November 03, 2008

thoughts on the eve of an historic election

This afternoon, James sent me a text message which read:
I still have lingering doubts about Obama..what if he packs his administration with gay hindu marxists?
while this was humorous coming from dear James, It struck a chord with me. Not because I have a logical fear that Obama will do any such thing, but because it made me think of how History so often seems to hang between ingrained, often illogical fears -of the "other" or of the unknown- that the priveleged and powerful(that would be us) have been taught (by instruction, pervasive example or both)- and an insistent reason-(or like the bourgeois women who invented the French Revolution in their salons- having read too much to be only concerned with ourselves, at least in theory) that makes us do things the outcomes of which we have been instructed to fear. Elfie Raymond would say that History-as all great stories- is made in the margin between Necessity and Chance. between what is irrevocably decided for us, and what we decide for ourselves.

I have had moments in which I experienced irrational, disembodied, illogical fear of this President Obama. In the next instant I have been moved almost to tears by the overwhelming joy of the thought of President Obama, first lady Michelle and first daughters Malia and Sasha and all that that can mean for so many people- especially children, and certainly myself, and old people... who can still learn, who can still feel a little redeemed, a little awed. This election cycle has given so many people, myself included, a rare opportunity to inspect the way our harddrives are programmed on matters of race, class, regionalism, political partisanship. Hopefully to debug as best we are able for the time being.
I came into the summer a labor radical, a class warrior and, I see now, a politically intolerant person- because I was fed up with my situation. Then, a very wealthy republican who had never met me before graciously opened his home to me and let me live there for two months while I was working for the Obama campaign in Pittsburgh. He made sure my fridge was always full of Guinness. Many of my best volunteers were very wealthy people who were working ardently against the predetermined darwinian logic of their wealth in the face of a clearly proposed progressive income tax. They were driven by something else- , and they chose to trust beyond their fear of losing what they owned if Obama turned out to be a Marxist- they chose to trust that they too would be valued and respected were Obama to come to office.

In the past week I was berated somewhat (I will not say by whom) for not wanting a revolution of the proletariat, the abolition of private capital and ownership, and a total rejection of our political system as it now stands. I want to say unabashedly and on the record that I do not believe that our political system is perfect. I am a worker, and believe me I know I've been fucked over the last 8 years. what I want more than anything is increased- maximum, complete, voluntary participation of the people in the body politic, in the election cycles, but much more importantly, during the legislative cycles and during judicial nominations. I want the potential of this democracy to be achieved through peaceful, voluntary citizen participation. I believe in the potential for this, and I believe that much of what has happened in this election cycle has laid the groundwork for this peaceful rebirth of our democracy in the age of the internet. It can only get better, and truer, stronger and more Just. I do not want The Revolution that my friend wants. Anyone who wants a (presumably armed, because there is no other way the mass of the people would comply) marxist-leninist revolution in America rejects what I think the true strength and value of this country ought to be, has been and can be again. that is #1- peaceful transfer of power (which, inshallah, we will see tomorrow). in other words peace in the country. Ask any recent immigrant to the U.S who has come from a country torn by civil strife and armed uprisings and sectarian massacres following elections if they want The Revolution in the U.S, and they will probably tell you no, they just want to have security of person, live in peace, make a living, not have to fear persecution or death, or for that matter hunger, ill health, unsupported infrastructure, an unstable economy.
People do not want to stand in breadlines. Not everyone wants to own the factory they work in. A lot of people come to the U.S because they believe in Capitalism, they think it is a good system, they think if they work hard they can save some money to use as startup capital, to own their own business and grow some wealth, which will give them security from physical injury and want- again, peace. The point is not whether the other guy thinks you're selfish, or you think he's crazy because he doesn't want to be rich like you, the point is you both get to make up your own goddamned minds, live how you want to live, and when you disagree (as Americans do about pretty much everything most of the time) find ways of fighting each other (politics being the prime example), without the violence, bloodshed and death that destroy lives in so many politically unstable countries. Our way of persuasion and transformation may be (sometimes infuriatingly) slower than The Revolution, but it is also, wonderfully, more subtle, which means the progressive changes have more legitimacy, and are therefore more sustainable. There is more subtelty in what we do here in our still short History, than one can reasonably expect from an adolescent Nation. And yet, in a way, we are a precocious adolescent. We've fucked up, to be sure, but I believe that our nature is sound, and our innate instinct, when we follow it faithfully, can guide us to a better place.

1 comment:

ß. Andrigon said...

Thanks for your thoughtful essay - - - my biggest actual fears about President Obama is that the slime machine will grow over the next years to disable & distort what he tries to get done. And that, "packing his administration", like, he'll have to fill it with white moderates, because otherwise he'll be seen as "of course he chose so-&-so, because he's so-&-so." Et cetera. I'm still sleepy from waking up early to vote. More rational thoughts later.