on and on about how they are more stupid because of the failed Africans states. And that all other states are just fine. Guess what? I got angry. So here is more longer than usual response.

He talks as if every African state is a failed state. And that all others are just fine. Just fine. Well sorry – the world isn’t black and white (no pun intended). So, North Korea is just fine I take it? And Bangladesh? And most of the old Soviet states? And Latin America that have loads of European blood running through their veins? It’s easy and intellectually lazy to do that. For every Lagos there is a Laos. Also, he forgets to mention those African states who are not failing and are stable and growing. Senegal anyone? Or Mozambique now that the Cold War affect is over. And Botswana that has a huge HIV/Aids problem but still manages to outgrow the majority of countries in the world. Too easy and lazy of him to write a piece of crap that shows his own intellect. Sorry brother, I am not you and neither are most of us thank you. Go back to university and go and study how to be a journalist. Africa do have a series of failed states. But it isn’t a black thing. There are too many other failed states to tell us it isn’t a “black thing”. And don’t forget Zambia. One of the least corrupt and violent countries in the world – and acknowledged as such. Had mostly good governments. Except before “Ma” and after Kenneth Kaunda – Chiluba didn’t play nice. But he wasn’t really Zambian. And never been in a war – inside or outside its borders. More Swiss than the Swiss. And still one of the poorest countries in the world. Why? Because this isn’t some “American Dream” where those who work hard will come out on top. Whether you are an individual or a country, the one thing we have learned over the last 100 years is that those who are poor will remain poor and with limited opportunities no matter where they live. Yes, you have exceptions, but the American Dream doesn’t work for most people. No matter how hard they work. The bridge between poor and rich is increasing each and every day. Whether you live in America or you are a country in Africa. Even with the high growth rates – how long do you think Mozambique and Botswana must grow before it will reach the “upper status”? Do the math – it doesn’t work. No matter how hard you try. And there is no lottery for states either. And neither can you win a bucket of common sense either.

4.  Heartland no brainchild

Like all good scientists Heartland took the brave step of publishing the names of all those scientists who support their claim that Climate Change is no biggie. I think they should have just kept their list and tell us they have 500 names and leave it at that. It is turning out to be as accurate as the WMD statements. And like President Bush supporters, the scientists on the list decided to take the rat route off the ship. It seems as if the 500 aren’t 500 at all. You see, many of the scientist on the list actually believe in Climate Change. Oops. Look guys, how can we trust you with real science if you can’t even count properly? Climate Change isn’t social science you know – it is real science. Get the social science bit right and then we can talk. It seems as if you count with your heart instead of your head. Good for Bush, but no good for science.

5. Hillary and Bob – BGFF

Nooo link needed here – It’s about Hillary C and Bob Mugabe. If you don’t know anything about them then… I don’t know – do a google search. And no BGFF does not stand for Best Guy/Girl Friends Forever. It means Bye Go Finally F-off. It’s time they both go. Hillary keeps on losing supporters faster than Bob is losing his marbles. And that says a lot. But Hillary is a bit like Bob here. Refusing to accept it is all over. The other guy won – just accept it and live with it. So I have a little plan. Why don’t you two go to on a nice little island retreat for two. Just you two lovebirds. Maybe Bikini Atoll or Christmas Island. Bikini because we should pay A Toll to see either of you in one. And Christmas Island because Hillary needs a few presents to make up for the money she blew at 3 am. Bob won’t have a problem with the radioactivity – he might just grow a brain. We all live in hope.

That’s all folks. Bye-bye all. Have a great weekend and see you on the other side. I promise to be lighter and brighter next time. It will be a fun week – I promise.

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You Americans. You are a damn funny bunch. Doomsayers. Hehehe! The world isn’t going to come to an end. Your life will still be fine. Really. I promise you. No, I am not talking about the economy. I’m talking about the election coming up in November.

I find it amazing how people paint the worse possible outcome if any of them wins. Oh, it’ll be the end of America as we know it. Depending on who wins the scenarios are either America will be taken over by hardline Christians or fundamental Muslims. Far-right racists or a bunch of bleeding heart liberals. Abortions will take place left, right and centre or individual rights like choice will be taken away forever. America will go into more wars and stay in Iraq forever or be to weak to attack anyone who threatens. Americans will be forced to pay through their necks for a proper health-care system that will cover everyone or the poor will be left behind to die alone without any care. America will be taxed to death to look after the poor or the rich are going to get richer. The corporate world will be regulated to a level where they won’t be able to compete or corporate interests in DC will reach new highs. A black guy or a women… Oh, wait – that one might actually be true. Hahaha. Come on people. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid. You remind me a bit of South Africa back in 1994 when we had our first democratic election.

My dad and my wife’s dad panicked. What will happen if the ANC wins the election. What will happen if we have a black government. Oh God forbid that ever happens. It will be the end of the world as we know it. Oh the country will come to a standstill. Traffic lights (or robots as we call it) will stop working. Electricity will stop running.  Gas stations (petrol pumps back home) will run out of petrol. Taps will run dry. And worse of all – the grocery stores will have empty shelves. We will even run out of beer. And that would be bad. Especially if you are South African.

So they stockpiled. They bought canned food – corned beef (or bully beef as we call it) and candles were all the rage back then. Man, my dad bought so much of the stuff he could have opened his own little underground shop if he wanted. And then they started with us. Telling us we must stockpile. Get ready because it is the end of the world as we know it. But they didn’t know the next line of that R.E.M. song – And I feel fine. Because this election was what I fought for and dreamed of. Free, free at last. But we were poor then – my wife and myself. So we couldn’t really say no to any money they were going to throw our way. But it was a bit of a dilemma – we couldn’t lie to them either. Just not ethical. So we divised a little plan. We took the money and stockpiled. Let me qualify that a bit. We did the alternative version of stockpiling. We bought mussels, prawns, perlemoen, crayfish, steak and champagne. All those things we could never afford to buy! We stockpiled to celebrate the win! In style baby.

Well, as you might know I didn’t get along with my dad. But when he died he still had candles and bully beef stuck in his grocery racks. All from back in 1994. Because the stores were stocked and open the next day. And the taps ran crisp clear water. And the electricity kept on going. And the petrol pumps were ready to fill you up. And the banks still had your money in their vaults. Yes. South Africa carried on as the usual. Just as a free and democratic country for the first time. Oh, we had one little problem. We had one huge hang-over from the parties that just went on and on. But no one bitched about that!

So, you see, the more things change the more they stay the same. America will not face what we faced back in 1994. A moment that defines our place in history. The end of an oppressive system. And freedom at last. You don’t need to stockpile. Because whoever wins will not be the worse case scenario you are so frightened of. Yes, McCain will be more ready to go to war and stay in Iraq. And yes, some of the rights America fought for so hard will remain under pressure. And he’ll pander to the right and flip-flop when he doesn’t “misspoke” or forget who is who. And he’ll be bad from a foreign policy perspective. And Hillary will be a hawk. Ready to go to war and obliterate anyone who steps on her toes. And she’ll be more of an empty bag of little substance than most. Dodging bullets and making peace/war wherever she goes (you pick – war in Iraq and peace in Northern Ireland). And yes, Obama is more of an idealist. And idealist who paints a picture of what America should look like tomorrow. And he’ll be more likely to speak and seek peace and compromise than go into war. And he is more wonky than he other two. And yes, he and Hillary are more likely to bring in a universal health-care and strengthen social services. But come one people. They are proud Americans who will give their all to make this great country even greater.

Your water will still drip from the taps. Gas will still flow from the pumps – even if it is a bit more expensive than yesterday. Food will still be at a reasonable price. Your lights will still burn when you flip the switch. Roads will still be fine even if you need to invest in them a bit more. You’ll still have unemployment – but at a low rate. The dollar will still be the global standard. And the world will still catch the flu if you sneeze. You will be just fine. Just fine. Really no need to stockpile.

In actual fact, you will be better than where you are today. And you will hopefully rally behind your new President and tell him/her to go and make you proud. To run this country like a President. Remember. They are willing to do so. They are willing to stand the public attacks from you and their election opponents. They are willing to be scrutinized. At least show some respect for that. You deserve better.

No. Your country deserves a better you. A you that act like a proud and patriotic American. Not like a spoilt child that fears anything and everything. Your country deserves a you that remembers that this country is about what you do to make it better. And it starts with how you will support your new President. And how you treat your own people. Those who are willing to stand up and be counted. Be critical, but don’t be destructive. That is not the American way. Or so I was told.

You don’t need to stockpile. Maybe just a little on decency and on guts. But don’t fear tomorrow. It’s not the of the world as you know it and you’ll feel fine.

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Look. This isn’t the Rumble in the Jungle. It’s not World War II. It’s not even Tom & Jerry. It’s more like Wrestlemania. A little bit of fireworks and a laser display. But it is really just make-believe. A show. A show that happens every few years. Lots of noise and lots of action. But fundamentally still just a show. Nobody gets hurt. Yes, I am talking about the US Presidential election.

Obama and Hillary and Mac tries. Oh man they really try hard. Trying to convince everyone that they are so different from the other one. I am more conservative/liberal than him or her. I am the most experienced. I am from outside the DC mentality. I will be the one answering the phone at 3 am. I am so different from those other two. Sorry people. You are not that different from each other. Apart from the obvious bits – black, white, male, female. But when it comes to politics in America? About as different as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Pretty much the same difference – car crashes, flashing underwear, rehab sessions and bad movies excluded.

Let me be open and honest here – full disclosure. I am all for Obama. I think he will be a great leader and will bring something new to the table that has been missing in American politics for a while. But that doesn’t make it him that different from HillBillary or Mac. They are all proudly American. And will defend this country to the end. And anyone who thinks otherwise should get out of the chicken coop and start scraping the poop of your shoes. It’s starting to smell. Where have you been all this time? Your head in the sand or up your …? Don’t drink the Kool-Aid – whether served by Fox and Rush or Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. It’s still Kool-Aid. Just a different flavor.

This election isn’t about what kind of political system America should have. Or what would be the best economic model. This isn’t a debate on whether the USA should have a monarchy or a republic. This isn’t about every person having a vote or America being run by a tyrant. This isn’t about America being a communist state or free market. I know, some would argue that a vote for the Democrats will make America more “socialist” or “communist”. Sorry people. Just not happening. You think the US will be more like China or Russia or even Sweden under either Obama or Hillary? Get real. Go read up on world politics a bit baby. The world is a bit more complicated than your backyard – even during hurricane season.

It’s like saying a vote for the Republicans would be a vote for an Apartheid-type system. Just not gonna happen. Go watch a French movie and get educated. Except maybe the Asterix and Obelix movies. Those are closely based on the France of today. And what’s this about a free market? Neither will America (or any other country) ever be a free market system. Too many regulations and too much protection for that. And I mean protection for big companies and not the little guy – read the you can’t sue them rulings and subsidies for big oil. So, the US will basically remain a semi-free market with slightly more or slightly less interference from government. With a failing health system that neither business or government can sort out. Except if you start cutting down on those Whoppers and start dying before you actually get ill. America won’t change that much under any of these three. Politics in America is less like a seesaw and more of a sandpit – you don’t really move much, you just get a little bit dirtier the longer you play.

The fight between Hillary and Obama is more of a slapfest than a slugfest. Like the Poms did way back when with the old white handkerchief through the face. A little bit of “how’s your mother” – but in a nice way. Nothing serious. A bit like when my wife and myself don’t agree. Yes, we get all worked up – but we know that we are still on the same side. Okay, our makeup is better than theirs… I hope! And I know I am wrong most of the time in any case. Hillary and Obama- pretty much the same with slightly different clothes on. And Obama looks a bit cooler than Hillary and way cooler than McCain. Come on, admit it. I know you want to.

You think Mac will be so different from Hillary or Obama? Sorry to disappoint you again. Why would you think that? Because he is Republican? Again, you’re confusing it with The West Wing. That wasn’t true you know. Remember, Mac is more progressive than what JFK was back in the old days. He will tinker around the edges and call it the Big Mac version. And you will swallow it faster than a hotdog in the bottom of the 9th at Fenway Park. (Huh? That didn’t even make sense. But you get the picture. You wanna get it down as quickly as possible before it all ends.)

Come to think of it. There is actually very little to bitch and moan about the “fundamentals” of the US. Yes, gas prices are up and housing down. The economy is a little shaky. Or as Bush calls it – a “slowdown”. But you think any of these candidates will solve it by themselves? You think they will come and wave their magic wand and make everything all hunky-dory again? Hum, sorry to disappoint you but things are never hunky-dory. There is always a little bit of doggy poo walked into the carpet in every house. Yesterday wasn’t better, it was just different. Okay, today is pretty crap, but we know that none of the candidates can be any worse than what you currently have. (My less than heartfelt apology to the 28% who actually approves of the job President Bush is doing. The lowest in recorded history. Yes, even lower than Truman during Korea and Nixon at any stage.) There is only one way and that is up from here. But they’ll tinker around the edges and call it a new dawn, but they won’t change what America is all about. Don’t worry. Baseball won’t turn into cricket at any stage soon. You’ll play ball your style for a few years yet.

And if you think there are major problems in the US – think again. Almost everyone in the world pays more than Americans for their gas. And pay more in tax. And more for food. And more for… well.. damn nearly everything. And the majority of the world would love to have your “problems”. Take the candidate you dislike the most and ask yourself – would I rather live in that America or in Zimbabwe or China? Or even in the UK? There are but a handful of countries in this world that can offer you a better life than in the US. (Okay, maybe only Luxembourg.) No matter who rules the country it will still be a pretty damn good place to live in. I mean come on. President Bush couldn’t f*ck mess up this country any more than he did and it is still pretty awesome to live here right?

So there isn’t really much of a fight going on in the Presidential race. Just a bit of name-calling. Oh, like with any good fake fight they’ll try to build it up. To get you all excited. But it’s like the ad on television for some crap April movie. They’ll show you the good bits, but you know that it is the same old lame formula as before. The media and the bloggers will tell you that this is the time. That this is about the heart and soul of America. But it isn’t. Americans are more than politics. And the soul of America is more than a few wise words and a pretty face. The media and blogs do it to sell you their ad space. And you buy baby. Buy.

In the end America will be better. No matter which one you decide you want as your President. Your choice. Little will change and America will continue to be a great place to live in. All three are great Americans. It’s not about who will give you the best tax break. It’s not about gay marriages. It’s not about racism or sexism. It’s not about religious intolerance. It’s not about universal healthcare. It’s not about immigration. Those are minor issues that doesn’t define what America stands for. Or what the world needs. Those are at the rough edges. The crazy uncle stuff every family suffers from. That’s not what you want to ask yourself. You want to ask yourself…

Who will inspire Americans to be the best it can be? Who will be more likely to bridge the political divide? Who will get the world to respect America again? Who will protect your freedom of speech even when it hurts? Who will get rid of laws that allows your privacy to be exploited? Who will be the least likely to get you into a stupid war? Who will fight against torture even when they torture you? Who will put you above the pigs crawling in the mud below? Who will protect your right to carry weapons even if they don’t like it? Who will most likely ensure that church and politics don’t mix? Who will protect the individual rights of people – whether they are gay or KKK? Who offers you the best hope for a future your children can be proud of?

I am sure there are more questions than these few. Feel free to fill in the gaps. Just make sure you don’t fill in the gaps with the Kool-Aid the candidates and parties and media are trying to force down your throat. They are all the same and they are all different. They are mostly good, with a few bad spots. They are all perfect in their own little way. And all flawed in their own little way. But they are all American – and as different as Americans can be. And proudly so. Anything else they say is just a little storm in a teacup.

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Were do we start with the news this week? Anywhere really.

1. The lights are on but no one is home

I thought we had enough problems to worry about in the US right now. You know, with the economy slowly tanking, markets crashing, soldiers dying and houses (fore)closing. But no. Another Republican had to show her brilliance in creating an issue out of a none issue. But this time it involves rights. Real rights. Important rights. Human rights. Oh, sorry, I meant light bulb rights. Yes, Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman, who have always believed in no taxes or abortion rights, and guns and churches for everyone, has decided she is pro-choice after all. Pro-choice for light bulbs. She is fighting for the rights of all incandescent bulbs across the world. For all those little bubble-heads hanging from the roof. And those little pinko bulbs with the lamps stuck up their… um… socket. She is the César Chávez of light bulbs everywhere (Happy birthday by the way to the father of the farm workers and the environment). Her face has launched a thousand table lamps everywhere. She is switched on when it comes to light bulbs. “Ping”. She has introduced the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” to stop the phase-out of incandescent bulbs. Or as she calls it, “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax”. And she is hot – hotter than global warming I tell you. If you can get past her perfect shining teeth. Don’t switch any CFL light bulbs on with her in the room. I have seen grown men cry and holding their eyes. The reflection can be seen from the Hubble. Of course it isn’t just because of her shining teeth – but also because each of her fillings have about 200 times the mercury in it than the average CFL bulb. And you know how that makes you glow in the dark. With her around you don’t even need the lights on. She sure as hell didn’t.

2. The (laughing) gas prices

I find it fascinating how people in America complain about gas prices. And I don’t mean Treehugger complaining about the high environmental price of methane gas emissions by cows either. I mean that thing we outside the US call petrol. Maybe you drive on something else and just make us think that gas is petrol. But it can’t be the same thing – gas and petrol? No way. Why are you guys in America paying so little for you gas and we are paying so much for our petrol? You pay less tax than anyone I know! Poor Turks – they pay through their necks. Poor Brits – they are right up their as well. No wait. I take that back. I don’t feel sorry for the Brits. Because I had to suffer thanks to all the gas that comes with all that baked beans they eat for breakfast, lunch and “tea”. They should pay a high tax just to make me forget the pain of living with that smell. America is way down their in last place. Less than the who’s-who of petrol (gas) taxes. Americans pay less tax because the politicians are just full of hot air?

3. I am a Treehugger! Now!                                                                 Solar Bikini

I don’t care what you have to say. But I am joining Greenpeace tomorrow. Don’t you dare stop me. Just have a look at this photo man! If this is the way that we are going to address global warming then I say “bring it on!” It looks a bit like Halle Berry in a Jane Bond outfit, but I am sure that once Victoria gets hold of this we might be talking a whole new ballgame here. Just two minor flaws in the idea though. Nothing we can’t sort out – Oh God I hope they sort it out. Anyway, I digress. The two problems… Firstly, don’t wear it as underwear. It defeats the whole idea. You do need the sun to charge those batteries. Secondly, and maybe more lethal. Please don’t go swimming with all that currency running through the system. You might be in for a nasty shock. Oh, there is a third one. You might attract a lot of the wrong things and get things clinging to you that you don’t want. You know, with all that static you are going to generate.

4. Read my lips… wait, don’t… no really, do… stop it, my head hurts

You know. I am against any form of discrimination. But maybe there is a good reason why people should retire at 65 and just enjoy their last days in peace. See a bit of the world. You know – places that you can remember. Like Iran and Iraq. And who is on whose side. Because it is obviously difficult for Mac to remember anything he said yesterday. Or heard or saw this morning. Ever seen the movie Momento? I think that character was based on Mac. Not only did he “misspoke” about Iran and Iraq and Sonny and Cher… and then denied it… and then did it again… and took it back… and then said he was right… and then just … oh shut up, my head hurts. He now said he won’t raise taxes… no he will… wait, he won’t. Do they have medicine for this? Because imagine him waking up at 3 am to answer the phone! “Who’s that? General? General who? Do I want to take action? Hell, yeah! Bring me a bucket of the crispy ones thanks“.

5. Hillary will answer the phone at 3 am

Oh man, my wife is going to beat me up this week. She is a Hillary supporter and even I must say that this might be over the top. But anyway… here we go…

Everyone is asking who should answer that 3 am call. That is for another debate. I want to know something else about the 3 am call. If the phone had to ring this morning – who do you think will win? Mac because he is used to sleeping standing up? Obama because he is so slim and athletic? Forget it. Obama will still be trying to get out of bed and Mac would be stumbling about running into everything while trying to find his teeth. While those two “losers” are trying their best, Hillary will be sitting down with a smile on her face and a cheery, “Hello, this is Hillary. How may I help you?” How do I know this? No, it’s not because she has to be up to keep an eye on Bill. It is because, apparently, she is up an hour and a half before any of the men standing for the election to get her dress ready, do her hair, paint her face – you know do the things women do before they go out. Now you can say it is sexist. And maybe it is. But the fact is that Obama and Mac can look crap and get away with it, but Hillary can’t. On the other hand. If Obama or Mac spend as much time on their hair as she does then they will be in trouble. Okay, no danger of that with the Mac right? Just a good old comb-over and he is done. Or as we would say in Africa – just a cow-lick and he is done.

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It irritates the living hell out of me when politicians (or anyone for that matter) uses the “I have been there” line. You know, that line when a country comes up in a conversation and they say “I have been there”. I was listening Bill Maher (yeah, yeah) on my iPod when some or other politician was using this argument that things are soooo much better in Iraq. You know – he’s “been there”. Like he knows something we don’t know. Sorry buddy. You haven’t been there. Going on an escorted trip to some holiday camp isn’t “been there”. It’s just a package deal holiday trip. It’s buying that Disney trip off the travel agent. Not planning your own trip to Florida. Disney isn’t Florida. You haven’t been to Florida just because you have been to Disney World. Mickey Mouse isn’t Governor Charlie Crist – and Goofy isn’t Jeb Bush either. They just act like them. I know – it’s a shocker. But that’s the truth.

Dick Cheney has been to Iraq. Hillary has been all over the place. All escorted trips. Talking to people and seeing people that other people controlled. Not a moment of meeting the people in the streets. No. They met the people those in power wanted them to meet. Those “good little soldiers”. Those on the side of the winners or warlords or occupiers – not those who suffer in their homes without water or electricity or food or jobs. Or walls for that matter. Those have been bombed as well. So what you have are just very big windows as the Republicans would like you to believe. You see what they want you to see. And not what you should see. You don’t see the families caring for the wounded ones or crying for the lost ones.

It brings me to McCain. (No, I am still not writing about the election – just the topic of “I have been there”). McCain went to Iraq last week. Made a few “misspokes” by confusing a few issues. Wouldn’t you with Lieberman standing next to you? You just don’t know which way Lieberman might go – Independent today, Republican tomorrow, Democrat yesterday. Anyway – I digress. Again. So McCain went to the marketplace. Bought a few goods there I hope. You know. A bucket of water (just a few minor shrapnel holes in it). Some oil (imported from Saudi Arabia because you can’t find Iraqi oil). An AK47 (seen some action). But no food and no freedom fries. But why didn’t he go to the market he went to the last time? Because it wasn’t safe. Not even with those Blackwater guards, marines, armoured vehicles and helicopters. He hasn’t “been there”. He could only say “I haven’t been there”.

They don’t know those places. They don’t live in those places. They fly in and they fly out. Just so they can say “I have been there”. Just so they can spin it in a way that you like it – with a bit of cream on top thank you. It makes it soooo much easier to swallow. It’s just the way I used to feed my dog his medicine – hide it in a piece of ham. But even my dog got it in the end. He started spitting out the pills (but still ate the ham). Americans aren’t stupid. No. Let me rephrase that. Americans aren’t dumb for long. You start smelling something rotten and starts spitting out the pill of stupidity. And the approval rating of those “who have been there” starts dropping faster than the bombs in Iraq. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time…

“I have been there”. I should be a politician really. No – I should be the ruler of the world by now. Hear me people of the world – your leader is here. The wait is over. Get the roses and the wine ready, because here I come. The people of Cameroon – I am your main-man. I have been there once. For almost a day. A stopover on my flight to Bamako, Mali. Actually, I have been there twice – on my return flight as well. I am the most knowledgeable foreign policy person I know. Why? Because “I have been there”. Zambia – vote me in. I spend time in Lusaka – many times. “I have been there”. I’ve eaten your nsima and drank your Mosi. Ivory Coast – your saviour and warlord is here. “I have been there”. Twice. Stuck at the airport.  Hungary – anoint me in the Danube. “I have been there”. For 3 long days in a luxury hotel that included a massage from a big hairy Hungarian – male. Mexico – ola, make me your main revolutionary piñata. “I have been there”. Mexico City, Chihuahua, Monterrey and many Tequila’s. France – c‘est la vie, your monsieur of la resistance has arrived. “I have been there”. Four long days in Paris – baguettes, wine, cheese, insults and all. Germany – your über prince of the united country is here. “I have been there”. In Trier to shop for toys, in Berlin to do nothing really, and in Nuremberg for a job interview. “I have been there”. I have been everywhere. Almost. Never mind South Africa where I was born and raised. Or the UK where I spend four long years watching footie, drinking pints and eating crap “fish and chips” like a real Englishman. Or the US where I have lived for the last 18 months shouting for the Red Sox and hating the Yankees like all good Americans should. Yes, I have been there. But I know nothing. Because I don’t live their lives. I am just a guy from South Africa. An Umlungu who knows too little and says too much.

Really, if “I have been there” qualifies you as a foreign policy expert then every pilot on the Delta international route is Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And sorry my friend, you ain’t from Egypt or his world. I sometimes even doubt if you are even from this world. Even if you “have been there”. You still haven’t “been there” or “got it”.

So. Stop it please. Stop trying to sound all travelled and wise because you “have been there”. You haven’t. You haven’t even “been there” when it comes to the US. You can’t use a daft and brainless line just to justify and spin your stupid, warped and pathetic policies. It isn’t an answer. It isn’t an analysis. It isn’t even SNL or Real Time. It’s just you being stupid. Like my dog was in the beginning. But even he got over it. He roams and knows his territory. He even marks it by lifting his leg on everything. Instead of telling me “I have been there”, tell me how you are going to “be here”. Just don’t leave a mark like my dog. Just don’t take the piss.

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