Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul. / And sings the tune / Without the words, / And never stops at all.*

I plan to vote for Obama in November. I have said this already, haven’t I?

That is, I do if he survives such scandals as popularity in Europe and a vacation in Hawaii (which, to judge from some commentators’ recent alarm, is no longer a part of the USA and may somehow be aligned with the Axis of Evil—clearly he should have paid his respects to China** as all good patriots must).

Ordinarily I would say that, Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t deeply matter which side gains the White House.

Both sides heel to the wishes of Fortune 500 corporations and pay only lip service to the social and ethical concerns the masses naively cling to, evidently only dimly aware that what’s good for Dow Jones is good (enough) for America.

On these social and ethical concerns, the public accepts the candidates’ differences on faith—not fully grasping that both McCain and Obama have all but identical views on most issues—the separation of church and state, the importance of mass media to American “culture” (i.e. collective unconsciousness), the death penalty, the Patriot Act, public education, global warming, same-sex marriage, illegal immigrants, and global free trade.***

So, in general, I agree with Gore Vidal, who states that America has only one political party, with two wings.

However …

No, much bigger: HOWEVER …

The last 8 years have seen what looks to me like a deliberate dismantling of American defense, social services, food and fuel supply, environment, and economy … along with the now five-decade trend to expand Presidential powers royally (i.e. to turn the position to that of a monarch elected by the Supreme Court).

The founding fathers’ principle of “balance of power” has been, for some time now, effectively dismantled—now it’s just a phrase you have to learn if you want to become a US citizen.

Who can offer the leadership for Americans to restore and replenish America’s defense, social services, food and fuel supply, environment, and economy? Who has the will to do so? Who could rescue civil liberties before they vanish from the nation?

Obama, I think.

Most definitely NOT McCain—the candidate (among both Republicans and Democrats) receiving the most support of special-interest lobbyists and (of the two front runners) the candidate less able to motivate a nation, inspire global support, control his temper and tongue, and (let’s speak frankly) walk steadily (in both physical and metaphorical senses).

Sure, I get the joke “Change You Can Imagine”—and I agree with its subtle point—a platform built on hope is just the foundation for a castle in the air. And I can’t swallow supporters’ positioning of Obama as some kind of holy man or even as the Great Black and White Hope either.

Still, if the possibility remains that America can be saved from its willful ignorance and worst instincts, it will have to be someone like Obama (or, already I hear hissing, Ralph Nader), who can imagine new directions for the nation to take and (here Obama outweighs Nader) can persuade Americans to do what it takes to repair the damages of the last 8 years …

Because …

No Dark Knight is going to fix things for us. The real billionaire playboys have no mandate to make society better for anyone but themselves. We the people are going to have to make hard decisions, set priorities among needs and issues too numerous to count, and make sacrifices for the good of each other, ourselves collectively as a nation. Bush’s plan to halt terrorism through shopping and vacationing was a plain and simple ruse.

Or have we become too accustomed to our powerlessness?

This morning I awoke to NPR. An elderly man whose old neighborhood is systematically being dismantled by developers (I’m aware of the oxymoron) pointed to a squirrel scampering across power lines and said that the squirrels used to have the ground to walk on, but they have adapted to change, and so must we.

NPR heard the old man’s words as a wise insight, an expression of “hope.”

I heard his words too as insightful, but as an expression of resignation—an acceptance of his own powerlessness to make things any different from what more powerful forces have already determined they should be.

Resignation is anything but hope. But it’s our only option if the greedy and the power-mad continue to whittle down American democracy through redefinition, jingoism, and evaporated funds.

Frankly, I think it may be too late for hope, but I’m still going to vote against resignation.

* Emily Dickinson

** This morning I experienced double waves of nausea. Waking to NPR, I heard not only the old man’s pitiful squirrel koan but also Juan Williams practically teary-eyed over the warm, enthusiastic reception the Chinese were giving Henry Kissinger and George H.W. Bush—too bad the welcome wagon I would have ordered had already thrown himself off the Drum Tower.

*** The differences appear in their views on Iraq, medical marijuana, the privatization of social security, and taxation of the wealthy.

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