Every time I hear about how Sen. Barack Obama is going to “re-brand” America’s image in the Middle East, I can’t help but think about Jimmy Carter’s toast.
When the idealistic Democrat came to Iran in 1977 to ring in the new year with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the country’s much-despised despot, throngs of young, hopeful Iranians lined the streets to welcome the new American president. After eight years of the Nixon and Ford administrations’ blind support for the shah’s brutal regime, Iranians thrilled to Carter’s promise to re-brand America’s image abroad by focusing on human rights. That call even let many moderate, middle-class Iranians dare to hope that they might ward off the popular revolution everyone knew was coming. But at that historic New Year’s dinner, Carter surprised everyone. In a shocking display of ignorance about the precarious political situation in Iran, he toasted the shah for transforming the country into “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” With those words, Carter unwittingly lit the match of revolution.
It’s just this sort of blunder — naive, well-meaning, amateurish, convinced that everyone understands the goodness of U.S. intentions — that worries me again these days.
Join the club!
As someone who once was that young Muslim boy everyone seems to be imagining (albeit in Iran rather than Egypt), I’ll let you in on a secret: He could not care less who the president of the United States is. He is totally unconcerned with whatever barriers a black (or female, for that matter) president would be breaking. He couldn’t name three U.S. presidents if he tried. He cares only about one thing: what the United States will do.
That boy is angry at the United States not because its presidents have all been white. He is angry because of Washington’s unconditional support for Israel; because the United States has more than 150,000 troops in Iraq; because the United States gives the dictator of his country some $2 billion a year in aid, the vast majority of which goes toward supporting a police state. He is angry at the United States because he thinks it has hegemony over almost every aspect of his world.
Race/sex really doesn’t matter to those outside of this country. It’s all about what we will or won’t do. Just because you are a female, or a minority, it doesn’t mean you’ll do a better job. This world is filled with, or has had, people in these categories that have either done poorly or hurt their country. Benizar Bhutto and Corazon Aquino have been widely accused of corruption. And don’t even get me started on the likes of Robert Mugabe!
To vote for someone based on sex/race is quite shallow. And voting for ‘change’ doesn’t mean voting for improvement. EVERYONE running for political office wants CHANGE! If not, then we’d just vote for whomever is already in office! And unfortunately, people wanting ‘change’ usually just change things to benefit themselves or their group while the rest of the country suffers.
Do yourself and your country a favor and vote for someone that has good moral values, courage and conviction, and someone that can make this country even better- for all.