The Hope for President Elect Hussein

Posted by sepoy on November 08, 2008 · 3 mins read

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.


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Desi Italiana | November 08, 2008

Sepoy, This is probably the first time I've strongly disagreed with you. I'm not banking on his activist roots to overshadow his selections, his war rhetoric, his lack of a true viable health care policy that doesn't keep health insurance companies in power, etc. If anything, I think Obama will demonstrate just how politically status quo he can be, all the while talking vaguely about "change" (a part of me is wondering whether he is actually striving at the moment to show that he is not too radical). But I sincerely hope you are right about the child-of-the-global-south coming out once he occupies the W.H, since I too voted for him. I just think it kind of sucks that come every election, us Americans always hope that the guy we elected does things we really want, that he'll somehow change his questionable positions once he gets to the Oval Office, rather than feeling completely confident that the person we voted for will do what he says he will.

MERAPAKISTAN | November 08, 2008

I agree with Desi and also believe that there will be no change in American foreign policy. Obama will never be able to validate his health policy from both houses.

sepoy | November 08, 2008

I don't know where our disagreement lies. Going by your comment, he hasn't promised anything radical in the election process, you expect him to do what he said (status quo). I am just hoping for more.

Desi Italiana | November 08, 2008

Sepoy: "I don't know where our disagreement lies....I am just hoping for more." Sorry-- to be clear, I disagree with your hoping for more, given what I said in my comment about his lack of truly fundamental proposals in his election campaign. It's worthy to ask why I even voted for him in the first place....if anyone wants to probe me for voter behavior, I'm all yours :)

vivek | November 08, 2008

I'm on board the Hope Express for now. I have faith in Obama the Person who wrote those two books, and much less faith in Obama the Candidate. But then, one month into his candidacy he said, "Nobody's suffered as much as the Palestinian people," and was nicely baked for it. The question, I suppose, is how far between the two Obama the President stands.

Raj Bagewadi | November 09, 2008

The two images are poignant. Haki R. Madhubuti (Don Lee) proclaimed some forty years ago that the "realpeople" will one day become owners of the New World but they will run as unowners for we will live in it too & will want to be remembered as realpeople As an historian you would acknowledge that transformative events are occasional episodes. After over four decades of dreary stupor the nation has stirred. It has a long way to go and much lost ground to reclaim. It may take more than one term to get there as Obama said but we will get there. The poetry in campaigns will be replaced by the prose in governing as Mario Cuomo once asserted. But the flawless campaign spurs me to hope that governing will be as flawless!

The Spectacle of Obama « zunguzungu | November 10, 2008

[...] responding, and with a hope that we’ll buy the cd too, and maybe a t-shirt. As Sepoy nicely put it, the thing about a community organizer is learning how to listen, and while W has taught us not to [...]

Desh | November 10, 2008

nice site... and good article although with a bit of a romantic tinge. :-) A lot will be very similar to the Clinton times.. and a lot will change. I agree discussion and willingness to talk will increase. cheers, Desh

Desi Italiana | November 11, 2008

I hope Joe Biden finally decides to move to Washington DC. That's one long commute from Wilmington, Delaware to D.C.

Desi Italiana | November 11, 2008

And I hope that Biden continues to stare down dictators.

Andrew R. | November 11, 2008

Sepoy, I am honestly missing something here. Why do you think that it would be a Good Thing for Obama to ease up on the Taliban on either side of the border?