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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I know. Many of you will tell me, as you have, that this election has nothing to do with us foreigners. That it is all about America. The American choice. The American future. And you are (mostly) right. This is your choice. This is about the American future. This is about America.

But it does have something to do with us Johnny Foreigners. We do have a stake in this. Why? Because most level-headed people in this world still look to America for direction. We still look up to America. We look for guidance. We look to America for leadership in this crazy little sphere of ours. A beacon we can follow. A little light in the dark world of wars, hunger, poverty and injustice.

Others might not acknowledge that this is what they want from America. But they know that this is what they need and this is what they want. Think about it. If not you then who? The UK? Come on. It’s just a sh*tty little island and a has-been world power. Overtaxed and oversensitive – and trying to punch above their weight. The days of colonizing the world is over, but we won’t forget. And we won’t allow them to direct us and lead us. Not with their history. And do I need to remind you that even they follow you. Even when their people don’t want the war – they still followed.

France? Too French. No, seriously. Too many Frenchmen. You don’t get anything done over there – and they are in the same boat as the UK. A spent force. Germany? No thank you. We haven’t forgotten yet. Italy? Haha. Running out of options here…

All of them will deny it. But they know. They know we need America to lead. And all of us in smaller little countries know. And people fighting for justice know. We all know we need America. We need that light to shine on us. That light we can use to point to. Show people the hope of a better future. A world where I can look at my countrymen and say, “Look, I know it is tough. But keep on pushing forward. We can be a little America.” A world where I can help the poor and the marginalized and say, “Look, I know it is tough. But don’t give up hope. Don’t give up on your dreams. Keep on pushing forward. You to can have the freedom of an America.” A world where I can hold the hands of the dying and oppressed and say, “Look, I know it is tough. But you have the just and the right on your side. You are not alone in this cold world. You are not dying for nothing. There is a better future for your children. And their children. Keep on pushing forward. You to can have a life to live like an American.”

You might not want to give it. And you might not want to play that role. But that is not for you decide. Sorry. You have no choice. You are the superpower and with that comes influence. And most of all, with that comes impact. Impact on the world and the people who live there. So I might be harder on you than on anyone else. But that is because I love you. Because I know how much I need you. How much you mean to me. I hold you to a higher standard. Because I know my hope lies with you. My hope of a better world. My hope of a just world. I know it isn’t fair that I expect more of you than from others. But that just life. I think you are the greatest and for that reason I hold you to the highest standard. When I buy food at Whole Foods I expect more than from Wal-Mart. When I buy a Cadilac I expect more than from a Chrysler. When I buy business class seats I expect more than from economy class. That’s life. I hold you to higher standards because frankly, you are our only hope in this world. AWithout you I have no future. And my people have no future. And no hope.

We look at you and know that somehow you are on our side. We don’t want a China. We don’t want a Russia. We want a world of freedom. We want a world where we can talk about the World of the Free. So we need the Land of the Free.

We don’t want a Bin Laden. We don’t want Mugabe. We want leaders with vision. And we want leaders who sometimes look at us little people of the world and smile. I know you have your own issues you want sorted. And I don’t want to take that away. I just want a little light to shine on my path. Just a little warmth from standing next to you in this dark cold world. Just a little smile. Every now and again.

Yes. I know. There are people out there who don’t want this. Who wants their own little world to oppress. But most of us in this world just want a life to live. And a life to love. With little interference from those above us. A land we can call our own. A country we can be proud of. A world that has a little bit of space for each and every one of us. A world where we don’t have to look over our shoulder when we run. Most of us just want to be American. Wherever we are.

But right now we are lost. We walk around aimlessly in this world. Stumble from one hope to another. We look to America but we don’t see the light. We look to America and we don’t feel the warmth. And we are rudderless. We are without hope. Without direction. We need you America. We need you more than you will ever know. But we need an America that is strong. That is just. And that is right. If you don’t – then no one will.

We need an America where freedom reigns. Where the government doesn’t tap into phones. Where people can say what they want and when they want. I never liked it, but always understood that people can say what they want in America. I come from South Africa. And we have a history. A history that reeks of racism and hate. And here in America you have the KKK. Never got it. Never got why you tolerate that. And then I understood. That your freedom comes at a price. A price of allowing people to say things that you might not like. But that is the price of freedom. And we need that. We need that to show the world what ultimate freedom looks like. The freedom of tolerance and living with differences celebrated. But do you still have that?

We need an America where the rights of people are protected. Where the people are the people. And the people govern. Through their leaders. A true democracy. A democracy for the people and of the people and by the people. A democracy we can look up to and say. That’s how the people rule. That’s how the people rule. But the voices in DC. Oh, those voices in DC. The corporate voices drowning out the voice of the people. We need an America where the people rule. Do you still have that?

We need an America where war is the last option and not a preemptive action. Where peace rules before war. Where America goes to war as a last resort. An America that find new ways to break down the walls of injustice. The way America helped break down the walls of Apartheid. An America that broke down the Berlin wall. An America that broke down the communist regime of the old USSR. That’s the America that we need. And that’s the America that shows us how to bring peace and justice to the world. Without war. An America that goes to war with the support of the free world. Like we did in the war against Afghanistan. But not in Iraq. We need an America that uses the carrot more than the stick. Do you still have that?

We need an America where rights rule. Where people are treated with respect for human rights. Even when they don’t show that same respect themselves. An America that is morally and ethically above those who will murder and terrorize the free world. Because that is what the free world is about. We don’t sleep with pigs. Because we know it is a slippery slope when we do what they do. We need an America that doesn’t torture. Even when they torture us. We need an America that stands for more than what they stand for. An America does does less than they do. We need and want an America that says torture isn’t right. No matter who you are. Torture is for those who hide and those who are cowards. And those who have no respect for the people of the world. And who have no respect for the freedom and rights that go with that. A torture free America. A message of hope. Loud and clear. Do you still have that?

We need an America that shows no fear. Who are never scared at what others might do. An America that says, “Bring it on. Is that the best you can do?” An America that fears nothing. Because it is an America that can never be bullied or terrorized in their hearts. An America that stands for more than a single action. We need and want an America that is strong. That tells us and shows us that no matter what is thrown at them, America will always stand tall. Stand proud. An America we can stand next to because we know together we have nothing to fear. Nothing to fear but fear itself. An America that knows no matter how many times sick people fly their airplanes into buildings and plant bombs on trains, America will stand tall and not be scared. They can hide. But that can’t strike fear into the hearts of America. Do you still have that?

We don’t need you to be perfect. Nobody will ever be perfect. You’ll always have a Texan talking to loudly when visiting our shores. Or an oil company that forgets their responsibility. We know Reagan wasn’t perfect. We know Clinton wasn’t perfect. We know Bush Sr wasn’t perfect. Hell, we know Nixon wasn’t perfect. But we always knew that they were just and they were true to us. Always there for us. Always saw us as their partner – even when we don’t agree. But now? Now we have a world divided. A world that looks to America and doesn’t recognise the one we loved. Because it is an America that tells us there is but one way and that is their way. Not in partnership. But in forceful domination. We need an America that says it wants to be our friend and be part of a greater good – even though we know you don’t really need us. But do you still have that?

We need an America with a vision. A vision of a better world. A vision of a better future. A different future. Different from where we are today. All divided and alone. We need that America that can point us to the path we will walk. Walk hand in hand. Together. Do you still have that?

And we need an America that knows what a vision can bring. The power of a vision. The power of tomorrow. The power of hope. The power of change. Not looking back over our shoulders, but looking ahead to the path we create. The power of the people. We need to know that you have a vision. Not a vision of a better version of the past. But a vision of a better future. Like when you moved west. You didn’t want to build a new England. Or a better version of the East. No. You went west to create a new world. Of hope and change. A world still undefined. But a new world nonetheless. But today. Today you show us leaders who look back and have no vision. Do you still have it?

Yes you do. You still have it. You hold in your hands an America we can follow and look up to. An America that will be that light and banish the darkness. An America that will embrace us with the warmth of love and life. An America that smiles at us and holds out a hand. An America that is the land of the free. An America that is ruled by the people, of the people and for the people. An America that changes the world without us knowing it. An America that says no to war and yes to peace more strongly. An America that says no to torture and yes to justice. An America that shows no fear. That shows power without abuse. An America that can take us into the future without fear. That brings hope to the hopeless. Justice to the oppressed. And change to a dark world.

America. It is your world. Your choice. And we have little say. We have only hope. Hope you will remember us. Your friends who need you. We are watching. And we are waiting. We hope we can walk this path together again. Be wise. Be strong. Be just. Be free. Be American.

You choose. I just hope that you choose wisely. You choose and we hope to follow. We have little choice…