This past Saturday, local peace activists (including myself) held a rally and march in support of the people suffering in Gaza. At the march were four or five speakers – two of whom made me think. There were also a number of counter-protestors who completely (like most people who blindly support war) misunderstood what we were trying to do. Three or four of them were 20-year-old kids looking for fights, but most of them were adults with the ability to be rational. A number of us talked with a number of the adults – including a former Israeli soldier and his wife – and some progress was made. The next day – yesterday – there was a talk in Boulder by Rabbi Michael Lerner and a couple of other folks, followed by a number of us having a conversation at a local Chinese restaurant. All of these things made me think, and I have much to write, but I’m going to need some time to digest and sort it all.
Today I’d like to talk about the man who is eight days away from becoming the next President of the United States of America- Mr. Barrack Obama. Michel Lerner has been having conversations with Obama for between fifteen and twenty years now, and guaranteed us that Obama is not as cold as he has seemed in the news lately. He mentioned that in their conversations Obama was very understanding of the fact that Israel is occupying Palestine, Hamas was democratically elected, there needs to be a fair solution, and that the US cannot blindly back – especially with weapons of mass destruction – either side. He mentioned the same thing that I’ve been hearing (and have said) a lot: Obama has a liberal mind and knows the difference between right and wrong, but is unable to act on anything he knows is right unless we the people force him. I can understand if he needs a movement in order to do something about gay marriage or universal healthcare, but he should be able – hell, he should be forced – to speak out against genocide because his conscience should not allow him to be silent. Instead, he says one thing to one group of people (the Spiritual Progressives) and another thing to a different group (AIPAC).
One of Obama’s biggest promises during his historic run was that – within the first 100 days of his presidency – he would shut down Guantanamo Bay. I understand that there are people inside Guantanamo who are guilty of some kind of crime and I understand that even those who are innocent may have nowhere to go, but that shouldn’t matter. Those who can be proven guilty (without using evidence obtained through torture) should be brought to trial, and those who have nowhere to go should have a place found for them since our country has just taken away years of their lives. These are solutions that need to be found by the President and the people who he appointed to key positions. It is now eight days before Obama takes office and he has already backtracked enormously about what he plans to do regarding Guantanamo. Glenn Greenwald discusses this, but not really until you get to the update section.
The enormous amounts of people who rose up and organized in order to elect Obama have now become deafingly silent. All the people that I saw running around my campus inviting people to Obama meetings, knocking on doors to register voters, and preaching Obamaness every chance they got are now nowhere to be seen. They are mostly either banging their heads against the wall and wondering what they did or telling us that Obama ran on hope, so that’s all we need to do. As one of my favorite writers, Arthur Silber, says:
Let it be noted that “hope” of this kind — hope which disregards history, even very recent history, and which eagerly discards genuinely serious political analysis as “cynical” or “irresponsible” — is an exceedingly dangerous gateway drug, which may in time lead its users and countless truly innocent victims into a hell on earth beyond our worst imaginings.
Although what the tiny amount of hope I had that Obama was different, is now all but gone, I still feel like he doesn’t deserve all the blame. It’s the millions of people who proved that they aren’t just lazy USers who vote once every four years and then complain or obey, but rather that they have the ability to stand up and make something happen. The same people who get the credit for registering new voters, driving seniors to the polls, and making sure that everyone’s vote is counted… but then went back to sleep as soon as that portion of the job was done, are the people who share at least half the blame with Obama. The people who don’t understand that in order to make it to the position of President of the United States – no matter how likeable someone seems – there has to be a bit of lying and deceiving, are the people who will have the most blood on their hands.