Thursday, November 06, 2008
Obama gives us the opportunity for change
by Larry Geller
. . . but first he has to break his campaign promises.
Here’s a letter from William F. Brabenec to Danny Schechter that appeared in his emailing today (and here):
"Yesterday wasn't an election for a new president.
For most Americans, black skin had little to do with the event.
Yesterday was a revolt.
Tuesday was a classic revolution.
Instead of muskets firing powder and shot, Americans Tuesday fired their .50 caliber ballots. They stormed the precincts and raised the original American flag over every polling booth in the land.
Americans revolted against Corporate America and against Wall Street and against the Federal Reserve and against Big Pharm and against the Power Elite and against Big Money and against all the social leaches who suck the financial blood from the 95% of people in this great land who struggle every day to live.
Americans didn't vote for President Obama because he was black. Americans didn't really vote for a president. They revolted - once again - to be free.
O say, can you see our flag finally flying without the dollar signs of corporatism in place of the stars! Without the banner of Empire flying over the White House! It's been a long time coming. But it's here.
Now, let's put our house in order and clean, reload and cock our ballots for the next attack.
And there will be a next one.”
It was really wonderful. I let myself be happy, even euphoric, a whole day yesterday. Barack Obama elected president! Really, cause for celebration. At the same time, unlike young people who accept this great milestone quite easily, I found myself concerned that Obama make it safely to inauguration day. Because really, there are those who are not celebrating, and a few who are likely to be hatching plots against his life.
I tried to remember where I was on April 4, 1968, when Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was in the evening, so most likely I was home, but in those days I often worked late. I just can’t remember.
I know where I was when the Rodney King verdict came down (young folks can google for the history). It was another April day, April 29, 1992. Los Angeles was in flames when an all-white jury acquitted police officers accused of beating black motorist Rodney King. I was visiting New York, and businesses were shutting down early, afraid that the rioting would spread from LA to other cities. A friend and I did an intervention at a New York City school to give the students a chance to express their anger and outrage in a safe way. We were accosted on the subway later, and my mind is blank on how I talked our way out of likely harm. Even right after the incident, I couldn’t remember what it was that I said, but training sure paid off!
Or, last personal story, how I drove a black commentator home from radio station WBAI to 9th Avenue one evening and noticed that we were being followed by white cars with rifles out the windows. I thought at first that it was umbrellas being used to scare us, but no, they were real guns. Yes, in those days struggle was very real. It still is today, and for people of color, often a matter of life and death even as a black man prepares to enter the White House.
Oh, it goes on and on, including most recently the case of the Jena Six. Black children faced with a noose at school!
Though it’s 2008, this country of ours still has no shortage of racists, white supremacists and bigots. Given that he is an uppity African-American trying to break into the White House, it was a natural tactic for John McCain to pile on other reasons why he should never be allowed into our white world. McCain took advantage of simmering hatred at rallies when he encouraged supporters to believe that Obama is a terrorist, a socialist, even a communist and traitor. He was accused of supporting voting fraud (by those actively suppressing the vote!), and so threatening the very fabric of democracy. McCain clearly fanned the flames of hatred for his own benefit.
The crowd booed Obama at McCain’s concession speech. What McCain started cannot easily be undone. The seeds that were sown continue to bear ugly fruit on right-wing hate radio, blogs, and in newspapers. Obama won, so the hatred in many people is even stronger than had he lost.
Thanks to McCain, Palin and their Republican supporters, Obama’s life is in danger. The assembled crowd clearly wanted to hate him. We can’t hear the boos of the television audience. Some will own guns. Some will know how to use them. Some believe that demographics, that is, the rising number of people of color in this country, accounted for his election, and that his election is a symptom of a growing problem that is now out of control.
So our first responsibility (though how a citizen exercises it I don’t know) is to keep Barack Obama and his family safe.
The next task may be to realize our own dreams. Some of Obama’s campaign promises, if kept, would put him to the right of George Bush. He wants to invade Pakistan. He wants to move more troops into Afghanistan, where the war is probably already lost. He promised Israel that Jerusalem will be the capitol of Israel.
He’s also just offered the position of his chief of staff to a man, Rahm Emanuel, who is at the extreme right of the Democratic Party on mid-East policy.
There’s some good reading along this line. The first is from Professor Johan Galtung, who was a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii many years ago. I’ll snip a little, and suggest you click over to it and read the whole thing:
Yes, it is. The race barrier broken, the referendum on the 43d US president, George W. Bush won overwhelmingly, there will be a basic change in the image of the United States of America all over the world. People around the world love to love USA, warts and all. Bush made it impossible for most, Obama makes it easy, natural. The biggest win for a Democratic candidate in popular votes since 1964, a landslide in electoral votes, a one party country, President-Senate-House united. The road is open.
Prof. Galtung mentions a paper by psychoanalyst Ramon Lopez-Reyes that was publicly presented on the evening of November 4 to a gathering of students and followers. I recall Lopez-Reyes’ observation that McCain’s speeches were characterized by his repeated use of the word “fight” while Obama repeatedly used “march”. Marching is something we all can do, indeed, it was a series of civil rights marches that brought us to this happy day when a black man can be elected president. Perhaps the point is that we still need to march, this is just a beginning.
Next is today’s Democracy Now, which you can still catch at 10 p.m today on channel 56 on Oahu or at their website: President-Elect Obama and the Future of US Foreign Policy: A Roundtable Discussion. Here’s the intro:
Congratulations pour in from around the world for President-elect Barack Obama after his historic victory Tuesday night. But what are Obama’s foreign policy positions, and what are the concerns for those living in countries at the target end of US foreign policy? We host a roundtable discussion with filmmaker and investigative journalist John Pilger in Britain, Columbia University professor and Africa scholar Mahmood Mamdani, Laura Carlsen of the Center for International Policy in Mexico City, Iraqi analyst Raed Jarrar, Pakistani author Tariq Ali, and Palestinian American Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada.
Don’t miss this:
MELISSA CLOUTHIER: By which I mean, get down off that cross, because we need to burn it, on someone's front lawn.
Sam Smith (Progressive Review) may sound harsh, but that’s only because, I think, he is experienced enough to take a pragmatic view of Obama’s candidacy and election victory, whereas I admit to still being caught up in the wonder of Obama’s remarkable victory. Again, I suggest reading the entire article:
As James Krichick wrote in the New Republic, "Obama is, in his own words, something of a Rorschach test. In his latest book, The Audacity of Hope, he writes, 'I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.' "
This is remarkably similar to Ted Koppel's description of Vanna White of TV's Wheel of Fortune: "Vanna leaves an intellectual vacuum, which can be filled by whatever the predisposition of the viewer happens to be."
Obama has left the same kind of vacuum. His magic, or con, was that voters could imagine whatever they wanted and he would do nothing to spoil their reverie. He was a handsome actor playing the part of the first black president-to-be and, as in films, he was careful not to muck up the role with real facts or issues that might harm the fantasy. Hence the enormous emphasis on meaningless phrases like hope and change. [Can we talk about the real Obama now?, 11/5/2008]
Sam Smith frankly describes what he sees in Obama based on his record.
This last article is rich, complex and a good starting point for our marches that lie ahead. And march we must, because this election solves nothing, but gives us possibilities that we would not have had if the outcome had been different. We still need to end the wars, get universal health care, fix the economy, and accomplish all the things that needed accomplishment on November 3rd.