Friday, November 28, 2008

"Change Is Coming"



Photo: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images
The head is through, but the body is still sticking out.
---Zen saying
A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.
---Dogen
Kassan had a monk who left and went all around to the various Zen temples, seeking. But no matter where he went, the name of Kassan was mentioned to him as the name of a great master.
Finally the monk returned, interviewed Kassan, and asked: "You are reputed to have the greatest understanding of Zen. Why did you not reveal this to me when I was here earlier?"
Kassan said: "When you boiled rice, did I not light the fare? When you passed around food, did I not offer my bowl to you? When did I betray your expectations?"
With that the monk was enlightened.
---Zen mondo
The title of this reluctant article is on the subject line of the latest message from David Plouffe, campaign manager of Obama For America. It came Tuesday, and suggests the grassroots hold house parties the middle of next month to energize supporters in continuing the message of hope. In the weeks before the election, David or someone from http://www.barackobama.com/ used to email us every day, as did other Democrats and independent progressives. The others either have quit campaigning, fallen in a holiday heap of exhaustion, or gone back to work. Some of the progressive groups seem to be casting about for something to do or new issues to keep contributions coming in. But the Obama organization is trying to keep things together and the momentum going. At no point in Mr. Plouffe's message does he mention growing doubt as a matter for concern. The man isn't even President yet, but the Internet is groaning with disappointment.
My personal reaction to the election, as far as the Internet is involved in my life, was to sigh relief and vow not to bother readers with any more political writing. People who have known me for a while, and who encouraged me to write and post stuff, remember I used to compose reminiscences and pastoral observations of nature. I got very nice responses to that...and still do. But in the Roman tradition of the gentle farmer who must leave the plow and go to battle when the republic is under attack, I started to write political things several years ago. I lost a lot of readers doing that. They didn't want to know about it, or if they did know didn't want to read it on this piece of furniture many use only for recreation. I thought they'd be happy if they found out I was back!
And Thanksgiving yesterday at my home seemed to reflect the wisdom of this perception. We have a pretty animated political group of people who come here---and that includes some who have given up completely various dreams for the future. Everybody is vocal, and in past gatherings we've discussed current affairs in loud speeches. With the Hillary/Obama schism, there came debate and argument. But yesterday---I shall be corrected if wrong---I don't think a political notion was uttered. We talked about babies and traveling and food and shopping---actual normal American conversation. Our worries will be addressed and taken care of, and we can return to our gardens.
But then...but then, I venture into the news sites and blogs this morning, and I find no such peacefulness prevailed in cyberspace yesterday...or in the columns of newspapers. I'm sure there are plenty of articles about things to be thankful for, the usual ones, and we did a lot of gratitude in our house. But in reading today I have to say I soon was overwhelmed with crisis and gloom. So much so, that I hate to tell you I need to share it...not so much to spread it around, as to offer up a reality check. Is a sense of relief really called for?
It started with what appears to be an inordinate number of voices raised about the very nature of Thanksgiving and its origins. I don't suppose we need our noses rubbed in this anymore---or do we? Somebody sent me a link to a www.blogger.com entry, where I do some posting too. The Fourth World is a blog organized by Juan Santos, a writer and editor in LA, and the particular essay, from a couple years ago, is entitled Immigration: A Nation Of Colonists And Race Laws. You see where this is going.
"You hear it everywhere. Even from Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the vicious anti-migrant legislation that has polarized the US. 'We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws,' he says.

"And like almost everyone else, he’s got it wrong.

"The original Europeans in the Americas were not immigrants, but colonists. And the US is not a nation of immigrants - it is a white colonial settler state, like South Africa under Apartheid, the former Rhodesia, Australia and Israel.

"And like those states the US has always operated on a sometimes hidden, sometimes overt system of Apartheid.

"Like those places, the US is a nation of colonists – and race laws.

"It is just another place where white colonists arrived, seized the land, and dispossessed, exterminated or attempted to exclude the original 'non-white' peoples – all of them.

"They did so at the point of a gun - by open terror and genocide, which was the precursor and the necessary pre-condition of European immigration. And, of course, they didn’t only use guns and overt terror. Where 'necessary,' they operated by 'law.'"

http://the-fourth-world.blogspot.com/2006/08/immigration-nation-of-colonists-and.html

Then the Information Clearing House sent along a cheery little suppressed speech by a surviving member of the Wampanoag tribe, who were the people that "helped" the Puritans through that first killer winter at the Plymouth--uh--Plantation. You may have read this already or know about it but it seems in 1970, the Massachusetts Department of Commerce wanted to have a big 350th Anniversary celebration of the First Thanksgiving. They located a Wampanoag named Wamsutta---or as he is know around there, Frank. B. James. He agreed to give the keynote address...but the Department asked to read it first. When they did Wamsutta was sent to the back of the bus, and somebody else told the assembly what they wanted to hear. His written draft still is around and starts like this~~~

"I speak to you as a man -- a Wampanoag Man. I am a proud man, proud of my ancestry, my accomplishments won by a strict parental direction ('You must succeed - your face is a different color in this small Cape Cod community!'). I am a product of poverty and discrimination from these two social and economic diseases. I, and my brothers and sisters, have painfully overcome, and to some extent we have earned the respect of our community. We are Indians first - but we are termed 'good citizens.' Sometimes we are arrogant but only because society has pressured us to be so.

"It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you - celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People.

"Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans. Mourt's Relation describes a searching party of sixteen men. Mourt goes on to say that this party took as much of the Indians' winter provisions as they were able to carry."

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21333.htm

Then I went over to Time Magazine and read Joe Klein's appraisal of George Bush as the lamest duck ever. If I was looking to get cheered up, I probably shouldn't have done this.

"In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one."

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1862307,00.html

Speaking of the markets, Paul Krugman spent Thanksgiving dashing off his analysis of why-didn't-anyone-see-this-coming, and it's in this morning's Times.

"A few months ago I found myself at a meeting of economists and finance officials, discussing — what else? — the crisis. There was a lot of soul-searching going on. One senior policy maker asked, 'Why didn’t we see this coming?'

"There was, of course, only one thing to say in reply, so I said it: 'What do you mean "we," white man?'...

"Some people say that the current crisis is unprecedented, but the truth is that there were plenty of precedents, some of them of very recent vintage. Yet these precedents were ignored. And the story of how 'we' failed to see this coming has a clear policy implication — namely, that financial market reform should be pressed quickly, that it shouldn’t wait until the crisis is resolved."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

Last month Jim Hightower went even further and lined up his suspects against the wall for identification. Hightower's not an economist I think, but he knows the value and power of a buck. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Hightower The article must have gone up on Halloween, but I didn't see it until today---which I am recalling now is called Black Friday. Gloom.

"You don't have to be in Who's Who to know What's What, do you? The fundamentals are NOT sound.

"Wall Street and Washington (excuse the redundancy there) want us commoners to believe that this viral spread of economic grief was caused by those lower-income homeowners who couldn't pay their subprime loans--merely an unforeseeable glitch in a complex and otherwise healthy financial system. Hogwash. The source of today's pain is the same as it was in America's previous financial collapses: the unbridled greed of economic elites, enabled by their political courtesans in Washington.

"This unbridling has been the long-sought goal of a cabal of deregulation ideologues who dwell in laissez-fairyland. During the past two decades, they have relentlessly pushed their economic fantasies into law. Their theory was that (to use Ronald Reagan's simple construct) 'the magic of the marketplace' would create an eternal rainbow of prosperity through financial 'innovation'--if only the market was unshackled from any pesky public regulations. What the dereg theorists missed, however, is that magicians don't perform magic. They perform illusions."

http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/node/1801

Which brings us to the President-elect and his appointments thus far. This man carries around a lectern with him that says "The Office Of The President-Elect." I guess that's kind of clever because as long as he's not in the Oval Office yet, his office is wherever he shows up. But the sign also implies a president-elect is an "office" in government of some kind, a position of elected power, an indication he's only being polite by not taking over right away. In other countries defeated leaders are just swept out. Many economists are saying that's what should happen here, the crisis is too great to hang around for 2 months while the current guy does nothing. So Obama has been announcing who's going to be doing what, and holding press conferences to do so. On Wednesday he finally was asked, "Where's the change you talked about?" The President-elect seemed a bit sharp in his response.

"President-elect Barack Obama essentially said Wednesday that he is the change, striving to assure Americans that he'll shake up Washington despite filling his administration with old hands from the Clinton administration and the capital's corridors of power.

"'Understand where the vision for change comes from, first and foremost,' Obama said. 'It comes from me. That's my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going, and to make sure, then, that my team is implementing.'"

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/56578.html

The Boston Globe maybe fired the first shot, heard at least as far as Ohio, by going a bit further into the story.

"However, liberal activists contend that Obama so far has gone too far in one direction, bringing in too many of the same Washington insiders and undermining his own message of change. Obama, they complain, hasn't given a top cabinet job to a true liberal, and grumble about the expected appointments of rival Hillary Clinton -- a centrist Democrat -- as Obama's secretary of state and of Robert M. Gates, a Republican appointed by President Bush, to stay on as defense secretary for at least a year.

"'I'm not in the camp that says, "Give him a chance, because his vision will dominate,"' said Tom Hayden cq, a high-profile liberal and antiwar activist who said he supports Obama despite misgivings over his cabinet picks. 'I don't know what he's doing. This is not governing from the center. This is governing from the past.'

"Liberal bloggers, who helped fuel Obama's grassroots fund-raising and volunteer armies, are particularly vocal in their critique of Obama's choices so far.

"Some of them argue that competence and experience aren't substitutes for the right ideology. 'How can selecting only pro-war Cabinet members and advisers be justified on the grounds of "competence' -- as though one's support for the War has nothing to do with competence?' asks blogger Glenn Greenwald, who also writes for the online journal Salon.

"Since he was elected three weeks ago, Obama has tapped several people who worked for President Clinton, including Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff and Lawrence Summers as his senior economic adviser. Reports say that the president-elect has settled on at least two other Clinton-era officials -- Eric Holder for attorney general and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for commerce secretary.

"Criticism of Obama's personnel picks, however, intensified when word leaked out that he will select Clinton as secretary of state. Antiwar activists decried her vote in favor of the 2003 Iraq invasion, which Obama hammered her about during the Democratic primaries. And after reports Tuesday that Obama would keep Gates at the Pentagon, some suggested it could mean Obama was reconsidering a campaign pledge to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office."

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2008/11/obama_answers_l.html Good comments too.

Ramzi Kysia, an Arab-American writer at Counterpunch, on Monday went so far as to assemble a list of people Obama should have appointed...if he truly believed in progressive change. His list follows this beginning~~~

"I feel cheated. I feel betrayed. And I’m not even a Democrat.

"Our nation hasn’t yet finished counting all the election returns, but the outlines of a future Obama Administration are already clear: Clinton at State, Geithner at Treasury, Summers to head the National Economic Council, Holder at Justice, Emmanuel as Chief of Staff, General James Jones as the likely National Security Advisor, and Robert Gates likely to stay on at Defense.

"There not a progressive among them. Not even one. If Obama was vague about his personal politics during the primaries and general election it was for a reason: he doesn’t have any.

"I’m not sure what I honestly expected, but I know it wasn’t this."

http://www.counterpunch.com/kysia11242008.html

But then I looked at the Thanksgiving Day edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, and there's the Obama family continuing its 4-year tradition of handing out food to the needy on the preceding Wednesdays. Hope stirred in my sinking breast.

"President-elect Barack Obama and his family spent an hour handing out chickens, potatoes, bread and other Thanksgiving food to poor families on Chicago's South Side Wednesday morning after Obama introduced his latest economic advisors. Then he shook hands with Catholic grade school students ecstatic to see him.

"Many of the poor and homeless -- some of whom come for food every Wednesday -- screamed in disbelief as they entered the parking lot of St. Columbanus church at 71st and Calumet and realized the reason they had been wanded by the U.S. Secret Service was because Obama, his wife and daughters, were standing there ready to pass out the food usually handed out by volunteers.

"'At Thanksgiving, it's important for us to remember people in need,' Obama said. 'They told me the number of people coming here is up 33 percent from last year.'

About 600 families got food, said Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. That's up from 270 families last year, said the Rev. Matt Eyerman.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/obama/1300994,Obama-food-pantry-112608.article

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general.

By day give thanks
By night beware
Half the world in sweetness
The other in fear


Or so, the song goes.

Reading jazzolog’s post, I am struck, once again, at how so very young mankind really is. Youth, of course, is relative: Paraphrasing Hermann Ebbinghaus, it can be said of Mankind that it has "a long past but a short history." Wamsutta Frank B. James had it right, "Poverty and discrimination" are "social and economic diseases." Here is hoping that it is only an infantile disease, "the measles of mankind" as Einstein would put it.

As Wamsutta’s key note address was turned down by the Massachusetts Department of Commerce, Plymouth was celebrating the 350th Anniversary celebration of the First Thanksgiving. By that reckoning, it makes 2008 the 388th Anniversary celebration of the same.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, this same year, today, on a rocky tidal island rising from a hazy expanse of sand and waves, Mount Saint Michel is celebrating its 1300th anniversary: Lost in a landscape smoothed by the wind, Mount Saint Michel stands like Man’s defiance of the elements and of time. And yet, what is this quintessence of dust? What’s 388 years or 1300 years in the ocean of time?

On an earlier thread on jazzolog’s previous post, mention is made of how strangely legacies are built (or destroyed); what Presidents are remembered for; what is recalled and what is forgotten; and …how easy it is to forget. The comment provides a link to an entry at The Information Paradox, in which the author muses about what he recalls of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and ponders about "how President George W. Bush’s legacy will be taught in social studies or history class thirty years from now."

While, of course, the past is always changing, there is only so much we can do about it. And so, perhaps, a more pressing question for the times might be "how will President Barack Obama’s legacy be taught in social studies or history class thirty years from now." How do we hope it will be remembered. Or, "how will Mankind legacy be remembered thirty years from now?" What will Mankind’s legacy be one hundred years from now?…five hundred years?…a thousand years?

What will that legacy be like, just a mere four or seven years from now?

C’est l’observation de la Terre qui nous explique les événements de l’Histoire, et celle-ci nous ramène à son tour vers une étude plus approfondie de la planète, vers une solidarité plus consciente de notre individu, à la fois si petit et si grand avec l’immense univers.
--- Elisée Reclus, “L’ Homme et la Terre”

Were he still alive today, Elisée Reclus would now be 178 years old. Unlike modern Libertarianism and the contemporary Anarcho-Capitalists’s legacy of the Austrian School (Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand & Co), Elisée Reclus’s anarchism is refreshingly existentialist and very much non-doctrinaire. He hoped that it would eventually be, one day, humanity’s "destiny" "to reach that state of ideal perfection in which nations would no longer need to be under the tutelage of a government or of any other nation."

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Loyola University had scheduled a conference in New Orleans in Reclus's honor, 3 years ago (on the 100th anniversary of his death).

What an intro:

Reclus, perhaps more than any other 19th century social thinker, contributed to the development of a comprehensive ecological world view. His focus on our place in nature is expressed in the opening words of L’Homme et la Terre: “Humanity is Nature becoming self-conscious.”

Reclus can be seen as a founder of both social ecology and political ecology, inasmuch as he carefully traced the interconnections between the social, the political and the ecological, and he saw the solution to ecological problems as necessitating a wide-ranging, and indeed revolutionary political and
economic transformation of society.

---John P. Clark, Department of Humanities, Loyola University New Orleans


And what an amazing timing: The event had to be rescheduled to Fall 2006 because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina!!!

This is what the Program of the conference looked like:

HUMANITY AND THE EARTH/L’HOMME ET LA TERRE:
THE LEGACY OF ELISEE RECLUS (1830-1905)
October 27-30, 2006
Loyola University
New Orleans, Louisiana USA


Program for the Conference

All events (with the exception of the Saturday evening dinner) will be held in
the Octavia Rooms of the Danna Center at Loyola University


=====Friday, October 27=====

Registration
6:30-7:30 PM

Session I
7:30-9:00 PM

Keynote Address
Chair: Robert Caldwell (Industrial Workers of the World)
Speaker: Peter Marshall (Fellow, Royal Geographical Society)
“Classical Anarchism in the Age of Reclus”

==Saturday, October 28==

Visit to the New Orleans Bookfair
10:00 AM-1:00 PM

Registration
1:00-1:30 PM

Session II
1:30-3:30 PM
Chair: Sean Benjamin (Iron Rail Book Collective)
Peter Marshall (Fellow, Royal Geographical Society): “Elisée Reclus, Geographer of Freedom”
Dana Ward (Pitzer College): “Kropotkin and Reclus' Friendship and the Cross-fertilization of Ideas”
Aragorn! (Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed): "The Future of Green Anarchy: Reclus Beyond the City and the Primitive"

Session III
4:00-6:00 PM
Chair: Mark Antliff (Duke University)
Patricia Leighten (Duke University): “Abstracting Anarchism: Elisée Reclus, František Kupka and the Project of Modernist Art”
Amy F. Ogata (Bard Graduate Center): "Van de Velde, Reclus, and the Applied Arts"
Serena Keshavjee (University of Winnipeg): "The Relationship of Symbolist Painter Eugène Carrière to Elisée Reclus and Anarchism"

A Reclusian Banquet
“foods in accord with our ideal of beauty”
Vegetarian and Vegan Cuisine
with “Cabaret Elisée”
featuring Paul Gailiunas &
Ukulele Against the Machine
6:30-8:30 PM

=====Sunday, October 29=====

Session IV
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Chair: Kate James (Iron Rail Book Collective)
John Clark (Loyola University): “Elisée Meets the Big Easy: On Antebellum and
Postdiluvian Anarchy”
Athanasius Isaac (University of Alabama): “You Can’t Flood a Social Relationship Either: An Anarchist Examination of an Unqualified Disaster and its Relationship to Socio-spatial Change”
Fire (Green Anarchy): “Reclus: A ‘Green’ Egoist Anarchist Exploration”

Session V
1:30-3:30 PM
Chair: Brad Ott (University of New Orleans)
Mark Bonta (Delta State University): “Mapping Reclus onto Deleuze: Toward a Geophilosophy of the ‘New Earth’”
Philippe Pelletier (University of Lyon): “The Great Divide to Overcome: East and West as Seen by Elisée Reclus”
Kent Mathewson (Louisiana State University): “Elisée Reclus’ Latin American Writings and Travel”

Session VI
4:00-5:30 PM
Chair: Jordan Flaherty (Left Turn Magazine)
Discussion of “Mutual Aid in New Orleans: From Elisée Reclus to the Common Ground Collective”

=====Monday, October 30=====

Field Trip
(1:00 PM-5:00 PM)
Tour of Post-Katrina New Orleans
Meetings with grassroots recovery organizations and activists

jazzolog said...

Thanks as always to Anonymous for his interesting comment. I received another, of sorts, by email from a librarian friend at Harvard. James Adler has made a specialty of interest in the Middle East, and included a letter he'd written that appears in the current edition of Al-Ahram Weekly, the leading English-language newspaper in Egypt.

"Sir -- Congratulations on your fine coverage of the historic American elections.
"Concerning the letter on some of Barack Obama's social views like gay rights ('Lost lives' Al-Ahram 13-19 November) these are views which he would broadly share with most Western progressive leaders and writers on the Middle East. They would include American presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, German chancellors Gerhard Schroeder and Angela Merkel, French presidents François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, liberal and pro-Arab writers and scholars such as Jonathan Cook, Noam Chomsky, David Hirst, Alexander Cockburn, and Robert Fisk, and Israeli progressives like Jeff Halper, Ilan Pappe, Uri Avnery and Avi Schlaim. It is on the contrary, the rightist American Christian Zionists and Israeli settlement expansionists whose social views fit more with the letter's writer, like Benyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.
"Furthermore, no letter has appeared in Al-Ahram criticising any of the Western leaders noted above, who are white and of First World origin, for having the same social views that Obama does. Instead such a critical letter would appear in Al-Ahram only when it is an attack on the first black man and the first man of Third World origins to be elected president. This exemplifies double standards, anti-Third World prejudice and underlying racism that are shattering. The hatred against Obama among rightist elements in Israel and the West is unremitting and unrelentless. The right-wing agitprop in papers and talkbacks and blogs is intense, such as on The Jerusalem Post site, where what is written and said is much the same agitprop."
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/924/letters.htm

My article expressed concerns about the President-elect emerging from the Left. James' letter reflects reaction on the Right, explicitly in the Middle East. He also has an article in the current Harvard Square Commentary that expands a bit on this~~~

"It is noteworthy that among the few important world capitals, on election night nearly all were the scenes of dancing in the streets in celebration of Barack Obama's victory, with the conspicuous exception of Tel Aviv, Israel. And yet American Jews voted nearly 4-1 for Obama. The proportion of the Jewish vote for Obama and against McCain was the second highest of any American religious or ethnic group, second only to the African-American vote. In fact: If America was mainly a nation of Jews; that is, if American Jews made up most of the 300,000,000 people of America -- in other words, if America was primarily itself a Jewish state -- then Barack Obama would have won by even much more than he already did, in what would have been a nearly 4-to-1, coast-to-coast, popular national landslide.

"Conservative blogger and columnist Shmuel Rosner recently went from Ha'aretz to a more congenial home for him at the rightist Jerusalem Post...On the idea, that Bradley Burston at Ha'aretz and others have proposed, that the election of Barack Obama would be similar to Israel's election of an Israeli Arab Prime Minister, Rosner's retort is-- 'Give me a break.' With all due respect to Rosner, with whom I almost always disagree, but admire: I believe that the American election of Barack Obama as President is similar to what the imminent Israeli election would be like of a first Arab Prime Minister of Israel-- except much more. In other words, that the improvement would be even more helpful and historic for Israel than Obama's promises to be for the United States.

"Theodor Herzl, in his classic Zionist novel, 'Old/New Land,' envisioned that Israel would have an Arab Prime Minister and Jewish President. And how could the election of an Israeli Arab as Prime Minister fail to improve -- transformatively -- Jewish-Arab, and Israeli-Arab, and Israeli-Iranian relations? Try to imagine the improvement if the Arab and Muslim worlds suddenly had to confront an Arab-Muslim Prime Minister who had just been elected predominantly by the Jewish people of Israel. How could this not instantly improve everything - recognition, respect, peace, security - to an unimaginable degree?"

http://hsc.homestead.com/archive/2008/11_24_adler.html

Anonymous said...

"I went to bed that night and thought how small the world had become. Technology has led to something like a geographic warp. Here I was in one of the most remote parts of Mexico but still I could be transported by cable TV to the center of the most important moments in the battle over the fate of the world's superpower. My mind was in one place, my body in another," so says Jeannie Ralston in the October 24, 2008 edition of Atención, a community cultural Newspaper published weekly by The Biblioteca Publica de San Miguel de Allende.

I am reminded of that comment as, I, too, reading, the letter jazzolog's friend had written for Al-Ahram Weekly, can't help but echo that same sense of wonderment at the common sight we view of how small the world has become.

In a way, the world has been small for quite a while already---the 19th century is sometimes called "the First Era of Globalization," a global integration which begun perhaps at the beginning of the 17th century as globalization became a business phenomenon with the British East India Company (1600), which is sometimes referred to as the first multinational corporation, soon to be followed by the Dutch East India Company (1602) and the Portuguese East India Company (1628)---the difference today is that the world has become smaller not just for a privileged few (the game players: the ship owners of today and their contemporary equivalent or "The Man" or the power that be) but for everyone who cares:

-People like James Adler, jazzolog’s librarian friend at Harvard.

-Or people like Kate McCorkie a retired teacher in San Miguel de Allende, of whom I will speak in a moment.

The world has become smaller in term of accessibility, but "small" it isn’t. If anything the world has in fact become bigger as a result of the fertile ground it offers (and so have its human denizens, those who care to explore it) in terms of the complexity and the cross-fertilization of ideas it makes possible (once again, for those who care to look for such, which is not everyone; and where free access to information is available, which is not everywhere, especially in the third world where analphabetism is high; but all of that too is changing). There is, of course, the danger that a smaller world could also be a fertile breeding ground for disinformation too (as it is), but ultimately diversity and greater complexity along with free access to information (as the Information Superhighway has served to demonstrate again and again, especially of late) constitute a perfect counterstep to propaganda, which traditionally relies on simplicistic reductionism and obfuscation.

And this brings me to Kate McCorkie in San Miguel de Allende and a letter to the editor she'd written that appeared in a recent edition of Atención last October (not as prestigious as Al-Ahram Weekly in Egypt but for Kate McCorkie, or the people of San Miguel of Allende, or the visitor who brought me back a copy of the paper, it does just fine – think globally, act locally, and all that.):

Editor

If I were still teaching critical thinking, the political ad which begins, “You’re voting for the other guy?” published on page 55 of last week’s Atención would make the perfect 10-point quiz. Here is what I would expect my students to observe for full credit. They should recognize this as an issue ad, one purporting to inform on an issue, but obviously meant to influence. They would note that the ad is not sponsored by any legitimate group, but paid for by a single person who does not appear to have any particular political credentials. This constitutes the fallacy of “questionable authority” and should raise a red flag.

The ad begins with the statement, “You’re voting for the other guy? He’s not a friend of Israel!!” Hmm, could this be a reference to Senator Obama? Why not say so? The assertion about Israel, although in quotes, is not attributed to any reliable source or backed by any statistics---questionable authority again. Extra credit if you view two exclamation points as a blatant emotional appeal.

The next statement “Your man is not a friend of Jews!!” should be recognized as an invalid inference. Israel is a country with its own political history and agenda. The Jewish people, on the other hand, are a diverse and world wide group of individuals. It is possible to disagree with some of Israel’s policies and actions without being, as implied, anti-Semitic. Again, two exclamation points do not make it so.

“So what is a person to do?” the ad asks, in an attempt to draw in the reader into this false dilemma. Do your homework and vote with your intellect, that’s what.

Go to the head of the class.

Kate McCorkle


The world could use more people like James Adler or Kate McCorkle. The good news is that more and more people like Adler or Kate and other like them are feeling the need to get more pro-actively involved in the world today. Some of them are people you know, and one of them might even be you.

Upon witnessing the world's first nuclear test in 1945, Oppenheimer quoted "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" based on verse 32 from Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Today we are often reminded of Albert Einstein's words: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our ways of thinking."

Nonetheless, the Nuclear Age has presided over new norms of behavior in international relations and new principles of thinking relevant to the realities of the nuclear age.

With the Information Age new ways of thinking are emerging.

Change is coming.

The pace of change brought on by new technology has been very rapid. While such technologies could, of course, potentially be subverted and turned into tools of disinformation, indoctrination, and suppression of dissent; such rapidly evolving technologies are also very ubiquitous and hard to control, and the potential they present in terms of self-empowerment remains far greater.

Are we the ones we have been waiting for?

Who knows what the future holds, or who or what the Oppenheimers of tomorrow (if any) will be like, or whom or what they might be quoting; something very different from the 40’s would be nice, something, maybe, along those lines, for a change:

"Now I am become Wisdom, Opener of ways, Lord of Beginnings."

Nausicaa said...

Any political analyst who promotes change on a ceteris paribus clause is philosophically suspect. Obama is not a single independent variable which effects can be isolated independently of all other variables. It's going to bring more than Obama for change to coalesce in any meaningful way, but an Obama Presidency can be a powerful catalyst for such a transformation to take place. This is what people here and elsewhere in the world saw on November 4th and what they are hoping for.

For what it's worth, Wikipedia says that "Catalysts work by providing a different transition state and lower activation energy. The effect of this is that more molecular collisions have the energy needed to reach the transition state. Hence, catalysts can enable reactions that would otherwise be blocked or slowed by a kinetic barrier."

The problem with power is that politicians end up having to make so many unfortunate deals to get the power they want. By the time they make it to the top, very little is left of Mr. Smith (provided Mr. Smith even can make it to Washington, in the first place). But Obama is no Mr. Smith. He is not naive and it doesn't seem to me that he is one to be easily manipulated or intimidated. His relative youth for one who made to the "highest office" (his relative short political career, which was so criticized during the campaign) is his strength. Still, I can already See the chains hanging around him, weighing him down. So much weight to carry, for one so young.

Nausicaa said...

Kate McCorkle seems like a tough cookie, and so does James Adler.

Good for them! More power to them both.

(Kate McCorkle reminds me of Boggin.)

Anonymous said...

Who is Boggin?

Nausicaa said...

Reginald Boggin:

"Educators know there are only two types of schooling: indoctrination and education.

“Indoctrination teaches a student how to cleave to a party line, and to recite the slogans and bromides of the accepted conformity. He is taught only how to swallow lies, and there is no assurance he will not swallow the propaganda of foes as easily as that of friends. Such folk are hopelessly provincial to their time and place. Unable to distinguish truth from fable, they swallow both or spit both out, and become zealots, or, worse yet, cynics. The zealot holds that truth can be won with no effort; the cynic, that no effort will suffice.

“Education teaches the art of skeptical inquiry. The student learns the thoughts of all the great minds of the past, so that the implications and mistakes of philosophy of various schools are not unknown to them. And he learns, first, current scientific theories and, second, how frail and temporary such theories can be. He learns to be undeceived by those who claim to know a last and final truth.

“How else was I to deal with a dangerous race of world-destroying monsters? If I taught them to reason, maybe they could be reasoned with.”

LOL

jazzolog said...

James Adler sent me more material on MidEast rightwing reaction to our President-elect. It fills in the motivation for his letter to Al-Ahram~~~

The right-wing agitation is mainly in Israel, while the Arabs are either delighted or cautiously hopeful; while the talkbacks on the Jerusalem Post's right-wing site for the past six months have been crude and brutal-- not so much the columnists, though one, Caroline Glick, is as bad as any talkbacker. Of course many of the talkbackers are American Christian Zionist evangelicals rather than Israel. Here's a talkback that hopes for extermination of leftists:

"8. "the wind is blowing a song called r-e-v-o-l-u-tion, r-e-v-o-l-u-tion" by the hobargs
Like the famous song it's clear that the jews have had enough of the leftists. a short bloody revolution is coming. Lets hope only the leftists are exterminated and not the innocents ....
rufus gombeck - (10/12/2008 04:39) "

This one calls us fascist stooges and cowards, and Judenrat:

78. Only A Meretz Rep, Like the Judenrat of J Street Would Attack Palin
and endorse the friends of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hamas - namely Obama and Biden. But then again, just like J Street, the "Israel" Policy Forum, MoveOn.Org, and the Obama camp, et. al., Meretz also cheerleads for Hamas. Too bad we can't exchange Obama, Biden, Jimmy Carter, Jeremy Ben Ami, Ira Forman, George Soros, and the leaders of Meretz for Shalit. His life is worth much more than a bunch of fascist stooges and cowards.

This one calls Rahm Emmanuel a Judenrat:

13 | Amnon, Jerusalem, state of Lemmings, Sunday Nov 16, 2008
Scott, it is you and the Brandons of the world who say that the
Lincoln-hater but KKK Byrd and Wright lover will be another Lincoln who
are the idiots and the dupes. My God, I have never seen such stupidity
from Jewish Americans ESPECIALLY less than 7 decades after the
Holocaust. To dismiss the guy's associations, to dismiss his comments
about capitulation in Iraq, or his hiring of Israel-hating advisers is
incredible. And they bring up Judenrat Emanuel! I now see how Hitler
pulled it over the German people. Can't blame them anymore if 78 percent
of American Jews wish to board the trains.

And look at this one:

16. Barack Hussein Obama Is America's Hugo Chavez
McCain is not George Bush. McCain has opposed Bush on many issues. Obama is friends with Weatherman terrorist, Billy Ayers who bombed American institutions and is also chummy with some foreign terrorists. Obama is a Marxist who advocates redistributing white USA wealth to the blacks in the USA and Africa. Obama plans to do this by doubling the Capital gains tax for starters and then give the money to unproductive, lazy.blacks thus ensuring himself of a voting bloc to keep himself in power. Obama just sent R. Mallery to talk with Hamas, that is a fact. Obama's change = Obama's chains.

It's not Middle Eastern per se, though I suppose, like in the First-Third world Episcopalian battle, Third Worlders (and some immigrant voters in the US) can tend to be more conservative on social issues.... I think though most of the Third World was delighted with the Obama victory; it is Israel that was upset, and believe the only important western world capital in which there wasn't dancing in the streets was Tel Aviv. The letter in the Al Ahram that provoked that response was from a Western social-conservative who was undoubtedly trying to play on Third World social conservatism as a wedge issue, and to take advantage of Third World ignorance of the context of Obama's views to try to turn people delighted with his victory against him, just as they use wedge issues so much in this country. When you see how manipulative it is, as the first letter (Re: Perfect Storm) in Al Ahram after the great election victory, you'll see why my response:

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/922/letters.htm

The original article, entitled The Perfect Storm, was in the previous issue and may be viewed here~~~

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/921/fr1.htm

jazzolog said...

O golly, in my haste to paste and post Jim's stuff just above, I neglected to acknowledge and thank Anonymous and Nausicaa for their comments. Any dialogue between the two of them always is enlightening and a delight. I consider it such great fortune that they come here!

jazzolog said...

Liberals have a history of splintering into smaller and smaller groups when in disagreement or under attack. Getting everybody together was the Obama organizing skill that won the election. Already, of course, we're starting to splinter again. This article, written for the Tikkun Magazine site by Peter Dunlap, is helping me keep my priorities straight. I hope it will do that for you too. Peter Dunlap is a clinical psychologist who now finds himself specializing in "community engagement learning practices." Hmmm, OK. For more information, visit www.centerforpoliticaldevelopment.com .

Awakening Our Faith in the Future: Obama's Renewal of Our Liberal Identity
by Peter Dunlap

With an Obama presidency, liberals like me can breathe a sigh of relief, right? Well, yes, but maybe no. Certainly when our candidates win locally or nationally we feel pride, relief, and hope. Yet, what have we really gotten with an Obama administration? As the Clinton administration demonstrated, it takes more than winning an election to move the country, especially if it seems that winning required a turn to the right.

Many people feared Obama’s post-convention lean to the right. George Lakoff may have articulated this fear best when he said Obama’s pull to the right would legitimize the conservatives’ positions and perhaps even help make their candidates more appealing. After all, “if Obama espouses conservative positions, then why not simply vote for the real thing?” Well, Obama took that risk and has been elected on centrist political themes without a clear liberal/progressive mandate. Where does that leave the Left? Where does that leave issues of universal health care, offshore oil drilling, corporate accountability? While I’m certain that Obama would do the right thing if he thought he could, his turn to the right tells me he isn’t so confident. He may know the way, but will he turn this country toward its moral destiny? Will he lead us toward a future that repudiates and pursues reparation for our past militarism? Will we develop alternative fuels and overcome our oil addiction? Well, I don’t know. What I do know is that, like before, the opportunity does not lie so much with Obama as it does with us.

How many times have we heard that one—that the answer lies with us? How about the idea that the answer lies within? Does that sound true but unhelpful, because you feel you don’t know how to turn inner change into political change, or your own concerns into community engagement? Gandhi’s invitation for us to become the change we wish to see in the world risks becoming a painful cliché because it does not come with instructions. Without some sense of direction, it’s too easy to infuse Obama with too much responsibility for the hopes he has released in us. He released the hope. We need to embody it, but how?

In an oft-told story, FDR said to a group of trade unionists who wanted him to promote some controversial legislation, “I agree with you—now go out there and make me do it!” If Obama is to bring about the change we want to see, we will need to pull him and the center of the country up and to the left. It’s up to us. But we still don’t have instructions. How do we lead, how do we change the political culture of our communities, states, and the country?

No doubt organizations pressing Obama and a Democratic Congress from the left will be able to “make them do it” on some crucial issues. But this will not be enough to radically alter the future. Obama’s ascension offers us a deeper opportunity.

If we assert our political agenda in the overly rationalized manner adopted by many liberals and progressives, we will not have learned from Obama’s example. Obama’s evocation of hope reflects his own transformation of that traditional liberal identity; it is this transformation that’s worthy of following, not his (necessarily?) centrist stance on issues. We can follow him toward the realization of a new liberal political identity, one based on his mastery of leadership capacities and our own manifestation of other emergent leadership capacities that even he has not yet embodied.

While we can learn from Obama’s new liberal identity, there are many cultural leaders currently articulating and embodying other leadership capacities that will be essential for the future of liberalism and the progressive movement. My own understanding of the emergence of such capacities comes from the work of Aftab Omer, founder of the Institute of Imaginal Studies. I discuss the contributions of Omer, Lakoff, Michael Lerner, and other emergent progressive cultural leaders in my book Awakening Our Faith in the Future: The Advent of Psychological Liberalism.

Obama’s Embodiment of Leadership Capacities: Religiosity and Emotional Intelligence

The presidential campaign of Barack Obama caught fire in part because of his unique leadership capacities, which have the potential to reinvigorate liberalism as both a political force and a personal political identity available to other liberals. One of Obama’s strengths is his integration of a personal religious conviction (what I call his “religiosity”) with his political identity: He unapologetically grounds his liberal egalitarian values and rational policy proposals in a deeper call to respond with love, as a sacred commitment to address the anguish of living in an alienated modern world. Another of Obama’s strengths is his substantial emotional intelligence, which enables him to acknowledge the pain suffered by different constituencies, to forgo scapegoating and blame, and to challenge his own supporters as well as his political opponents to be more responsible as parents and citizens.

Obama's Religiosity as an Emergent Leadership Capacity

One crucial dimension of Obama's capacity to lead is revealed in his effort to live a religious life without sacrificing his egalitarian values, nor simply adopting a church to claim a religious lineage. Obama has actually thought through at a new pitch what it means to be religious. He expresses this thoughtfulness in the keynote address he delivered in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 2006, to the “Call to Renewal” conference sponsored by the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners.

In this speech Obama contrasts conservative and liberal relationships to religion, identifying the conservative inclination to take advantage of the gap between Americans of faith and many Democrats. According to Obama, the Democrats fearfully avoid questions of faith and hide behind the secular culture that has attempted to do away with the influence of any one religion. Obama sees this as avoidance, and in response he calls for “a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.”

For Obama, religion cannot be reduced to a right-wing fundamentalism that identifies abortion and same-sex partners as immoral. Obama believes that America’s religious tendency speaks to a hunger that “goes beyond any particular issue or cause.” Describing his own experience with this hunger, Obama testifies that, without faith, something is missing in our lives. He understands that people “want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness.”

During his time as a community organizer, Obama confronted his own “spiritual dilemma” through which he discovered that he had kept a part of himself “removed, detached,” leaving him as an “observer” in the midst of the many people of faith he worked with. He said he learned that “without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.” Through his community service work, he confronted his own religious alienation and resolved this dilemma by joining a faith community.

Obama’s story shows us one path to reconciling our prejudices against religion with our liberal values and politics. His integration of these enable him to speak with a moral authority that is missing from both traditional religious speaking not rooted in egalitarian values and traditional liberal speaking not rooted in a faith community.

His clear awareness of the necessity of this integration is central to his destiny. While too easily thought to be grandiose, destiny is simply a human capacity we all can aspire to embody through whatever service to humanity, to our family and community, we are capable of offering. Unlike liberals such as John Kerry, Obama embraces religiosity, and his moral speech seems wholly embodied, not contrived or overly rationalized. This religious and moral integrity challenges at least two generations of liberals, if not five or more, to rethink their fears and prejudices about religion and moral speaking.

If we are to renew liberalism, we must follow Obama and others and take up the challenge of deepening our understanding of what it means to be religious and to make peace with those religions that historically and currently seek both justice and spiritual vitality. Of course, this peacemaking must include full accountability for all that has taken place in the name of these religious institutions. However, it is too easy for liberals to scapegoat these institutions, the way conservatives scapegoat the institutions of government. Obama is not inclined to scapegoat any institution, any one political group or politician, or any segment of our society. At a private meeting in April, he did make a dismissive comment about “bitter” working-class voters who “cling to guns and religion.” This was a rare lapse and whether it revealed true feelings that he is too wise to say in public, or played to the prejudices of his audience in a way that was not authentic to his own more nuanced worldview, we can each conclude for ourselves. I go with the latter. Obama’s tendency not to blame is the second aspect of his character that I will discuss. By refusing to blame others, he is modeling the lib-eral speech of a new moral center.

Obama's Emotional Intelligence As an Emergent Leadership Capacity

Following Obama, as simple as this sounds, we must learn to stop blaming one another for our problems and to practice accountability and atonement with one another—to solve problems together. Obama clearly understands this and seems to have the moral character necessary to achieve such an end. He displays a level of emotional intelligence, and his words and actions reveal his expectation that we too live with the emotional complexities of our time without reducing them to simple explanations that find a villain to blame for our difficulties.

Obama’s religiosity, his capacity for moral speech, and his disinclination to blame seem rooted in this clear embodiment and public use of his emotional experience. This embodiment reveals that Obama has faced his own personal suffering and found both a religious and psychological solution to it. As a result, unlike too many liberal leaders such as Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, Obama has found a depth of emotion and avoided the overly rationalized identity to which many liberals fall victim. Traditional liberals have rightly been accused of indulging in forms of rational techno-speak. Lakoff has gone so far as to say that rationalism is the “bane of liberalism.” You may object that Obama’s public affect is “cool” rather than emotional. Some of his supporters have urged him to be more openly emotional in his debates with McCain, for example. There may be some validity to this view; however, it is also the case that, for an African American man, erring on the side of a cautious emotional intelligence has proven crucial. Americans are not ready to integrate the shame they would feel confronted by the legitimate anger of African Americans and other minorities coming out of the historical and current immoral cultural oppression.

Even were he Caucasian, Obama would have needed to contain his emotionality. As valid as it is to accuse Democrats of being overly rational, it is also true that they have erred in the other direction. Ed Muskie lost significant ground in the polls when he cried in public, and in 2004 Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was doomed when he attempted to rally his supporters with a seemingly erratic passion. Obama has not made the mistake of crying in public or showing his passions too intensely.

It's funny that when we think of publicly expressing passion, we imagine some over-the-top, almost smarmy or violent image. Perhaps there is some other way. For example, while Obama has remained emotionally contained, Joe Biden has found a little more room for a public display of passion. Remember his becoming choked up during the vice presidential debate? Biden's emotional expression was a vitalizing moment. In the future we may be able to go even further and truly integrate what we have learned from psychotherapy about the use of our emotions in our private lives, within our public and political selves, and with each other.

Obama’s effective use of a public emotional intelligence was most strikingly displayed in his response to his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. As this psycho-political drama unfolded, Obama used it to build the new moral center of our society. Instead of waiting out the drama in an effort to rationally rise above such “irrational” attacks, the way Kerry attempted to rise above the swift-boat accusations, or apologetically seeking to appease by immediately throwing Reverend Wright under a bus, Obama found a truer, emotionally intelligent path that responded to both the psychological and political needs of the situation. The people of America needed to see how he would respond to a situation that includes some of the worst manifestations of American humanity. We needed to see how he would manage our felt and denied shame, our overt and subtle hatreds. He proved up to the challenge, using the events to further define himself, prove his capacity to lead, and reveal to us our own destiny through his moral vision.

In his response to the complex psychological, moral, and political needs of this event, Obama spoke of the suffering of African Americans and of the imperfections in the African American community, including the anger of this community. His honesty was courageous. In discussing this anger, Obama placed the expectation on the rest of us to understand the psychological impact of oppression. He accomplished this without any dramatization or minimization. He simply said that this anger is “real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.”

However, he did not stop by only acknowledging the anger of the African American community; he also noted the anger within much of the white community. He spoke of how, for many, being white does not bring with it privilege but much suffering in the face of the social and economic inequities of our history and current circumstance. This attention to the emotional pain caused by the social and economic suffering in America, his recognition of its historical and current reality, precludes blame. He simply is able to speak openly about all human suffering without having to find a simple solution in blaming someone or some institution for our ills.

Now Obama is not the only liberal, or conservative, with significant emotional intelligence. However, due to his more integrated religiosity and his deep liberal consciousness, he is better able than other emotionally intelligent politicians to speak in a new way. What we identify as eloquence is really more than that. If we try to capture it by simply calling it charisma, we lose the opportunity to see the extent to which he actually has achieved something that we are all capable of doing.

Very few can match the eloquence or charisma that is part of Obama’s genius. However, following Omer’s unique understanding of how emotion can be transformed into capacity, we are all capable of working our way through our fear, anger, grief, and shame in a manner that would evoke our capacities for courage, fierceness, compassion, and humility. To do this we must address our prejudice against any institution, whether religious or governmental, and approach the task of institution building and renewal from the perspective that identifies responsibility and not blame. This will help us to become part of the new moral center for our society.

Following Obama, we can find whatever talents lie in our own sensitivities and the ways that we too have suffered. This is our responsibility. Obama’s religiosity and his embodied and articulated emotionality successfully overcome key limitations in the modern liberal identity. While there is much more to the mystery that he represents, a renewed liberalism must embrace at least these two strengths.

Obama’s ability to evoke hope in the American people is a direct result of his embodiment of these capacities. He causes people to feel different about themselves and their future. I suspect that this experience of hope includes an experience that we are not alone, that our suffering is seen, and that we can face our society’s crises together as a people.

Obama has activated our hope that he has become the transformation we need. However, we cannot take his success too literally or follow it too closely. Instead, we can learn more about his breakthrough by attempting it ourselves, becoming our own version of what the world needs. Whether Obama can become the kind of president we need will depend on how many of the rest of us become the change that we search for, by fulfilling our own particular destinies as citizens.

Renewing Liberal Identity

Liberals and progressives alike must learn how to fight for our liberal heritage, identify and assert our distinct egalitarian values, and reclaim a moral position oriented toward a sustainable human future. These tasks will be more easily accomplished if we balance our focus on political issues with a comparable focus on remaking our political identities. This new identity will, in part, be made up of those leadership capacities we identify in leaders like Obama. Through the embodiment of these capacities we will find ourselves speaking with the new voice of liberalism, which will enable us to articulate our values, reconnect to one another, and engage our communities in political action.

In order to renew liberalism, we have to accept responsibility for the limitations of our current political identity. We must speak with a voice that will resonate with those who have found liberalism to be too weak a political language. That will help us create new forms of community engagement to meet the current conservative domination of our country’s political discourse.

Bridging Values of Justice and Self-Responsibility: the New Voice of Liberalism

George Lakoff has taught us of the importance of framing traditional liberal political issues in ways that echo both egalitarian and traditional values. His insight is helping create a new generation of liberal discourse. Unfortunately, the new discourse is limited by the traditional overly rationalized political identity of liberals themselves. Lakoff’s crucial understanding of “reframing” won’t be utilized to its full capacity until we construct such a new liberal political identity. Remaking our identities requires learning to face our own problematic attitudes, to identify subtle prejudices such as the prejudice against religion or the public use of emotion, which limit our effectiveness, and to overcome the isolation we feel due to our alienated and fractured modern culture.

Obama’s conscious or intuitive political identity exemplifies much of what will be needed in order to bring us together as a people and renew our mutual faith in the future. Obama appears to be able to form a connection between the community-minded values of liberalism and the self-responsibility values of conservatism.

Inclusiveness at a New Level of Political Development

Central to Obama’s speech is this inclusiveness, this refusal to be divisive. He is helping us remember that we are a people, that we are not forever fractured by differences. His unwillingness to play on people’s fears, his compassionate recognition of the suffering we all experience, and his ability to meet prejudice openly, enable us to imagine that we are a people, that we are together. Radicals, liberals, and conservatives alike are all Americans; and, whatever shame being American requires, we also can find a deep pride in our American identity. We can come together in our shame, our pride, and in our determination to be a moral people.

Obama’s integration of liberal and conservative values can be and must be distinguished from his post-convention turn to the right. Like too many liberals, Obama may have confused the need to integrate conservative and liberal values with the perception that he must not appear to be too liberal regarding political issues. This confusion suggests that he may have underestimated the power of his own genuine presence; as a new type of leader he too is in unknown territory: being the mapmaker includes making such mistakes.

Obama’s turn to the right suggests that he may not understand the way in which a new moral center need not split the difference between conservatism and liberalism. Such a center can be wholly liberal and wholly moral while identifying and articulating an effective way of representing the profound need to conserve and express the traditions that make conservatism a force to reckon with. While speaking a language of inclusiveness, Obama need not cater to the conservative language of our day that distorts the idea of the “middle,” thus hiding our current off-kilter spin to the right. Instead, by simply recognizing the moral authority conservatives hold, by connecting their politics to both religion and individual responsibility, he could re-create a language of liberalism without alienating the more appealing values of conservatism.

Creating A New Moral Center

In order to create a new moral center for our society, we will need to transform political culture. Such change will only come about when we learn to come together in public holding both the values of healing and political action. When we come together, we cannot just talk about political issues or the delight and angst of raising children. Instead we must find our way to a new intimacy with one another within which we talk about what it is we have to contribute to our communities. We each have a political destiny, which can help bring all of us back to a new moral center.

In order to explore this new center, we must also be willing to talk about our prejudices. While liberals have a lot more to learn about racism, classism, and sexism, we have made enough progress in these areas to turn part of our attention to other, subtler prejudices. When we gather we need to talk about our prejudices against the use of our own moral authority, against religion, and against the public use of emotion. These prejudices undermine our relations with one another, our ability to build and sustain effective political organizations, and our ability to draw the attention of the American public.

So long as we on the Left have a hard time recognizing our own natural authority, we will not know who to follow when. This severely undermines our capacity to support effective leadership on the Left. We must learn to talk openly about leadership and we must relearn the value of surrendering to genuine authority.

Lastly, we must learn what our emotions are for, including the way they support decision-making, provide us with political energy, and bring us together as a people. So long as we allow ourselves to remain too rational, we are sterile. The alternative is not an overt, reactive public emotionality. Learning how to speak openly about our emotional experience and how to identify and welcome the emotions of others will be difficult but will strengthen our relationships and our organizations.

Now that the election is over, now that we have tallied our wins and losses, it is time to move past strategizing. Starting this winter we should gather together and reflect upon our election victories and failures. We also should take the time to attend to each other’s injuries and begin the work of healing the suffering that is at the root of all prejudice. Like the seasonal task of growing a crop, we work in the summer and fall and reflect privately and together while we seek restoration in the winter. This is the work of renewing liberalism.

http://www.tikkun.org/magazine/tik0811/frontpage/awakening

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This Monday, Dec. 8 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST:

We talk with Peter Dunlap about Obama's Renewal of our Liberal Identity.

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Quinty said...

Some of my Jewish leftist friends in the Bay Area think Rabbi Lerner is a pompous ass. But I like the guy and respect him for having had the courage to take on the Israel Right or Wrong Israel First crowd. Why do liberals tend to split up into splinter groups? For the same reason right-wingers accuse them of being weak and vacillating. They think. And people who think have a tendency to sometimes turn an issue over and go off in their own direction.

Among the left the ones who most irk me are the doctrinaire, purer than thou lock step PC types. (Let’s not forget the term “PC” was invented by a leftist to describe other leftists.) Alexander Cockburn sometimes comes off that way, and his objections to George Orwell have a Stalinist odor.

I am hoping Obama is attempting to sneak in a progressive agenda - which, after all, isn’t all that radical or progressive, since he is merely trying to save the environment and economy and inject some sanity and perhaps even decency (is that possible?) into our foreign policy through common sense methods - by redefining the so-called ideological differences between left and right. Ie, he is saying, “Look, this is common sense. This is something we have to do. Screw ideological arguments.”

So far, it appears to have worked. While bull headed stalwarts such as the Republican governor of Texas will never give an inch many Republicans have already climbed aboard. How long will that last?

For the past eight or ten years (since Lewinsky?) we have been living in an insane asylum. Now Obama is talking about bringing the arts into the White House: jazz, classical music, poetry readings.

Imagine that?

Quinty said...

Obama’s “first” scanda.....l

which is based on what?

That Obama and Blagojevich breath the same air? That they both live in Chicago?

First of all, it’s out of character for Obama to behave in the manner Blagojevich has behaved. If Obama is corrupt he would have more sense. He would be choosy about who he picked to be a coconspirator. He wouldn’t pick a clown, a guy so over the top a lot of people are wondering about his sanity.

But in consideration of the eagerness many Republicans have shown to jump onto Obama they naturally would never think of any of that. Nor do I suspect they have the inner stuff or class to discern this fundamental gulf between Blagojevich and Obama. After all, the prize for Obama in such an alliance would be miniscule compared to the one he truly wants, which is to be a great president.

So often the rightwing projects, you know? Believing everyone else behaves the way they do. And let’s not forget that ever since Nixon many have been seeking “payback.”

It’s all politics to them. “Bring my guy down in an ugly scandal then you better watch out. It’s tit for tat.” They tried to bring Clinton down and could do no better than entrap him into perjuring himself about his sex life.

What an accomplishment.

Let’s skip past Ronald Reagan and come up to present times. On how many counts of fraud, corruption, war crimes, cronyism, deceit and incompetence does George W. Bush deserve to be impeached? Perhaps hauled off to jail?

There is a possibility, you know, that if Bush ever leaves the country after leaving the White House he may be arrested and hauled off to the Hague. This is a prospect which already exists for Henry Kissinger and may very well loom ahead for some of Bush’s men: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, others.

So with so much accrued guilt to live with the Republicans have to play ‘gotcha’ with Barack Obama. This is high stakes gambling, for even if there is the faintest possibility the Obama camp may somehow be mixed up in this Blagojevich scandal they have to play it for all it’s worth. The prize is simply too great: and some (are they projecting?) already call it Obama’s “first White House scandal.” How many more do they expect?

And much of the media is playing along too, perhaps to display how truly independent they are. After all, for five or six years now it has been non-stop coverage of the Bush follies. This avalanche of scandals, large and small, has gradually pinned an assumption of “bias” on the mainstream media. How better then to demonstrate their independence than fan the sparks of a possible Obama scandal? Even though Obama has nearly been totally exonerated by Fitzgerald and Blagojevich himself in his taped conversations. Though the latter, being crazy, may still say anything. Is the rightwing hopefully waiting on its toes?

Perhaps this cycle of “payback” is what Pelosi tried to break by not allowing impeachment proceedings to begin against Bush. I always thought it was a mistake to eliminate the Office of the Independent Counsel after Keneth Starr disgraced it: we certainly could have used that Counsel’s services over the past six or seven years.

Yes, it’s party time for the “gotcha” crowd. Where there’s smoke there’s hope: even if there is no real fire inside. Obama’s “first” scandal, indeed!

jazzolog said...

Yeah, I thought we should wait a bit before dismissing any connection at all...

No taint seen on Prez-elect, but Rahm Emanuel gave a wishlist for Senate
BY CELESTE KATZ
DAILY NEWS POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
Sunday, December 14th 2008, 12:47 AM

President-elect Barack Obama's right-hand man reportedly gave the disgraced Blagojevich administration a list of four women Obama considered acceptable to fill his U.S. Senate seat.

Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman who will serve as Obama's White House chief of staff, was heard discussing the issue on court-approved wiretaps with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's chief of staff, the Chicago Tribune said.

The candidates "acceptable" to Obama on the list Emanuel provided included a trio of female Democrats: longtime Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Chicago.

Emanuel later added a fourth Democratic woman, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to the roster, the source told the Tribune.

Blagojevich and his former chief of staff, John Harris, face federal charges of trying to auction off Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. Harris has resigned.

"The revelation does not suggest Obama's new gatekeeper was involved in any talk of deal-making involving the seat," the Tribune said.

Representatives of Obama's transition team did not respond to requests for comment about Emanuel's involvement Saturday. Obama has said no one on his team engaged in any deal-making in regard to his Senate seat.

Among others who have been publicly sucked into the scandal are U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois.

The longtime congressman and son of the well-known civil rights activist has denied that he authorized any intermediary to try to strike a crooked deal to get him Obama's seat.

A handful of protesters gathered outside Jackson's Chicago office Saturday.

Blagojevich has refused to answer specific media questions related to the scandal, in which federal authorities say he tried to parlay his power to choose Obama's successor into campaign cash and other perks for himself and his wife, Patti.

He says he has done nothing wrong.

A car belonging to the disgraced governor, who has given no sign that he is planning to quit despite escalating calls to do so, was seen outside the office of a well-known Chicago defense attorney Saturday.

The Illinois Legislature is moving to strip away Blagojevich's legal ability to choose a replacement for Obama, who resigned from the Senate after winning the presidency.

Other than his weekly video address, Obama spent much of the day out of the public eye Saturday, emerging only briefly for a workout at the gym.

ckatz@nydailynews.com
With News Wire Services
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2008/12/13/2008-12-13_no_taint_seen_on_prezelect_but_rahm_eman.html

Frank Rich is grateful we have at least one corrupt politician who may actually go behind bars. Wouldn't that be a novelty!

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/opinion/14rich.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

Quinty said...

Schakowsky would be a good choice, and when the dust settles I hope she gets the Senate seat.

So far the trail to Obama is cold as cold can be. Nothing abnormal about his team making suggestions or discussing who should take his seat. Though some Republicans would have us think another major scandal is brewing.