"America's Back!" a German newspaper in Hamburg announced the morning after the 2008 US election with a sense of joy and relief that rippled across the globe through Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, the Pacific Islands and even Alaska. After eight long years of unilaterally aggressing on the world, America had broken the global social sound-barrier of racism. America was the world's true innovator, maverick and land of opportunity again.
Yet along with that festival air of "a giant step for humankind" as a London newspaper put it, there were the signals that global "business as usual" would continue once the jubilation toned down. Russia warned the United States not to continue its selfish economic policies and China warned against interference in its affairs with regard to Taiwan.
The global superpowers are on the rise again while America grapples with deep problems and social divides. The entrepreneurial spirit of freedom so sacredly inscribed in the country's Constitution must now be aligned with the global realities of fairness and responsibility. The greatest country in the world that America can once again become cannot own the integrity and decency that go along with that title if it is a plutocracy. The homeland of democracy cannot be called that if a handful of billionaires own the lion's share of wealth while the vast majority lives without the most minimal of social safety-nets.
Factoring that reality into American consciousness is bound to stir the charges of socialism already leveled during the presidential campaigns. And while the President-elect won by a comfortable margin, the conservative and even zealot element is still alive and well in the country, as judged by support for the Conservative Party that lost, along with support for its platform of restricting progressive social developments such as freedoms of choice while promoting regressive ones such as exploitation of resources and restricting the private choices of individuals.
Finally, while the election of a half-Black candidate to the Presidency of a major developed power and the welcome into the White House of a Black family are groundbreaking social developments for America and the world, the unfortunate, ugly and baselessly primitive roots of racism are far from dead. That reality was evident even in the first days of global jubilance in the wake of the election. A noose was found hanging on a Texas college tree and a New Jersey home was torched for its display of a Barack Obama poster.
Yet even with all those challenges on America's plate, the election has given America an opportunity to take its proper place in a global world. In his first appointments and in his first press encounter after the election, the President-elect has shown the integrity, firmness, strength of character and easy humor that belong to a leader with whom the head of any other nation can look forward to meeting with confidence, pride and a sense of privilege in conducting an exchange.
The choice of that new leader for America proves that America has chosen with wisdom and that it can continue to act on the virtue of that merit as it goes forward to address the global financial crisis it had created to a large extent. The choice of leader for America with the 2008 election shows that America made its historic choice based on the candidate's merit of a character that is truly American, one in which the question of race is already history.
With its vote in the 2008 election, America chose its champion quarterback for Team America from among all its population. The country is now ready to go out and compete with the other 200 nation teams of the world. And even while the new President-elect cautions that only one person at a time leads and that America may have to wait until January for the Global Season to begin, the election itself was America's call for "let's play!"