Moacir has already called out the media on their triumphalism. While I assert that Obama’s transformative election cannot be held hostage to the likes of Chris Matthews, I see his point. Tom Friedman has already written some jaw-droppingly dumb column about this being the end of the Civil War or something.
Rebirth is a cornerstone of American mythology. To many, this election is a rebirth of the nation – whether in the context of the America’s slave-holding past, or in the context of America’s imperial wars of the last eight years. There is an overwhelming sentiment that by electing Barack Obama, America has somehow redeemed itself from Iraq. That we will now have a fresh, new start. Except the craters from the bombs remain. Hundreds of thousands are still dead in Iraq. Tons are being killed daily from drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is no rebirth, gentle readers. This is no fresh start.
Running parallel to this effluvia of American triumphalism is the despair of some others on the Left. They rightfully point out that Obama seeks to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan – in fact, to fortify our efforts there. Sure. Obama was never opposed to all wars – he was only opposed to the Iraq War. I have previously said much on this – and you are welcome to go read it again. But, perhaps a larger sigh of despair came about with the announcements of Emanuel and Shah. (Neither are terribly surprising. Rahm Emanuel is a central figure in Democractic politics – rumored to become the next Speaker of the House before he took his job. And Google’s Eric Schmidt has been a prominent member of Team Obama and I expect many other Googlites to follow suit. Also, funny.) But do these associations necessarily translate into the end of Palestinian hopes or the equivalence of Hindutva policies from the W.H.?
I, at least, don’t think so. Why?
I return, again and again, to these two images:
This man is a child of the global south who worked as a community organizer on the southside of Chicago. And the foremost skill of being a community organizer – I was told the other night – is to “listen”, to not assert your own agendas, your own pre-conceived notions onto others. That this lesson is an integral part of Obama’s intellectual composition is apparent from reading Audacity of Hope. I see no reason to doubt that this capacity will remain a function of his administration.
I care about the war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I care about a foreign policy that engages with that region. To me, the fact of advisory hawks is not a deterrent. I do not believe that the Hussein White House will be enthralled to a small clique of inspired chickenhawks. I honestly believe that there will be space for dialogue and persuasion, come January.
The question is, how will we participate in this dialogue. How will we – the community – make the Community Organizer-in-Chief listen to us. I hope we can rise to the challenge.