Rasma Says

Musings, deliberations, flashes of unaccounted for brilliance…

Betting on the Future

I can’t always say what gets me away from my other distractions into blogging mode, but this time it is certainly the phenomenal events that kept me and dare I say most people awake last night watching the predictable yet implausible results of yesterday’s US election.

I first heard of Barak Obama in 2006 when my friend Pål was making money hand over fist with his brilliant betting scheme on the World Cup football games. He showed me the betting site he used, and how one could bet on just about anything. You could for example put a few bucks on the 2008 election. We looked at all the potential primary candidates that were in the news, and I was drawn to the black guy with the funny name. A clear underdog, I thought, would be my bet. Not because he would necessarily win… part of Pål’s betting intelligence is to bet on who the average Joe thinks is going strong, and then cash in right before the favorite bombs out. At that time the favorite was far from Obama. I could have bet that Obama would NOT win, or the chance that he’d still be in the running on an arbitrary date … or that he owned a Buick, anything. However, I did plan to bet on Obama winning the primary since the majority of gamblers would most likely bet on him losing it, and I could make my money multiply that way.

At 3 a.m. this morning, as I watched the BBC coverage of Obama’s landslide, I thought about that bet I never placed. My regret was short-lived and trivial in light of the growing significance of what was happening in my country. In my lifetime I have never experienced the nation rallying together, not about anything positive and hopeful, and certainly not about anything where a hyped up media ploy was markedly absent. I was truly impressed by the network media’s constraint and self-control, to such an extent that Fox called the Republican state of Ohio for Obama first. If you don’t that isn’t a sign of change in America, well… you’re wrong!

I was a kid when JFK made his brief appearance, and I grew up in the semi-romantic era of national doom and tragedy that marked the nation during the 60s and 70s. I was apolitical, and remember the moment when a teenage boyfriend asked my parents about their political views. They were sitting in two easy chairs watching the Watergate interrogation on television, and my father said with a rueful smile, “Very, very conservative.” I guess I knew that. I remember being sent to school in second grade with a Goldwater button on my collar, only to meet the mocking taunts of little-miss-perfect Ginger Sweeney who said that if Goldwater got elected he would turn all the water to gold. On my 6th grade school photo I am wearing a Nixon-Agnew button.

As I emerged from my blind-sheep teenage years I went to Europe and was immediately smitten by the parliamentary socialism I saw there. My continued naiveté showed in my attitude that I couldn’t believe anyone would be against it. In a way I still can’t. If I’m political I’m a socialist, just as if I’m religious I’m a Sufi. However, I am not a politically oriented person, and never will be. All the same, as I have become more educated and informed about American social and political history through my job, I return again and again to the idea that living during the Roosevelt years, when my mom was growing up, must have been politically wonderful. The optimism Roosevelt brought to a hopeless and nearly ruined nation was permanently recorded in my grandparents, Norwegian immigrant tobacco farmers, naming my mother’s little brothers Franklin and Delano.

I expected Obama to win, but it is with amazement and awe that I witnessed just what his win really indicates: an optimism my country has probably not felt since Roosevelt was elected then re-elected again and again, as if the people would never tire of him, and did not expect believe he would disillusion them. People seem to feel that way about Obama.

The best thing about Obama, in my perhaps naive take on things, is that he is a thinker first and a politician second. I believe he will surround himself with intelligent and competent advisers, and that he will bridge partisanship even while he inherits the destruction of the highly partisan and unilateral politics that has defined America for most of its short life.

Today I am, for the first time in my life, proud of America, and of my countrymen who by the droves voted and raised millions of dollars one bill at a time, to get the next Roosevelt elected at a moment in American history, culture, economics and foreign relations when it is most needed. Today, for the first time, I feel the rubble of 9-11 has begun to be rebuilt into a symbol of well being and promise for all. It has little or nothing to do with him being black. Watch his face when he talks. His skin color is hardly what draws our attention, it is that command in his eye, resonance in his voice, and intelligence in his speech.

Congratulations, America. May you live long and prosper.

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