America has always prided itself as the bastion of democracy and free speech. This freedom has given a podium to all kinds of loonies to vent their frustration on either the establishment or those on its hate list.
You might find a one-man demonstration outside the gates of NASA vociferating against the next space mission because it disturbs the peace of the Aliens in space!
Another person on some street corner will be selling prayers so that George Bush is not re-elected despite the fact that he just remains with less than a year on his final term.
A few years ago, one West African tried to sell me a talisman that could protect me in case of another 9/11 disaster!
“My brodder, this powerful juju from ancestors, Walahi it even bring me to America with no visa,” the man made his pitch.
I might have believed him if he had sold his wares from the warmth of a shop on 5th avenue instead of a street corner in the middle of winter.
The good thing about the US is that you cannot run short of believers. At the end of the day, the prayer merchant will get his dime and the juju peddler will con a few as he pursues his American dream.
The defender of Mars will cause a few sleepless nights to some old ladies who will stay glued to their windows, eyes turned towards the sky in anticipation of a punitive expedition from outer space.
But under all this semblance of tolerance lies the old subconscious bug of conservatism, and oftentimes even a pinch of discrimination.
A recent joke in the American media ran like this: Chelsea Clinton asked a soldier fresh from a tour of duty in Iraq what his three worst fears were:
“O-sama, O-bama, Yo-mama!” came the answer.
Once the laughter from this rhyming punch-line had come to a halt, a niggling feeling remained. For Americans to fear Osama bin Laden, is understandable, but Obama, Hillary? If this is not outright bigotry at its best, then nothing is.
Regardless Hillary Clinton being white, educated, popular and a former First Lady, she remains a woman. And now she dares to gatecrash the boys’ club, a hitherto male-only realm which might not even have mirrors in the washroom.
Hillary also carries more excess luggage. They have nicknamed her “Billary” not because she is former President Bill Clinton’s wife, but because they imply that it is not her, but her husband Bill pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
This simply implies that she is not capable because she is a woman. Her detractors are even more vocal at what they see as an extension of the Clinton dynasty in the White House. Remember George Bush and George W. Bush? John Adams and John Quincy Adams, 2nd and 6th Presidents of the US respectively?
Barack Obama’s case is even more compelling when it comes to the racial issue. He is what Americans no longer find politically correct to call “Black” but prefer the more subtle “African-American”, which is true.
A product of a Kenyan father and a white American mother makes him much lighter than his black father from Luo Nyanza or Siaya as the case may be. But when it comes to racial classification, he loses his mother’s ancestry and skin colour and takes a hue from southern Sudan.
But colour coding in the United States might be in for a rude awakening because the Democratic Party voting pattern has brought in a complicated form of bias which might be for the better.
The dot.com generation, be they White or Black, are rooting for the young Obama who also has a wide backing from the black community. Hillary on the other hand has managed to garner the support of the older people, Hispanics and… WOMEN!
For the very first time in many years of US Democratic Party politics, party faithfuls are caught at the crossroads halfway down the primaries. They do not seem able to choose between two likable candidates, and so the votes are split down the middle.
Now people have started hinting of a “Dream team” - a joint Obama-Hillary or Hillary-Obama ticket come November that might be a shot in the arm for a real United States.
If Frantz Fanon were alive today, he would rewrite “The Wretched of the Earth”.