Thursday, August 29, 2013

Obama's Grotesque Nightmare Speech

The standard hypocrisy emerging from the lips of Barack Obama was more jarring than usual Wednesday, as he struggled to pay tribute to the civil rights struggles of yesteryear while still staying true to his own right wing ideals. For all his phony black preacher-speak adulation of Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and the cinematic stereotype of struggling black folks (Pullman Porters, chambermaids and shoeshine boys), Obama simply couldn't resist getting in his usual dig about personal responsibility, and what he perceives to be the chronic whining of the oppressed:
Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse- making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.
Even professional misanthrope Newt Gingrich couldn't have made the dripping disdain implicit in this paragraph any plainer. Black-on-black violence, rather than being a desperate symptom of crushing poverty and lack of opportunity, is rendered into an "excuse". Stop complainin'! Get off your butts and stop asking for government welfare (which that other "New Democrat", Bill Clinton, effectively destroyed anyway, with the help of Newt). Starvation is no excuse for not raising your kids to be upstanding American citizens beholden to flag and authority. Blame yourselves, not your oppressors. It's the authoritarian way.

Of course, there were myriad other hypocrisies and self-condemning truths sprinkled throughout Obama's faux-lofty rhetoric. Some examples:
Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms, as a promise that in due time, the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men and that all should have an equal chance.
(Not today. Maybe someday. Gradually, the war on drugs that singles out minorities disproportionately may stop. But not on my watch. Gradually, someday, in due time, the rights of people will take precedence over the rights of corporations. Sarah Palin may be a dolt, but she sure was right about that "hopey-changey" thing being a complete canard.)
For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate. Even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes, inequality has steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder. In too many communities across this country in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.
(Obamian verbal gymnastics at their best, in which he feels our pain, acknowledges all that is wrong in America. But not a word about how his own Wall Street-friendly policies have contributed to growing income disparity and wage stagnation, and how he himself has championed  the corporate privatization of schools. In Chicago, for example, displaced minority students are being herded like sheep to their new non-union charter schools by $10/hour escorts -- to protect them from all that black-on-black violence, dontcha know.
And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages. With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on earth for every person. (Applause.) With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit and prepares them for the world that awaits them. (Applause.) With that courage, we can feed the hungry and house the homeless and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.
(Even as he spoke, his administration was meeting with Republicans in desperate hopes of making yet another deal to reduce a deficit that has already been cut to the point of no return for the millions of people whom austerity has already victimized. Obama called for good jobs and just wages, but failed to renew his call for a higher minimum wage, failed once again to note that his own policies have contributed to America becoming that bleak, vast wasteland. He spoke like a candidate for office rather than the leader of the country. Typical, but especially grotesque given the setting and the occasion for Wednesday's speech.)

And now, for a final thunderclap of presidential cognitive dissonance:
And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, the civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, the voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else's laundry or shining somebody else's shoes. (Applause.) Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed. (Cheers, applause.)
Because they marched, America became more free and more fair, not just for African-Americans but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities.
America changed for you and for me.
(He got elected, so everybody celebrate and bask in his glory. Never mind that in 1963, the economy was healthy, labor unions were still strong, and wages were still relatively robust, taxes were progressive, and there was still actually such a thing as the middle class. Never mind that the NYPD has now secretly designated Muslim mosques as terrorist organizations, and that the Obama administration has praised police spying against innocent Muslims. Never mind that Obama is still considering the stop-and-frisk NYPD Commissioner as new head of Homeland Security. America has changed, all right. And not for the better.)

New York Times columnist Charles Blow has written a brutally honest piece about MLK's magical transformation from "Dangerous Negro" with ties to Communism, to the cultural icon now so acceptable to the authoritarian likes of Barack Obama. To his credit, Blow did not join in the liberal veal pen cheering of Obama's Speech. Decrying the nostalgia of the old-timers and the new old-timers at Wednesday's staged retrospective, Blow writes:
Yet there remains a sort of cultural complacency in America. After young people took to the streets as part of the Arab Spring, many Americans, like myself, were left wondering what had become of American activism. When was the last time our young people felt so moved that they took to the streets to bring attention to an issue?
There were some glimmers of hope around Occupy Wall Street and the case of Trayvon Martin, but both movements have lost much of their steam, and neither produced a clear leader.
So as we rightfully commemorate the March on Washington and King’s speech, let us also pay particular attention to the content of that speech. King spoke of the “fierce urgency of now,” not the fierce urgency of nostalgia.
(I was struck by how old the speakers skewed this week during the commemorations.) What is our fierce urgency? What is the present pressure? Who will be our King? What will be our cause?
As many readers pointed out, it was the Obama Administration itself which crushed the Occupy movement. And the "Trayvon Movement", which initially included a boycott of tourist dollar-dependent Florida by millionaire black entertainers, simply fizzled.... because, well, Capitalism. My comment, in answer to where all the new dissenters may be:

Now that the Occupy movement has been stymied, the most dangerous Americans are independent journalists and whistleblowers. It takes at least a generation to declare a subversive a hero. So someday, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and a whole host of subversives who are still little kids might get their own national holidays. This of course is if America as we know it survives for another generation, and "the nation" hasn't been rendered into just another chunk of wasteland real estate, pillaged and despoiled by the multinational capitalists who own the world in all but name.
Two of the speakers at Wednesday's ceremonies have recently spoken out strongly about the steady downward spiral of human rights in America. Jimmy Carter, who has publicly railed against our government's campaign of kill lists and drone terror, recently observed that this country no longer has a functioning democracy. And Civil Rights icon John Lewis praised Snowden, comparing him to Thoreau and Gandhi, before suddenly walking back the accolades and claiming he was misquoted by The Guardian newspaper. I suspect that some higher-up must have given him some friendly advice. Lewis, you may remember, was asked to "tone it down" once before, in the first March on Washington.
As the late revolutionary philosopher Frantz Fanon so saliently observed, "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it."

15 comments:

James F Traynor said...

Karen, I'm glad I have you to listen to this shit. I can't abide it. How you do is beyond me. If I did I'd wind up like poor Hedges. Even second hand, being a long time shit house, it gives me the fantoms.

Ste-vo said...

Says ditto for James Traynor's comment. Yesterday, as much as I was moved to tears by the MLK comments and Mahelia Jackson urging him to "tell them about the dream," I personally give two shits for Mr. President Peace Prize. The man is an unmitigated disaster and continues aiding and abetting the trainwreck that AmeriKa is becoming.
Like my new decal, read about on this very sight - "I am much happier now that I have given up all hope." It will eventually get taken down and put in a box with all my George Bush shit. I am focused on my raised beds, my 15-month old puppy, and attempting to re-localize the Brandon, VT economy, since the country is going to hell in a hand basket and community will be the only thing we have.

Zee said...

@Karen and @All--

I have never known poverty, I certainly have never lived in a deep, urban ghetto, and I have never experienced racism.

So, coming from a white-bread, upper-middle-class upbringing, I'm hardly one to give advice or to claim to “understand” about urban poverty and violence.

But one thing that I recall from going to public schools—which gave me and my parents the “good life”—is that I generally felt safe whilst doing so.

Yes, we had bullies, but somehow they always seemed, in the end, to get their come-uppance. I don't know if it was the teachers, a concerned administration, or just fate, but that's how it seemed to work.

I think that it is different in the inner-city.

I don't have any real answers as to how to “un-do” the calamitous consequences of living, generation after generation, in hopeless poverty in, say, Detroit or any other [fill in the blank] collapsing big city.

Part of the answer may be simply giving money to the current residents of the inner cities and begging them to finally stop killing each other as a simple quid-pro-quo for a generation of peace, while the next generation tries to rejoin civilization.

But that next generation still needs an opportunity to “break free” of its past, murderous, culture. It seems to my Neanderthal, Conservative mind, that safe, quality schools are an important link in this process.

The cycle of poverty in the inner city will not change until those who want to educate themselves have schools—with quality teachers—to which they can safely walk or to ride a bus, safe schools in which they can learn, and schools from which they can safely walk or ride the bus home to do their homework and be encouraged by their parents.

And here, I'm not talking about safety from “terrorism” or insane gunmen, but simply safety from those around them who would undermine their efforts to escape poverty and the ghetto.

If you don't understand what I'm talking about, well, Juan Williams, Shelby Steele and Bill Cosby will.

Again, I don't know that dozens or even hundreds of yellow-vested, “Safe Passage” guards will make a difference in keeping the next generation of inner-city children safe to escape the ghetto but will hundreds of police in the neighborhood, 24/7 help either?

Remember, the schools in Little Rock were desegregated by Federal troops, after all. Maybe that's what it will take to keep inner-city schools safe for the next generation, pooh-pooh though we will those who would wish see the kids safe to and from school.

What's the answer?

tara said...

A few weeks ago I removed my Obama bumper sticker. I also took down my adorable Surfin' Obama Hawaii bobble head from dash. I am so utterly disappointed in this President. Now, in his second term, he has real power to do what he said he was going to do. But will he? Not so far.

His war mongering with Syria is the latest calamity. I hope that the lack of international support and the letter from Congress to send the decision to them gets through to the man that the plan is not that simple nor free from hazards. It is madness. And yes, I'd like to see the bastards responsible for gassing people to death in their sleep wiped from the face of the earth. But it's not going to happen with 'strategic strikes.'

annenigma said...

It strikes me that Obama is acting out of the same mindset as a slavemaster plantation owner. He considers all the world to be colonial plantation properties, countries are slaves to the master's demands, and when countries don't do as commands, he has his military enforcers whip them into submission or has his legal enforcers imprison them in the Big House. 'Just because he can'*

It is a mindset that others have no value except as tools for the plantation's crops of oil and other valuable commodities and the accompanying profits and power. Dr. Cornel West often talks about blacks being on the Obama Plantation, but I believe that could be expanded further to everyone in the world that aren't fellow plantation owners - the 99%. It's ironic that the first black President has embraced such oppression. I'm sure he thinks that he treats The Help well though and that they're lucky to be on the Plantation.

It just goes to show you don't have to be white to to aspire to, and become, a slaveowner. It's a mindset and part of the character of the man. As MLK reminded us, we should be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin.


*Clinton's explanation for his affair.

Will said...

I believe it's Hermann Goering infamous quote time again here at Sardonicky. Have a nice holiday weekend, everybody.

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked ,and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Will said...

One more thing. Here's comedian/activist Lee Camp with his take on the impending war with Syria. Interesting. (As always, strong language. Make sure the kids are outside or something.)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=N3qrR1AVMNU

microsrfr said...

Your criticism of President Obama goes too far. What would you have accomplished as POTUS?

I believe that Obama, just like any politician who has the political tools to become President, will not show his true feelings if he knows it will compromise his ability to get any shred of progress through Congress.

We need to thank him for pulling off passage of the ACA which had been proposed unsuccessfully by presidents from Harry Truman onward, despite pundits declaring his quest impossible all along the way.

When it comes to war, I worry about any president, especially leading up to reelection. If their domestic plans are neutered by congress, there will always be the temptation to pull the war lever just because its the only one left and also because the candidate can "fire up" tribalism and rap themself in the flag as the leader/saviour.

Obama has consistently stated that we, the people, must lead the charge and demand change. The media-anethesized populace has yet to respond. Under that type of pressure, Nixon created the EPA and the Energy department while the constant clammering outside the Whitehouse moved him to end the Vietnamese War (but he was stopped by Kissinger).

Will said...

Okay, even I'm sick of myself by now, so I'll be brief:

1) Microsfr's post is so absurd that I actually enjoyed reading it. Twice.

2) Everywhere I look lately I see or hear the word "grotesque." This is not a good thing.

Zee said...

@mcrosrfr--

I didn’t vote for Barack Obama, so I would hardly be expected to defend him. But I think that I understand the outrage of those in this forum who did vote for him, and feel utterly betrayed.

First, let’s look at the so-called “Affordable” Care Act. A “success story?” Hardly. As I look at all the arbitrary waivers and delays that Obama has handed out to his pals, at what even Obama’s labor supporters are calling the “end of the 40-hour work week in America,” the huge premium increases that some citizens will experience even after their subsidies are factored in, and the fact that for-profit insurance companies will still be in control of our health care, I can understand why my Progressive friends are sickened.

Hell, I’m sickened too.

He has two years during which his party had control of both the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government, and that was the best he could do?

And, in fact, it’s the ONLY thing that he accomplished during those two years of what should have been “liberal paradise.” Nothing on immigration reform, nothing on gay and lesbian rights, nothing to speak of on the reform of our financial system, etc., ad nauseum

The only thing that Obama the Amateur has proven to be good at is speechifyin’. He seems to view his job description principally as “Cheer-Leader-in-Chief,” assuming that if he just pontificates enough, someone else will do the heavy lifting. And, as with the ACA, he assumes that Congress will read his mind and come up with legislation that matches his sweet dreams. But left to its own devices, Congress comes up with nightmarish legislation, instead; the notion that he might have to actually work to achieve his dreams--assuming that he had any to begin with--never occurs to him. It’s just “Let the chips fall where they may.”

Finally, let’s look at Obama the militarist. As a senator, Obama railed against Bush’s involvement of the United States in wars without Congressional approval. Now, he’s shown that he can’t wait to “one-up” Bush, first with his Libyan adventure, and now, with a face-saving, piddly-assed bombing of Syria that will solve nothing, and may send the whole region up in flames. What a lying hypocrite!

Obama entered office with the hopes of much of the world pinned on him--to the point that he was given a Nobel Peace Prize purely “on spec.” Now, having been utterly betrayed, the rest of the world either merely disrespects him as the rank amateur that he’s proven to be, or outright hates him.

“[Karen’s] criticism of President Obama goes too far[?]” Methinks it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

PS: I believe that it was Jimmy Carter who created the Department of Energy in 1977, which has proven to be a pretty worthless bureaucracy, itself. What has changed significantly for the better with respect to our nation’s energy situation since 1977 that can be directly attributed to DOE?

Zee said...

@microsrfr--

Oh, and regarding what Will said--

Moi, aussi!

Jay - Ottawa said...

Off the MLK topic and back to Syria.

Do you think Obama is hoping for a Cameron?

Parliament turned down PM Cameron on the UK's striking Syria. Just maybe, Obama now wants to walk back from his own threats against Syria. He needs Congress to tie his hands and thinks he won't look so weak backing away from bombing Syria if Congress says no to a Syrian attack.

If senators and representatives, before they reconvene in about a week, get swamped by calls and emails from Americans opposing a strike on Syria, then maybe Congress, like the British Parliament, will say no to war, thus giving Obama the cover he needs to back down.

Can you give it 15 minutes of your time at the keyboard? Then 10 minutes more to enlist your contacts in the effort?

Zee said...

@Jay:

I do indeed think that Obama is hoping for a "Cameron."

As for urging my Congresscritters to oppose bombing Syria, already done.

Sen. Tom Udall is already on record as opposing it.

annenigma said...

Since when does contacting our Congressmen or even protesting have any effect? You mean the wealthy elite have suddenly stopped calling the shots? When did that happen?

And since when does the USA pass up an excuse to go to war, especially when there is a perfectly good excuse? Even when Congress refused to authorize military action in Libya, Obama went ahead anyway. There were no repercussions.

Obama now has more time to beef this up into something more muscular to make a bigger impression on the world about our seriousness and military might. You can Bank on the support he will get, despite our protestations. AIPAC has over a week or more to work their lobbying charms as does the entire MIC lobby. The final vote will be close, but you can bet there will be votes from just enough Democrats (who aren't in vulnerable districts) for it to pass. It's the game they play to fool us.

Obama will now also have more time to enlist the support of the corporate media in his pro-war propaganda campaign. He will also mobilize his personal propaganda army, the OFA. That was formed specifically to advance his agenda. Just call him Generalissimo Obama.

Public pressure might effect a non-authorization but it won't stop the war. Even if Congress somehow miraculously declined to authorize this military action, it would be with a wink and a nod. Obama has already made clear he doesn't need their authorization because of his usual unique interpretation of the Constitution. No one is going to seriously consider impeachment over something so noble, worthy, and all-American as war.

Obama's ego demands military action. His credibility(?) demands it. His war profiteering puppet masters demand it. Israel demands it. His favorite constituency, the Republicans, demand it. Patriotic Christians demand it. Loyalist Democrats will demand it too.

Come Hell or high water, Obama will take us into another war, but it may have a far different impact than he expects. Thanks largely to Edward Snowden, the world sees the USG through different eyes. Trust is gone.

Neil Gillespie said...

re microsrfr @ What would you have accomplished as POTUS?

1. Debt jubilee. As part of a national economic reorganization plan, I would have canceled home mortgage debt, forgiven student loans, and declared a debt jubilee for poor people, working-class and middle-class folks.

http://systemicdisorder.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/debt-jubilee/

2. Medicare or other single payer healthcare system for all. The health of the American People is too important to hand off to private industry. The two largest exporting nations have universal healthcare, Germany and China. U.S. companies are at a competitive disadvantage when they must pay extra-ordinary rents to a protected private healthcare industry. Also see Bernie Sanders - U S Healthcare Held Hostage by Corporate Fraud .

http://youtu.be/zs7ds9x2z9I

Also see Public Healthcare http://youtu.be/RSM8t_cLZgk

3. End the military empire. In dealing with a war criminal like Assad, I would evacuate the war zone and let the dictator reign over an empty city or county. Then enforce a blockade, cut off the dictator’s food, water, and power. When the war criminal makes a run for his life, arrest him under international law, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Yes, ICC is flawed, but it is a step in the right direction.

http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/legal%20texts%20and%20tools/Pages/legal%20tools.aspx

The refugees can be relocated during the meantime. Perhaps a plan like the Slattery Report, which included a proposal to move European refugees, especially Jews from Nazi Germany and Austria, to four locations in Alaska, including Baranof Island and the Mat-Su Valley.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slattery_Report

4. Return the Nobel Peace Prize. Rather than fight terrorism with US military-style terrorism, I would offer our aggrieved brothers and sisters a legitimate way to exercise a right to petition the government for redress of grievances, either their own government, or ours.

The right to petition the government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one's government, without fear of punishment or reprisals. The Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ensures the right to petition to the European Parliament. The right can be traced back to the Bill of Rights 1689, the Petition of Right (1628), and the Magna Carta (1215).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_petition

The Osama bin Laden’s of the world have grievances. Give them a way to peacefully resolve those grievances.

5. Develop a trickle-up economy. This is not a new concept. Henry Ford believed in what may be called Trickle-Up Economics. Ford paid his workers top wages, and in turn the workers spent the money buying cars and creating economic activity.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/10/1035007/-Trickle-up-economics

Daily Kos: "In 1914, Henry Ford paid his workers $5 a day, that was double the average wage for manufacturing jobs at the time. He did this because he wanted his workers to buy his cars."

6. Establish a right to legal aid, as proposed by Gabriela Knaul, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). See "Legal aid, a right in itself" – UN Special Rapporteur

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13382&LangID=E

So that’s what I would try to accomplish as POTUS. Thanks for asking.