Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The audacity of false hope

I’m finding it harder and harder to understand progressive and radical-identified people who continually voice their hopes for the Obama administration, hopes that I can’t see as anything other than delusional. Like, for example, the hope that Obama will do something to halt genocidal Israeli policies, even though his policies on Israel are to the right of every recent administration. Or the hope that he’ll do something about health care, other than giving more money to the insurance companies destroying everyone’s lives. Or the hope that he’ll end the US occupation of Iraq in any substantive way, unless perhaps he runs out of troops because he sends them all to Afghanistan or other US incursions. With the Obama administration filled with Zionist crazies, it’s quite possible that US troops might be fighting alongside their Israeli counterparts.

I don’t have a problem if someone looks at Obama’s actual positions, and says maybe he won’t appoint a right-wing anti-choice homophobe to the Supreme Court, which quite possibly might distinguish him from his predecessor. Unless, of course, Rick Warren is looking for a job…

Speaking of Rick Warren, there’s the argument voiced by delusional progressives and radicals that Obama is “bridging the divide”—the divide between the right wing and the Democratic establishment, I guess, or between Obama’s funders and the “progressives” who voted for him. Bridging the divide means never doing anything on principle, which is certainly what we’ve seen from the Democratic Congress over the last few years. More of the same would be an understatement.

So it continues to stun me when I hear all of this hope about Obama, when will it end? I mean, it hasn’t ended yet, even after he’s appointed every Clinton administration lackey he can get his hands on to key places in his administration – oh, right, he’s looking for people with experience, yes experience… Just like the Wall Street bailout couldn’t help but involve the same people siphoning billions away from the US public, right – they’ve got experience! This false hope didn’t end when Obama decided to support offshore drilling, “clean coal” and potential use of the nuclear option (energy or otherwise). This false hope didn’t even end when Obama decided to keep CIA war criminal Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense – oh, right, well you do need experience with war crimes to work as Secretary Of Defense!

And now, when Obama refuses to say anything about the Israeli annihilation of Gaza, because apparently “you can’t have two Presidents at once” (of course Dick Cheney knows that – oh, wait, where is Dick Cheney’s position in the new administration?), Obama supporters say wait until January 20, everything will change on January 20! Meanwhile, former Congresswoman and Green party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney headed out on a boat to try and deliver relief supplies to the Gaza Strip – sounds like experience to me. But wait – she may not have experience in embezzlement, war crimes, or Clintonian economics -- next!

When a new friend recently mentioned to me that going to DC for this inauguration would feel so different from previous years, I assumed this friend would be protesting – yes, I thought, the protests will be different because the protesters will be more rigorous in their analysis, more committed to their defiance! But then, of course, I realized this friend was talking about celebrating the inauguration. What fascinates me is the way that Obama continues to move to the right without pressure from the right – and people on the left keep clapping their hands with all the audacity they can muster.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

This is a comment from Hilary Goldberg that I accidentally rejected:

Okay so Panetta is against torture but Blair is for violating human rights...do you think Obama is just picking names out of a hat? A hat of pain! Sigh.

Love this blog post, glad you are calling it like you see it.

By the way, what do you think Obama is going to do about police brutality shooting at the Fruitvale station?

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

And now my response:

Good point, where did Obama get that hat, that hat of pain? Wait, am I wearing Obama's hat?

As for Fruitvale, my guess is that there can't be two Presidents at once, right?

Love --

stephen said...

Part of me hopes that the Rick Warren "friendship" is just a machiavellian scheme on Obama's part but I really really doubt it!

My dad was/is friends with Rick Warren and I've met the dude before and he is a fucking asshole! Just like my old man. It terrifies me to know that people like my Dad STILL have power over my life. I thought I turned 18 and left? I thought after getting out of that nightmare I'd be free to be whoever I wanted to be however I wanted to be, NOPE.

I'm down to protest!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, no -- it's even scarier when you've met these scary people in person, and they don't even succeed at not seeming scary (including your dad, of course)!!!

I haven't heard much about the protests for the inauguration yet, guess I'll have to do some research...

Love --

Tony said...

Mattilda darling! As you might remember, I was a very outspoken supporter of Obama during the run up to and a few weeks after the election.

However, my position has most definitely changed. I have almost always understood electoral politics to be a tool of the elite - a short of way to legitimize their power, their privilege. And yes, I do still feel that Obama's presidency is a revolutionary injection into that system - a "disindentifactory" (Munoz) process whereby a minoritarian subject (a person of color) enters the majoritarian public sphere. Yes this is good, yes this is a start - but it is as if Obama opened the door to new social spaces (leftist spaces) and didn't come through with the rest of us - we are all in the room going, "so where did Obama go?"

I hope this is making some sense - what I am trying to say is that I think Obama changed the symbolism of our deeply racist nation in a small way - but that a lot more must be done - including criticizing/pushing him, radicalizing the many people he politicized, and pushing to overthrow or disidentify with the oppressive world in which we live.

Btw, I have been sharing your post and it is getting traction with my friends on facebook - I didn't see this on Queer Today, could you post it there too - or perhaps have Mark do it.

Thank you for being a CONSTANT breathe of fresh in the oppressive and stuffy world of the mundane!

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Tony, thanks for your sweet comment -- it's always great to see people's views change, I mean when they're changing in interesting ways...

The problem with symbolism is that sometimes it covers up the fact that no substantive change is actually happening.

I don't think I know Mark (or Queer Today), but I will go have a look...

Love --

Sex Et Veritas said...

I agree about the problems of putting too much hope for radical political change in the Obama administration - he is a politician after all, and while more to the left of the last president, not too far to the left at all. He is a centrist no doubt.

But when I read things like this that are almost totally dismissive of the - for lack of a better word - figurehead potential of Obama's election and future presidency, I can't help but see the privilege behind that dismissal.

I am a woman of color... and work with (mostly black) youth of color... and the hope that Obama's candidacy and election has brought about them is very tangible, very real. I would like to think that I am not so condescending & racist as to simply presume this hopefulness and inspiration is merely naivete or misguidedness. A figurehead doesn't serve every function, but it can also be a source of strength.

No, Obama isn't radical, and of course his election doesn't mean the "death of racism." But I do have a problem with others on the left, their tendency to automatically dismiss that there are good aspects to the election of Obama, and that it *is* very different. When will the Left ever consider black people good enough?

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Sex et Veritas, thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment! I think that in some ways I am privileging my own (radical-identified, direct action-experienced, queer and white) perspective. This piece is, of course, specifically addressed as a critique of radical and progressive-identified people who continue to voice hopes for Obama that I believe are not grounded in his actual record or policy suggestions. Part of this delusional hope, I believe, lies in a willingness for progressives to allow Obama more space because of the symbolism that his election as a black man represents. To me, this actually furthers structural racism more than Obama’s election challenges it.

I’m not sure about the ages of the youth who you work with, but my guess is that you are a much more substantive role model/inspiration for them than Barack Obama. I don’t think I believe in figureheads, but it is heartening to hear of this inspiration you witness – I certainly hope it can continue.