Thursday, May 1, 2008

WRIGHT, OBAMA, AND YOU AND ME

I cried yesterday, as I heard Obama denounce his pastor. His story seems to be unfolding like an epic Greek drama.

For this man who was abandoned by his Kenyan father to be forced to throw his spiritual father under the bus (as they most unpleasantly say) broke my heart. And for Wright, who loves Obama, to be pushed under, hurts as well.

Even more so, Obama’s press conference on Tuesday, April 29, sounded to me like a rejection of the progressive social justice platform altogether. Frankly, I felt personally rejected, as a woman of color with radical leanings, tossed under the bus along with Wright. Bounce, thud.

What does it take for a black man to be elected president of the US? What must he compromise? Is it worth the price? How can he assuage the mainstream while sincerely working for change? Can he have it both ways?

Now I am under no illusion that Barack Obama is a progressive. His voting record in the Senate is to the right of Hillary Clinton’s. Still, I voted for him because he represents the strongest potential for changing politics-as-usual.

The fact is, Jeremiah Wright, Jr. speaks my mind more closely than Obama does. I will do my own research on HIV on African Americans, but aside from this comment, I agree 100% with everything I’ve heard over the past years, months, and days.

None of our major 3 candidates addresses the elephant in the living room: the American empire. None address the problem of the corporate-run media, not to mention the corporate-run war and the corporate-run US Congress. None challenge the basic power structure of this nation.

We need both the Jeremiahs and the Obamas. We need to acknowledge the dark: the reality of racism, sexism, and oppression still alive in America. And we need to embrace the light: to believe in change, to have something to hope for, and to work tirelessly toward our brightest potential.

John Nichols wrote the most refreshing commentary on the topic at http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat/316575 . He blames the mainstream media for creating this debacle and for victimizing Wright. But I would go a step further. The MSM is only one result of our nation concentrating wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands.

We are in the waning days of capitalism. The great experiment found fruitful ground in the USA, and we’ve carried it to an unprecedented extreme, making profit from everything from education to water to airwaves to health care, and most painfully, war.

So where do we go from here? I’m a yoga practitioner—I have to practice optimism!

Howard Zinn reminds us that electoral politics is only a fraction of our responsibility as citizens at http://www.progressive.org/mag_zinn0308. Jesse Jackson reminds us that real change comes from a combination of litigation, legislation, and demonstration. [http://www.wpr.org/book/080427a.html] He retells a story of Harry Belafonte’s, about civil rights leaders in the 1940s meeting with President Roosevelt, laying out their agenda for equality. FDR told them that he basically agreed with everything they said, and instructed them, “now go out and make me do it.” Real change has to come from the people. We fortify and center ourselves through yoga practice so that we can creatively and effectively speak truth to power.

We can’t wait around for Obama or any other candidate to catch up with us. We can’t ask a retired pastor to be our bull-horn. We have to agitate, motivate, push and pull, and stand up for justice. Individually we can turn off our TVs, dig in our gardens, ride our bikes, reduce consumption, and increase community. I’m with Wright: whomever is elected, on November 5th, we have to be right there, demanding justice.

Now let me get out from under this bus….enough already.

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