I’ve just listened to President Obama’s victory speech and of course I am aware that the way he presents himself, his general understanding of what the United States of America is supposed to represent and his resolve to work towards those ideals is never less than impressive. He is a sophisticated, charismatic leader, a diplomat in every sense of the word and there is no doubt that had the other guy got in (can’t even bear to name him), we would have been looking backwards on very basic rights that have been hard fought for in the modern western world, women’s rights, gay rights, civil and welfare rights, basic agreements about how a nation should function as a community of people who help each other, not to mention the thought of the other guy presiding as the commander in chief over a very unstable military and foreign policy at a time when we need to lower, not raise, the tension in the world.
Having said that, no one should be under any illusion that the reason Barack Obama won is for anything else than because he best represents the interests of the banks and large corporations who control the economy of the United States of America as well as the military-industrial complex President Dwight D Einsenhower warned the American people about way back in 1961.
As the great New York comedian/visionary George Carlin used to say, elections are about giving people the illusion of choice every four years, though, it must be said, people always have it within their power to change their political destiny if they desire it and are willing to work together to make that change. But they have to see the bigger picture and the bigger picture here is the power of Wall Street and the national security state to control the parameters of political debate of both the Republicans and Democrats. As well as the limits of political discourse, the continual mention in this speech (in fact all the speeches that leading presidential candidates make) of a divinely-inspired patriotism that shines only on the United States of America continues to alienate the rest of the world. How can we move on from that delusion of a patriarchal God that favours flags and one nation to the true democracy of an interconnected world of human beings?
So, congratulations to Barack Obama; I’m glad it wasn’t the other guy. Now he has his second term, unencumbered by worries of re-election, will Obama close Guantanamo Bay, free Bradley Manning, end the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and focus on resolving the tension between Israel, Palestine and Iran, will Obama restore the civil rights that have been eroded over the past 10 years and bring universal health care to his country? All the evidence suggests he will do no such thing. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that he is presiding over one of the most repressive regimes in America’s short history. His smooth and charismatic persona has actually served the military-industrial complex far better in the past four years than Bush’s cowboy persona managed in his two terms. The sophistication and the understandable popularity of an American president of African heritage with traditional supporters of civil rights has served as a giant fig leaf over human rights abuses that are intensifying, at home and in the many countries the United States is currently occupying.
Yes, Obama is up against powerful interests working against any notion of restoring democracy and justice to the United States and the world, he is up against a cynical media backed by corporate interests with sinister political aims. If by any chance President Obama really is who many hopeful people believe him to be, he only has another four years to prove them right and restore some sense of justice in a world ravaged by the post-9/11 response of the Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney era.
But if he continues to suppress legitimate civil rights demonstrations and peaceful direct actions, if he fails to address the environmentally damaging actions of corporations in the fossil fuel and mining industries as well as the illegal practices of biotech corporations, then this term will finally and categorically expose him as a false prophet and the judgment from the people will be harsh. He has the ability to challenge the power structures he works within. If one were to be extremely optimistic, one could suggest that in the past four years he has earned the trust of the military and the banks by pragmatic diplomacy. If there is even the slightest chance that that optimism is justified, he must now use his skill and intelligence to steer these greatly tarnished and ever more brutally and inhumanely administered institutions to safer ground and not to armageddon or planetary calamity as they seem hellbent on driving us towards.
A voice within wants me to remain an optimist for the moment, to look at Barack Obama as an intelligent, skilled politician and family man, working under tremendous pressure, struggling to do the right thing in the face of almost insurmountable odds. But it would be so easy to see this whole election as a sham. Politics and human relations are never simple and straightforward. No one who is not up close to the political players can really say how hard Barack Obama’s job is or how hard he is trying to make his stated aims real. Yet the evidence, when accumulated, is pretty conclusive that the president who intensified drone attacks that have killed and injured so many civilians, the man who ordered the execution of the prime suspect in the 9/11 attacks, the man who has kept Guantanamo Bay open despite an election promise to close it, is a man who represents more of the same insanity that is driving his country and the planet to a more dangerous state of affairs.
Until the people are strong enough to organise and create “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible“, we are just going to have to look to accentuate every positive action Obama undertakes (such as his healthcare reforms). We must, as a world public, appeal to his better instincts, to try and find some sliver of decency and humanity that he must possess and help to nurture it. We must hope that this decency will flourish and aid President Obama in helping to avert the violent revolution and inevitable state attacks on civilians that will surely follow if he does not listen to the will of the people. He must hear the voices of those vulnerable people his policies are damaging rather than continue to ignore them in favour of the voices of his financial and military backers.
At least when he speaks it is easier to listen to him and the world is thankful that it does not have to contemplate the horrifying prospect of what it would have been like to listen to “the other guy” speaking as president. But smooth words can be even more painful when they hide a murderous design to reduce the people to “absolute despotism“. If that becomes evermore apparent, the people of the United States and the people of the world will come to know their enemy and their focus will become clearer than ever. The world’s population cannot accept for much longer these continuing more wars for greed and cannot accept more lies backed by propaganda. Barack Obama must finally decide whether he is on the side of humanity or on the side of the machine. I hope he chooses well.