A week ago Saturday, I attended a rally with my compadres of Veterans For Peace. The keynote speaker, an energetic and likeable black cleric, gave a stimulating presentation, generally on the evils of conflict and the need for peace, but also upon the hopes that the citizens now nurtured, centered on our new President. A government led by leaders many of us saw as detrimental if not treacherous had been supplanted by leadership that promised decency and restoration of constitutionality in this once world's oldest democracy.
It is highly doubtful that anyone in our small audience had preferred Bush Inc. or the candidacy of McCain-Palin to President Obama. And I believe that all there -- regardless of perhaps other preferences in political personalities -- would solidly endorse the proposition that a barrier had thankfully been surmounted, race had been rightly and finally left in the wake of the struggle for equality of political opportunity, or at least that this precedent augured substantial hope for such.
But – a cloud descended, not upon the scene but upon my general approval of what our speaker's perspective offered -- all of which I viewed as positive except for a personal twinge of intrepidation. Could our speaker's emphasis on the beneficial advancement of racial equality in our political process and the hopes he wrapped it in possibly affect his critical faculties in assessing the actual performance of our new government? Was it possible that the black community – traditionally at the vanguard of the progressive political struggle – could, however understandably, put that sense of identity and community ahead of the critical evaluation of America's leadership now so desperately needed to be continued? In short, were hope, promise and identity to supplant reality?
In the view of many of the liberal persuasion, our new President has not had as good a start as we may have expected. Yes, his tenure is yet short, but there are disturbing signs. He has waffled on his earlier goal of ending the debacle in Iraq in sixteen months, and has advanced the cause for 50,000 noncombatant (?) warriors to remain (until?) On top of this, we got his Bushian "surge" plan for Afghanistan, history's paragon of a people who have never been conquered (ask the Russians, ask the Brits, ask Alexander the Great). And please, let's have no more of this spreading freedom and democracy treacherous nonsense.
President Obama's promise to close Guantanamo was followed more quietly by the program to transfer its abusive functions to Bagram in Afghanistan, his lawyers arguing in court to support that legal and personal abuse there would be somehow more appropriate than at the island site.
As for the president's appointments, there are questions of the competency, backgrounds and even motives of his Secretary of the Treasury and of his chief financial advisor. Are the inept and the guilty in charge of the trillions bailing out the inept and the guilty, the foxes in charge of the hen house? One of these fellows (now the highest financial officer of the land!) it seems had even "erred" (then endeavored to finesse the audit, then paid up just prior to ordering his new federal office furniture) in reporting his income tax, as did several other presidential nominees for high offices of trust.
All and all, this menu has made many of my liberal friends a bit queasy, and awondering if we'll ever get to the end of this kind of stuff in our government. And now some do wonder if we will lose the energetic support and the kick-back on such issues as these that we have relied upon from the black electorate.
In view of our real history of ethnic discrimination and of the intolerance yet evident in our professional and social worlds, many of the liberal persuasion are reluctant to surface the question or to couch it in any but the most delicate nuance. But this issue, among others, is one that must be addressed if we are to stem the current courses of privilege, ineptitude and rottenness that have metastasized within our government since...well, since perhaps 1980 and the Reagan theatrics.
The question is simply: Will the black electorate experience such identity and relief with President Obama that they will rely upon mere trust and hope, or will they, as they have traditionally, remain at the forefront of critical evaluation of our government, of reform, and to demand that – regardless of other influences – our government always must honestly endeavor to Do The Right Thing.
Let's hope we're possessed to Do the Right Thing.