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Fly me to the Moon

by Archives February 3, 2009

While interviewing spectators at Barrack Obama’s inauguration, Daily Show correspondent John Oliver asked them to compare the event to other human feats. For the sake of humour, Oliver suggested the moon landing was perhaps a more monumental feat than electing a black President. He was unable to convince anybody, but Oliver’s quip may have had some sense behind it.
In the modern era of iPhones and Youtube it’s hard to perceive how immensely challenging it was to lift a human being out of earth’s orbit, land them on an celestial body 384,403 km away, and then return them safely with 1960’s technology.
But why stop there? Human history is full of monumental achievements. We still can’t figure out how the Egyptians built the pyramids using the technology available to them at the time. Using a crude telescope Copernicus discovered the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way round. The complexity and brilliance of Einstein’s discoveries can’t even be scratched at on these pages.
What did America do apart from elect someone from a racial minority to the highest office in the country? While inspiring, it’s not actually groundbreaking – after all, it’s been done before. The British elected a Jewish Prime minister in 1874, at a time when Jews were and would continue to be ostracized and oppressed in Europe for another 100-plus years. The current President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is of indigenous descent. How close are we to that milestone in North America?
The American constitution explicitly states that everyone is born equal; it’s one of the country’s founding principles. Should it be so shocking that a man, no matter what his background, could become the protector and defender of that constitution?
Hundreds of years of oppression, slavery, segregation and the ever-present scourge of racism were the failure of that promise; Obama’s ascent is just one step in the long march out of those dark times. But Americans are mistaken if they think they’ve accomplished some great feat of humanity – they’re only now just breaking even.
This isn’t to take away from what Obama accomplished. Being a black man and becoming President, that’s like flying to the moon. Obama’s election isn’t the end of the American dream by any means, in many ways it is the long overdue beginning.

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