February 1, 2009
Why We Need A Movement to Work With President Obama to Achieve Fundamental Social and Political Change-
By Perry Stein
January 20, 2009, marked the first day of the Obama Administration. It should also signify the start of the American people’s struggle to insure that this Administration governs in a democratic and progressive manner.
Obama’s inauguration was in many ways a homage to the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The implication was that Lincoln provided bold and daring leadership that this President intends to emulate. However, history provides a more complex tale. Lincoln’s Presidency was initially, somewhat hesitantly, dedicated to the mere preservation of the union and the prevention of slavery’s introduction into new territories, not its ultimate abolition. In fact Lincoln upon his accession to the presidency supported the then pending Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which explicitly protected slavery in those states in where the “peculiar institution” already existed. It was only after years of agitation by freed blacks such as Frederick Douglass and white abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, that Lincoln was eventually moved to issue the Emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves in the areas of the South that were still in rebellion.
In Obama we have a worthy successor to Lincoln, FDR and John F. Kennedy, but the question must be asked, where are today’s popular movements for human and economic liberation? Fundamentally, are We the People prepared to assume our roles as shapers of human history?
I believe that we must admit that strong progressive movements aimed at raising a new and more expansive agenda are at this time depressingly weak.
Millions if not billions of dollars are still be wasted on foreign wars and over 730 US military bases are located throughout the world. And while I welcome President Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo and to increase our emphasis on finding diplomatic solutions to international conflicts, I am still concerned that his Administration plans to intensify the resource war in Afghanistan, a “war” that is just as immoral and not just unwinnable as was Bush’s aggression in Iraq. We must remember that every bomb that explodes over Iraq and Kabul directly kills people in the “theatre of aggression” but also indirectly kills people here at home who could have received needed services that have been diverted to the war crimes.
Some people believe that we already have a strong “movement” for social change. They will reference this or that “on-line movement”. I say there’s no crime in signing an on-line petition or “attending” a virtual meeting. But having worked in the governmental sector I can tell you that the people’s voice is only heard when it is loud, persistent and personal. Electing Barack Obama was a step in the right direction in our ongoing effort to transform America into Dr. King’s beloved community. Now comes the hard but most necessary step that involves revitalizing social movements that will transform American life and create a just society.
Am a former policy aide to three US Congressmen, including Benjamin Rosenthal on of the first ten representatives who oppossed the Vietnam War. Subsequently I worked as a policy analyst for the New York City Council. Where I prepared hearings on a variety of human services issues, including but not limited to mental health, health, veterans, and senior citizens.
Currently I am unemployed, a victim of bushenomics who intends to fight back, and wants to unite with all like minded people.