[Outlook]Before and after Obama

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[Outlook]Before and after Obama

Nearly a decade after the dawn of the 21st century, Barack Obama has become the brightest star in the universe, and there are few signs that anyone else will surpass him in terms of talent in the foreseeable future.

A variety of stories about Obama ?? his life story, family, Chicago political mentors and friends, his intelligence and physical elegance ?? have been circulating.

But gloomier stories might be told in the future if his policies fail to take effect and further aggravate the economic turmoil.

People might even say that Obama was not the right solution to the crisis. Perhaps we have been deluded into thinking that Obama is the solution.

However, no matter what happens, Obama has made history and that impact is bound to reverberate for years to come, and the world is already divided to “before and after Obama.”

As Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, “We woke up to a different America.”

It is interesting to note that the B.C. and A.D. dating system used by many in the world was designed to make the birth of Jesus the dividing point of world history.

Many other historic events have taken place in world history, but “before and after” do not follow every case. The 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States is a prime example. The U.S. has been shivering with fear and in utter distrust of the outside world years since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack.

Questions abound in the troubled minds of Americans. How deep was the hatred for America by the men who flew an airplane into the twin towers? Why did people have to jump to escape the flames? Where have the thousands of human bones gone?

Americans wept in despair at the sight of the collapsed buildings in New York. No doubt Obama wept as well in Chicago. Everyone was buried in grief and had a great distrust of the world.

I was working at the National Press Building as a special correspondent in Washington when anthrax was mailed to a number of Congressional offices and media outlets in October 2001.

Anthrax powder was sent to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Pat Leahy and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.

Five people were killed and 17 others fell ill. Despite the anthrax scare, I had to wade through piles of mail. I opened them and washed my hands in the washroom. I looked for a gas mask but they were out of stock. After a seven-year federal investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation zeroed in on a 62-year-old U.S. citizen suspected of mailing more than 120 packages marked “anthrax” to media outlets.

Surprisingly, he was not a professional terrorist but a leading anthrax researcher at the U.S. Army’s main biodefense laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

He killed himself just before he was about to be indicted for the anthrax murders last July.

In the winter of 2002, while I was finishing my term as a special correspondent, a sniper terrorized the Washington area, the marksman widely considered to be one of the most bizarre serial killers to date.

People were shot in a supermarket parking lot, in their gardens and at a gas station. As many as ten people died in three weeks.

I was scared to go outside. After several months, a black man and his stepson were arrested and charged with the killings.

They had fired shots through a hole in the side of their van while lying prone in the cargo compartment.

These two events highlight deep hatred within the United States rather than from abroad.

In the autumn of 2008, seven years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. cried, for joy this time.

Perhaps black people cried more than anyone else. TV footage showed a highly emotional civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, and an equally moved Oprah Winfrey, the American television host. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell cried with his wife, too.

They wept because they felt a renewed trust in the world, sensing that the fear and distrust of the Bush years was evaporating.

The German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said, “This is an historic event that is comparable to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.”

Only nine years have passed since the beginning of the new century. However, we have already seen two contrasting dramas: the terror of 9/11 and the joy of Obama.

The 21st century may well turn out to be more dramatic than the previous century, and become the most intensely experienced period in human history.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Kim Jin

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