The man who campaigned on a platform of hope has given us back the power to dream of better times afoot. I’m dreaming big: that this President will control Pharma with a firm hand, and that he will be a friend to alternative and complementary medicine. Hints positive are still the hazy stuff of dreams, but serve for some pleasant speculation:

  • Barack Obama repeatedly spoke of the need for “preventative medicine” on the campaign trail. While this can mean many things, it opens the door to altmed. Regardless, prevention makes the moguls of profiteering healthcare sweat.
  • The president-elect said he would like to overhaul the White House to become more “green”–if only to show folks that it’s not that hard.
  • His grandfather in Kenya was an herbalist. Due to his knack with plants, the elder was widely consulted by farmers in his region. (Dreams From My Father, Three Rivers Press, pp. 397,409). I mention this because if you’ve read his memoir, you know how deeply thoughtful he is about incorporating the best from his African heritage.
  • Obama’s plan to let Medicare negotiate with Pharma on drug pricing has the pharma-barons troubled. America is the biggest buyer of pharmaceuticals in the world–we pay double here for what they get in Britain, for example. On our soil, drug barons set the price and there is no haggling. But once Medicare discounts are in place to benefit senior citizens, the poor and disabled, other groups will want the same deal. This means less money in the coffers of an industry that feels it needs $800,000,000 just to launch ONE new drug.  Think ahead: if Big Pharma falls in clout and takes it place with other struggling businesses, will they have a lot of spare cash to keep trouncing alternative medicine? Won’t alternatives have some breathing room if Pharma can’t afford their flashy advertising and brainwashing of medical professionals?

But by far Obama’s most holistic attribute goes beyond “true bipartisanship” or “reaching across the aisle” –those catch-phrases that emphasize the perplexing duality of our political system. From the moment he picked Joe Biden for VP as someone to “challenge my thinking”…to quickly engaging a promise of John McCain’s help to “fix up the country”…to imploring former (bitter?) rival Hilary Clinton to represent the US abroad as Secretary of State…I see someone crafting the kind of unity only possible when egos are put aside to get the job done.

I remember once–it seems so long ago–being glued to news of the campaign as so many of us were. One night I watched some pundits puzzle over Obama’s lack of a quality they called “having a good time.”  It was clearly a euphemism, and at first I wasn’t sure what they were trying to say. “FDR had it, ” one mused, listing other past presidential candidates who conveyed a certain self-satisfied charisma.  A certain swaggering in the spotlight, full of oneself, relishing the role of the man of the moment. In the end, they could explain this quality no further, but were all certain that Obama lacked it.

“Ego!” I yelled at the screen. “He doesn’t have a giant ego!” And I was glad.

Our president-elect lacks nothing in confidence, assertiveness, drive. But it may be the lack of overbearing ego–rare for someone so large in the public eye–that will make Barack Obama emerge as the holistic healer of a nation.

I think of the best altmed practitioners I’ve known: not afraid to combine diverse modalities, to step out on a limb, to visit the cutting edge. The go for the root of a problem, seeing both deep and wide. Not only does Obama lean toward the green, he may know and embody another essential tenet of holism: the means are the end.

In the way he’s chosen fellow practitioners for healing this land, it seems that the whole is his goal–not just getting re-elected four years down the road.  He’s also installed a virtual town hall through www.change.gov, already asking citizens for their thoughts on energy and the environment. He even hints that he’ll be calling on us, the people, for more: faith, even sacrifice.

Because everyone is needed this time. The whole human race. And that’s the ultimate prescription for mending the web of life.

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