I find reading the discussions of Obama here and over at thefreeslave quite amusing. Since his win in Iowa (and he is predicted to win today in New Hampshire), and surge in the polls, there is a renewed (or maybe it just more focussed and serious) debate of whether his nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate or even win of the Presidency would be advantageous for African-Americans. As an outsider here in Canada looking through the window of America, this is my take on some of the issues in the discussions surrounding Obama, voting and “Revolution American Style”.
In general, I have always been amazed of how much African-Americans have primarily thrown all their eggs into the basket of the Democratic Party. I shake my head at the emotionally charged and irrational polarization between Blacks who support the Democratic and Republican Party, signified by the back and forth name-calling which I have observed, which has only benefited the “divide and conquer” strategy of the dominant society well. Even within the Afrosphere, I have seen Black bloggers, some of our brightest and best, who self-label themselves as “progressives”, quit working coalitions with other Black bloggers, because they didn’t want to be associated with those who identify themselves as Republicans! Ridiculous and shameful!
Which leads me to convey to those who think Obama’s election will benefit African-Americans in any real, significant way… I say that you are setting yourself up for disappointment. He is no “Black Messiah” who will take you to paradise; He is no “Black Moses” who will lead you to the “Promised Land”; He is certainly no “Martin or Malcolm”, who is willing to “sacrifice” himself (literally nor figuratively) by taking on the establishment.
First of all, he is primarily a liberal media creation… who is currently riding a wave. I remember first hearing his name during the 2000 Democratic convention when he gave his much heralded speech and he was referred to, by the media, as “the rising star within the Democratic Party”. I wondered at the time, who was this guy as I had never heard of him before… and I also remember my wariness that the “White” establishment, through their propaganda machine had proclaimed him as one of their own.
Now don’t get it twisted… Obama can ride this current wave all the way to the Presidency! It has been done many times before throughout history. Adolf Hitler was an unknown, much ridiculed and seen as having no chance to win the Chancellory of Germany, when a wave of voter dissatisfaction with the status quo and anger over the outcome of a war, propelled him to power. Now I am not equating what Obama is all about with Hitler… he is certainly not a nazi or fascist and I believe he is sincerely committed in his own way, to do what he believes is best for America (that’s the “key”). But what I am saying very simply is that being an accomplished and inspirational orator and tapping into the pulse of the people at the right time in history, can very easily propel one into power… due to “style” rather than “substance”.
Listening to Obama, he makes it clear for those who want to hear it, that he is not for “Black America” nor “White America”, he is not for Democrats nor Republicans, he is not for “Red States” nor “Blue States”, but he shouts from the mountain top that he is for the “United States of America”. Reading between the lines and decoding his politicospeak: he is for maintaining the status quo and reassures White Corporate America especially, that they have nothing to fear from him. They got the message. They read the memo. They had the foresight to fund his campaign! Sure if elected President he will bring about changes, but nothing that will significantly upset the proverbial “apple cart of white privilege”. Which means that for African-Americans in particular, he will provide you with more crumbs from the “American Pie”, even larger pieces of the crumbs… but crumbs none the less.
The other issue is one of voting. At one end of the spectrum, there are those who see it as pointless, an exercise in futility, that we are only fooling ourselves that our votes can bring any significant change to the system. At the other end, some believe that participation is important. That by voting we make our voices/choices count for something… individually and collectively. Along with this argument is the view that our vote is sacred, due to the blood spilt by our ancestors who struggled for that right. So it’s our duty. I remember hearing this quote by Ice-T back in the day: “if voting could change anything they would outlaw it”. I also like the quote by Stalin, which thefreeslave referenced: “Joseph Stalin said quite accurately that those who vote decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything.”
I believe that voting in and of itself is necessary, but it is not enough to empower us or bring about any significant changes in America (or in any so-called “Western democracy” for that matter.) AND it’s insane to blindly give permanent support to any political party. Here in Canada, we have 3 main parties, the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats (who are a left-wing party). The Liberals have historically garnered the majority of the immigrant vote, with a significant minority share going to the New Democrats. Depending on the issues at the time, I have voted for the Liberals or the Conservatives, in either the provincial or federal election. I have voted federally for one and provincially for the other. (I would never vote for the New Democrats because I detest yuppie socialists.) Along with voting, as a people, it is imperative that we individually and collectively take charge of our affairs and empower ourselves, particularly at the grassroots and/or local level. Social, economic, cultural as well as political participation is the formula for our success.
As an aside, let me here state that I don’t hold to the opinion that the last 2 Presidential elections were stolen by Bush. It was given away to him by the DEMOCRATS and the American people! First, if the scene in the Michael Moore movie “Fahrenheit 9/11” is correct, that the Black Democratic congresspersons failed to get ONE Democratic Senator, which they needed to support their motion to nullify the 2000 Presidential election, if this is true… then they (the Democrats) gave it away to him. Second, we have seen in other countries around the world… recently in Kenya… how the people take to the streets when they feel that an election has been rigged. In a lot of ways, politics in these countries are considered a matter of life and death and democracy is worth dying for. While in America, it’s all about “panem et circences”. There is more concern about the latest Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan/Paris Hilton exploits, more interest about the new season of American Idol/Survivor, the latest software and songs you can download on your cell phone or “crackberry” , Dr. Phil and the ______ playoffs (insert whichever sport you want), than the fairness of the political process.
Finally, I have always wondered why Black people who live in America and claim that it is an “imperialistic, militarist, racist, fascist police state”, continue to live there. Every day you awake and take a breath, you are helping to perpetuate that “diabolical” system. There are many places in Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America where one could go and live. It takes a certain amount of personal sacrifice and committed revolutionary spirit, to make such a jump. However the question is: “would you rather be a victim of capitalism or a victim of imperialism?” The reality is that there is a certain amount of comfort and protection that comes with being a victim of home-grown capitalism and it’s difficult to sacrifice this comfort and security, and yes, intellectual privilege, which comes with being an advocate of “Revolution American-Style”.
For whatever it’s worth, this is my unobstructed view from north of the 49th parallel.