It has been a very sobering experience to see all my "liberal" friends rolling on the floor in the throes of ecstasy over Obama's win. Miraculously, the democrats succeeded at what the republicans have been proficiently doing for quite a long time; convincing a large number of people to be ecstatic about voting against their own interests. Maybe the self destructive red neck paradigm needs to be adjusted to include shell shocked liberals.
My friends are so overjoyed about all the 'change' that is certainly coming our way that I can't bring myself to spoil their happiness with rude facts about what political interests Obama represents or how his advisers are responsible for many of the problems facing working class people. My lack of enthusiasm over his victory creates awkwardness among my peers and heightens my feeling of political alienation. After the election I had the queasy sense of being on the outside edge of a mass delusion.
What prompted me to write today was an article from Robert Scheer lamenting Obama's choices for cabinet positions. A few months back when Scheer spoke at our local library on his book tour, (about 20 people attended) he advocated voting for Obama. I asked him why anyone who cared about the Constitution, civil liberties, international law, etc., should vote for someone who didn't support any of that is his campaign. He replied, "It's the best we can do." Now it appears in his recent article that Sheer is not so enthusiastic anymore. I defiantly voted for Nader "without any illusions", but with apologies to Noam Chomsky.
So now Obama parades his lineup of economic advisers and, in the immortal words of Gomer Pyle, "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" But only if you've not been paying attention all along. The only surprise is how easily the democrats managed to get people all jacked up about pissing in their own beds. I am hoping that Thomas Frank will explain all this in his next book.
I know what you mean about the queasy experience of being on the outside edge of mass delusion. If you look around in the current national darkness, you will notice millions of us alongside you.
Consequently, we go into a new year with millions of Americans still clinging to The Audacity of Hope. And we do so because we are victims of learned helplessness. Sure we can hope. What the hell, hope is one of the few remaining free activities. We don't even have to put down the remote and get off our asses to do it. It is delivered through television.
In the end however, hope is the junk food of the mind and soul. It is the murky, undefined belief that some unknown force, perhaps Jesus or modern science or some great political leader, or other as yet unknown force will reverse our national or personal condition will deliver us from the results of living in a perpetual state of childhood. Hope is magical thinking, a sucker's game. Politicians the world round fully understand this.
Obama's election will keep millions of American liberals and much of the world deliriously happy for some time to come. And to some degree at least, Obama's victory is a national public rejection of the phony and expensive war on terror, but not necessarily a rejection by the empire's rulers. Anyway, even that is not a step forward, but rather a partial recovery from the immense and spectral folly of our needless war making -- recovery of one small bit of the immense moral ground we have ceded. But at some point we will have to cease thinking like children politically, grow up and personally accept responsibility, if we are to rescue our republic from ourselves.
Electing someone else to do it looks good on paper. But no politician can campaign on the facts. Why hell, that might not sound hopefull enough to sustain America's cupcake and bunny voters. Take the ecology and the depletion of worldresources, the collapsing planet. No presidential candidate can run on the promise that "If we do everything just right, pull in our belts and sacrifice, we can at best be a second world nation in fifty years, providing we don't mind the lack of oxygen and a few cancers here and there."
Hope is a particular vice of the liberal solar power electric car set. I suggest they turn off PBS's Nova for a while. Realize the limits of technology and quit looking for more techno solutions to what technology itself hath wrought. All the green energy sources and eating right cannot repair what has been irretrievably ruined. Species gluttony is nearly over and we've eaten the flesh of the earth and pissed upon its bones. Not because we are cruel by nature -- though a case might be made for stupidity -- but because we took the existence of individual consciousness to mean that each of us is some unique center of the world, acquisitive and deserving of all things -- $700 latte machines, $90 a night dog hotels, hard-on drugs in the bedrooms of Brentwood in place of anti-malarial drugs in African villages (though at age 62, I am sorely tempted by the promise of a four-hour boner.) One brand of this collective hallucination, although there are others, is called American exceptionalism. Liberals are as guilty of that as conservatives, simply because they partake of the American Lifestyle. We can get away with that game as long as the oil and the entertainment last. Which looks to be about another half hour.
There is quite a difference between hope and understanding the facts, then holding justified optimism. It will take quite a while for liberals wake up and meet the new boss -- same as the old boss, yada yada. Hell, most of them have not figured out Bill Clinton yet. But when and if it does happen, I wanna be in California, the land of compulsory Oprah style optimism, and where so many childish souls nurse at the ever flowing tit of hope. It's gonna be the biggest squalling diaper change in history.
In art and labor,