Dear Barack



After all the critique I went ahead and voted for you. It's because I realize that if this American experiment is to be improved at all, history tells us that the people will need to be a part of the process. For most of my adult life, my peers "we the people" have largely been apathetic. Some of us looking back at the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement with nostalgia, others so disillusioned with the idea of improving our lives via collective action that they don't look back at all.

I realize that for many hard working folks -- folks whose thoughts are mainly occupied with what to cook for dinner each night and what not to forget to do at work the next morning -- even in such historical eras, for these folks voting has and probably will always be one of the primary ways of concretely contributing to organized movements, certainly more than protests. Not because voting itself gets things done in America, but because it raises people's expectations and helps cure apathy. And that is a step towards getting back on track. A step towards restoring hope in the idea of organizing, of community. Because there can be no real change without real community.

I realize that, for my generation, curing apathy is a necessary elementary step. I realize that we have nowhere near the type of independent collective momentum that the Civil Rights and Black Power generations had. I realize those generations weren't perfect, but I also realize they were much further along than us -- despite Denzel's and Halle's Oscars -- because of the strength and number of their collective spaces. I'd take the misogyny of Huey Newton over the misogyny of 50 Cent any day.

I now realize that it's not about perfect leaders, it's about a commitment to an imperfect community. And at least Huey had that going for him. Can't say the same for Curtis.

We've only lost collective spaces in the times since those eras. The government's domestic counterintelligence programs, crack cocaine, cruel and unusual sentencing guidelines, the capitalization of our culture, disillusionment with our religions and with our spirituality.

We've only become more individualistic. We've only become "more American", instead of making America become "more us". But if we're to even imagine building momentum (that is, those of us who are still here; I've contemplated leaving many times and still may someday soon) this is where it has to start.

Most of all I realize that you're not a real leader, Barack -- you're a catalyst. There's nothing wrong with that, but there is a difference.

I realize that part of my challenge is to help turn the superficial marketing-based organization that you've created into real collective organization. In that sense, I realize that I could use someone like you in the White House to help further that cause, whether you accompany me all the way or not.

After all the critique, I went ahead and voted for you, Barack. But the real work -- however elementary -- continues tomorrow.


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