-By Sanjay Jha
Two world leaders of contrasting styles have been tirelessly hogging media spotlight over the last few weeks. First, US President Barack Obama was shown at various camera angles staring with perceptible amazement at a Latino butt of Jennifer Lopez-like proportions during a global summit . Even newscasters who were raising a massive brouhaha over the ungentlemanly sidelong and supposedly lusty glance of the popular Prez , seemed equally titillated. Or empathized with the purported ogle. Or at least they struggled to keep a straight face.
The second distinguished head of state is of course, the now celebrated stud machine of international politics, songwriter and multi-tasking (??) Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi who has through his enviable libido completely altered traditional conservatism that plagued people holding high office, making former US President Bill Clinton appear like an old fashioned priest with just a mild case of testosterone overdose and Nicolas Sarkozy ( French President) an infatuated teenager proudly displaying his prized trophy. Berlusconi has of course carried his bedroom adventures to a National Geographic level, but you have to admire his audacity to talk about his numerous conquests in a public forum with such cocky demeanor. I think if I was the marketing head of Pfizer I would hire him as the brand ambassador for Viagra till death do them apart.
As long as Berlusconi ensures that the Italian state secret and defense treaties are not being posted on Facebook and porn sites by his lingerie-list of nocturnal lovers , the highly amused world will be extremely forgiving. As will the Italian voters. Silvio should also contemplate creating a new venture titled Escorts Unlimited, perhaps.
On a more serious note, Barack Obama is thinking with his head , following his heart and generally speaking with a judicious blend of both. Frankly, I thought his strong condemnation of the exaggerated questioning of the black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr by white cops led by police sergeant James Crowley was an honest admission of prevalent social divides and thereby an act of singular courage. Unfortunately for him , as a political leader he is just discovering the claustrophobic proscriptions of public speaking, judged by his uncharacteristic apology for calling the police intervention as ” stupid” which by innuendo meant a racial misconduct.
Here is a colored man in the Oval office belonging to a minority group himself sincerely questioning implied prejudiced action in his own country against a respectable black man by law-enforcement personnel. Obama’s spontaneous outburst was clearly emotional , but manifests his gargantuan dilemma; he cannot wash-away racism in the US just because he is one privileged black man who can view the White House lawns from his powerful office for the next four years . Media experts have expectedly castigated Obama’s choice of the word “stupidity” but let me ask you —even if it was a bit of an overreaction , was Obama really wrong ? Sure, as a national leader Obama must create an environment for honorable debate and restrained argumentation ( the risk of Obama’s verbal liberties is that every Tom, Dick and Harry politician inspired by the President’s instinctive speak will start using terms such as dunce, duffer and dunderhead ) but the truth is that racism exists and Obama by taking up that cause strongly is forcing America to introspect. Electing Obama to the White House has resurrected America’s otherwise dwindling image in the whole world, but racism is still a long drawn out domestic challenge. As I write Obama has apologized for his casual remark ( am sure based on recommendation of his press advisers) , but it is his non-calibrated ” stupid” word that has made the episode unforgettable and drawn attention to a sensitive subject.
As for Berlusconi , let me tell you that politicians are human beings first and it is like a Sach ka saamna moment for some of us self-righteous folks. I am not advocating that heads of state get lewd, lascivious and lecherous at any and every voluptuous distraction or that high moral values should be discounted , not at all, but it is about time we stopped foolishly expecting political figures to be perpetually pious, holy god-like incarnates. In India, stories abound of all sorts of sleazy liaisons but usually nothing is ever reported. As far as Indian politicians go our desi media has some strange unwritten, unsaid code; they will never talk about the private lives of public figures. Even when late Pramod Mahajan of the BJP was allegedly involved in the Shivani Bhatnagar ( Indian Express journalist) murder case , the Indian media downplayed the proceedings considerably. Mahajan was subsequently acquitted, but frankly, I found the media intriguingly indifferent to a case that involved one of its own fraternity. Wonder why?
I think it is about time we woke up to new alignments in every sphere. The world has changed. The age of couched in complex noncommittal senseless press releases is being replaced by mature pragmatism ( is that why the Indo-Pak press statement is being blown beyond proportions??) . The Cold War diplomacy of the Henry Kissinger variety is dead. The US President and his Russian counterpart have reconciled to working together. America has elected a colored head of sate. China and India will inevitably be the new economic superpowers. The dollar may not be the global reserve currency for long. Hillary Clinton and Obama are in the same team. Despite the terrible 26/11 India and Pakistan are not at war but seeking dialogue. Sarkozy has taken on the wearing of the burqa -practise amongst Muslim women. The US may be the sole superpower but it needs the world on its side, the age of one-sided unilateral decision-making is being replaced by collective consensus. Even the standard scripted jargon from politicians is changing to one of invigorating candidness. That is why I am disappointed that Obama has called Crowley for some bubbly to offer a peace pipe .
Last week a suburban Philadelphia swimming club refused to accept black and Hispanic kids in it’s precincts because ” there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion (????) —- and the atmosphere of the club”. Whether Obama says it is or not, we all know how grossly repugnant and stupid that is. For the President who loves jogging and fitness routines, this race is indeed a marathon one.