The Need to Speak Honestly
It is essential to speak honestly and accurately about all this. Only by confronting reality as it actually is, can we determine how it can be transformed in ways that are both possible and desirable. Conversely, if we insist on deceiving ourselves—and worse yet, deceiving others—then we will continue to find ourselves standing by in impotent frustration as this country continues on its bloody, criminal course.
The reality is the situation is extremely dire. Millions on this planet, and many future generations, are imperiled because of what the U.S. government is doing in our names: the torture, the massive spying, the refusal to acknowledge or take meaningful action to stem global warming, the Gestapo-style round-ups of immigrants, the assaults on women’s most fundamental rights, the vicious resurgence of racism, and especially the wars.
Further, the reality is that all this was sanctioned and codified, not stopped or even slowed, through people’s participation in “politics-as-usual.”
To name just one example, in 2006 millions gave money, volunteered time, and voted for the Democrats out of a desire to see an end to the whole Bush trajectory. What did this “victory” lead to? A Congress that has voted six times to approve war funding, actively participated in covering up torture and protecting war criminals, and secretly funding covert military operations already afoot within Iran’s “sovereign” borders.
Is it any wonder that so many have become profoundly alienated from this sh*t?
And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Potentially, it is a profoundly good thing; but this alienation is far from enough, and left to itself will turn to cynicism, despair, and passivity. What is needed is for this to go further, and for these people to come forward in political resistance that is broad, deep, and determined enough to stop this whole direction.
In the face of this urgent need, why should anyone celebrate if Obama, holding the positions that he actually holds, “re-engages” these people back into the killing confines of his “politics-as-usual”? This is like congratulating the Pied Piper for how his beautiful flute-playing attracts the town’s children, disregarding that this is leading them to the bottom of a river.
But Doesn’t He HAVE to Listen?
But what of the letter’s argument that Obama has to listen to them because he cannot afford to “weaken the movement whose vigorous backing [he] needs in order to win...”?
Once again, perhaps the best answer to this comes from the candidate himself.
Responding to angry supporters who complained about his FISA vote, he wrote, “[S]ome of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker. That’s ok. But I think it is worth pointing out that our agreement on the vast majority of issues that matter outweighs the differences we may have.… Make no mistake: if John McCain is elected, the fundamental direction of this country that we love will not change.”
In other words, he knows full well that as long as people’s eyes are focused on Who’s Going To Be President progressive people have “no alternative” but to vote for him.
And, while the letter writers pledge to challenge Obama, if elected, on the positions they don’t agree with, the actual effect of their letter and their logic is to promise not to challenge Obama too much now. This is a logic echoed by all too many; as one prominent anti-war activist recently told me, explaining why her group wasn’t putting more effort into protests at the Democratic National Convention, “We’re going to shut the f..k up until he gets elected.” This is certainly NOT what the anti-war movement should be doing at a time when the rulers of the country are actively preparing a new war—a war against Iran that Obama has made clear he’d support.
You see, even as they criticize Obama for his FISA vote, already by the next paragraph the letter writers are smoothing this over by acknowledging that “compromise is necessary in any democracy… the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense.”