LIVING FOR CHANGE
Obama’s First 100 Days
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, May 5, 2009
I supported Obama’s election because his “Together We Can” campaign helped restore in the American people, and especially young Americans, the conviction that we have the power within us to create the world anew.
I didn’t support him for his color or for his politics, which are those of the average Democratic politician. I was also clear that, once in the Oval Office, Obama’s options would be limited.
However, President Obama’s appointments and actions have been worse than I anticipated. True, things are worse now than when he began his campaign. But that should have challenged him to probe more deeply into the roots of the crisis.
Instead, his immediate re-appointment of Bush’s Defense Secretary and sending additional troops to Afghanistan reveal that, despite his early opposition to the Iraq war, he has no understanding of the root cause of 911: that the Muslim world is fed up with U.S. support of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and of the Saudi regime. The new
Pentagon budget also reveals that counter-insurgency, or putting down the spreading global rebellion against the U.S., is what the administration is preparing us for.
Similarly, the appointments of Geithner and Summers reveal that Obama has no grasp of the root causes of the economic meltdown and climate crisis.
Over the last 30 years we have become a nation of consumers rather than producers. Our economy is all about making money. Although only 4% of the world population, we consume 25% of its resources. To save the planet and ourselves, we must begin to produce real wealth which is generated by productive people using the Earth’s resources wisely.
Nevertheless, Obama’s stimulus package is to get us consuming again. That’s why Summers and Geithner are bailing out their buddies, aptly named “the banksters” by News Dissector Danny Schechter.
Overall, Obama’s shallowness is troubling. He looks black but lacks a gut recognition of the crimes that this country has committed against people of color and the two-thirds of the world that lives in the global South. So he doesn’t feel the need to challenge the American people to look in the mirror and recognize that to regain our humanity and the respect of the world, we must give up many of the things we have enjoyed at the expense of the world and the planet.
That challenge is what Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.
That’s why Malcolm made his “chickens come home to roost” comment in November 1963 when JFK was assassinated.
That’s why Martin called for a radical revolution of values against racism, materialism and militarism during the Vietnam war.
Obama’s weaknesses are especially troubling because in the coming period the situation in the U.S. will increasingly resemble that of post-World War I Germany when military defeat, the Great Depression and gigantic inflation created the conditions for Hitler’s rise to power.
Our responsibility, at this watershed in our history, is to face the past honestly and do the things necessary to heal ourselves and our planet.
For example, we need to begin living more simply both for our own health and so that the earth, other species and other peoples can simply live.
All over the world, including the United States, people in local communities are beginning to do that: growing our own food, biking instead of driving, exchanging goods and services with neighbors, even creating local currencies. MLK’s “beloved communities” are emerging everywhere: in Detroit, Milwaukee, the Bay Area, Greensboro and Durham, N.C.
We also need to grow America’s soul by creating Truth And Reconciliation Commissions, like those started in South Africa. The evil that Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld have done was not theirs alone. Punishing a few leaders will only increase the bitterness of millions of Americans who have already been demoralized by our defeat in
Healing our society will require the patient work not primarily of judges but of artists, ministers, gardeners, workers, families, women, communities. It will require the creation of new forms of Governance, Work and Education that are much more participatory and democratic than those collapsing all around us. It will require enlarging our vision, decolonizing our imaginations.
Obama can’t create these new forms from the Oval Office. They can only be created at the grassroots. Their creation has already begun, and their continuing creation and expansion can keep Hope and the “Together We Can” spirit alive.