Obama



A friend recently asked me what I thought about Obama's recent speech at Hampton University in which he brought up the existence of "quiet riots" or bullets lodged in communities' limbs that have yet to be removed. Reminded me of Paul Street's writing: "The Pale Reflection: Barack Obama, MLK..." / "Odious Obama's Path to Hell".

I've been doing some back reading on the liberator lately and noticed the Feb. 2, 2007 post. I noticed that you mentioned that Obama has not shown any commitment to the issues and I was wondering what your thoughts were on his recent speech at Hampton University. He spoke among other things about "quiet riots" in the black community. I'm not really an Obama supporter (I haven't swung my support in any direction at this point), but i feel that in this speech he acknowledges a truth (however you phrase it) about the community's lack of unity, direction and access... but hope in the face of that. Funny that he labels it a quiet riot... the wording (whether intended or not) suggests a kind of non-strategic pacifism that has hindered our community for years. A pacifism that unfortunately is reinforced by the canonization (by "the powers that be") of MLK Jr. and the dismissal of the likes of Carmichael, Malcolm X and others. Anyway, I'm just wondering your thoughts if you had the time or even the interest in this particular story. I've enjoyed the insightful discussions on the site.

So I watched and read the speech, then revisited my own comments, then revisited the great writing at Black Agenda Report (who have been presenting the most honest and complete picture of Obama anywhere on the internet or in the media world)... and after all of that, I can't say my opinion of Obama has changed much.

The first thing I noticed when I was made aware of the speech, was that it took place at Hampton University, that historical bastion of black conservatism. Nothing wrong with that, but I got the sense that it was just a safe place for him to speak at. He's running for President though, so I guess safe is good.

See, what I think everyone on all sides must realize it that we'll never see a candidate with any chances of winning that represents the type of fundamental changes America needs, not with the way this country's media culture and economic culture have evolved. All you have to do is ask yourself, could a Cynthia McKinney ever win the presidency? So it's either you vote for the best of the worst or you don't vote. What I WOULD support is adding to the ballot a "none of the above" box! so that we could show the world how little confidence we have in the people we are asked to choose from to be our political representatives.

The best I can see us getting from Obama is exactly what Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton might deliver. I don't see any large differences between them. The stump speeches about prison-to-work programs (I thought Michael Moore's first film illustrated the failures of the welfare-to-work program?) and job training programs don't cut it. That's not what we need a president for. We need a president to get at the large systematic problems of a society. President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" program was a large attempt at systematic revolution. While insufficient, especially in it's inability to affect real change for black folks who were still being lynched (figuratively and non-figuratively speaking), it was a step in the right direction.

But those types of massive ideas supporting taking even baby steps in the direction of economic and political revolution are unheard of nowadays. Presidential candidates like Obama talk vaguely and unspecifically about youth corps, home nursing, "innovative new" job training, earned income tax credits, small business administrations, and pseudo-universal health care, while giving breaks to big corporations in class action suits, funding imperial wars, and failing to take a principled (even if politically alienating) stand to protect our domestic troops-slash-citizens who are fighting a war on poverty in post-Katrina New Orleans. What about their "body armor"? I don't want health care to be like my car insurance Mr. Obama -- basically being legally bound to buy it from some firm that overcharges me and keeps me in a perpetual state of fear to the point where I'm afraid to even use it because I know the premium is going to increase -- just so you can say that "everyone has health care", I want some truly affordable, I'm talkin like goodwill prices, or even (yes!) free health care.

What's good with some dental too? And youth corps and "innovative" job training don't even begin to address the problem of straight up racist hiring tactics that still exist in local governments all across this nation (an unfortunate shout out to Minneapolis and St. Paul). What's your stance on Affirmative Action? Where's your detailed agenda for how you're going to strengthen it and improve on it? What's your stance on Reparations? Where's your detailed agenda for how you're going to build on John Conyers little fact finding mission and begin to propose specific ways that the federal government can enact and implement this policy? What about the 700+ military bases that we occupy around the world? Are you just trying to address poverty in a safe unconnected way that remains acceptable to the capitalist ethic? Or are you willing to take the step that Martin Luther King Jr. took and connect the racism, poverty, militarism and materialism of America and stress that until these are all addressed as interconnected issues this nation will continue to die a slow death from its inherent flaws?

I'm really not sure what "quiet riot" really means. I get the gist of it, that communities are ticking time bombs waiting to blow. But still... I'm also not sure that non-strategic pacifism is what has been going on in America's cities. What I really see looking at recent history is people being pressured into and indeed selling out revolutionary agendas for revisionist ones, simple and plain. And ironically, even though Martin Luther King is canonized as a castrated figure, at the very least by the end of his life, he shunned all non-revolutionary visions for changing America. So it's almost as we have two Martin Luther Kings, kinda like we have different versions of Jesus, depending on who's telling the story -- I dayum sure know that the pope is not my "vicar" (substitute) for christ on earth.

The reason why Obama's speeches don't resonate with me is because I'm clear on the fundamental issues that I want to see acknowledged and addressed. I admit, when you first listen to him, his words are often quite touching. He is definitely not an average orator. But if we are even vaguely familiar with what must happen in America in order to see real change then we are less likely to be emotionally manipulated by anyone's rhetoric. We cannot afford to take for granted the experiences of those who came before us. We can't get sudden amnesia and think that the evolution in the political philosophies of DuBois, Martin, Malcolm, Stokley and others occurred in a vacuum of their times. These evolutions are most relevant in these times, we ought to study them in detail and learn from them. These people learned lessons after going through the same struggles with these realities and how to begin to really address them that we are going through. Those lessons ought not be dismissed. There's no need to reinvent any wheels.

For those seriously interested in Obama please, please, please read this article by Paul Street for some of the best analysis on him I've read yet. And lastly, let's refer to a short piece of scripture for some clarity and instruction in these days of blurred agendas and doublespeak:

"The black revolution is much more than the struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws - racism, poverty, militarism and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced... White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical change in the structure of our society. / "For years I labored under the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there... now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values" (martin luther king, jr.)


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