The Audacity of Ambivalence

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Twenty-three years ago, I was transformed by the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson.  I became the political animal that haunts this blog with sporadic amounts of humor and cynicism.  The campaign became a coming of age that should define a generation of us in our mid-thirties. The rhetoric of the campaign was uplifting and edifying in a spiritual way and inspired a new generation of African American politicians great and small.    

In his convention address, Jesse said, “No generation can choose the age or circumstance in which it is born, but through leadership it can choose to make the age in which it is born an age of enlightenment, an age of jobs, and peace, and justice. Only leadership — that intangible combination of gifts, the discipline, information, circumstance, courage, timing, will and divine inspiration — can lead us out of the crisis in which we find ourselves. Leadership can mitigate the misery of our nation. Leadership can part the waters and lead our nation in the direction of the Promised Land. Leadership can lift the boats stuck at the bottom.” 

After seven years of movement conservative disaster, America is looking for a leader that can heal our land and lead us toward what Dr. King described as the beloved community, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” The beloved community is an ideal founded on the biblical principle embodied by the commandment to, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” The opening salvos of this Presidential campaign was a period of assessment in which we could go to our quiet place, commune with ourselves, and reflect on what it is that our President should embody besides white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.   

Over $100 million dollars has been raised by just two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and I find myself wondering, “is this it?”  “Is this shit all there is?”  I really don’t need to hear more deceptive rhetoric masquerading as courage and understanding. Quoting Big Mama’s favorite bible verse is not gonna cut it this year. I need to get a sense that there is a plan for progressive transformation behind the Machiavellian mask.  

Hiding deep in the recesses of their rhetoric should be some amalgamation of the hopes, fears, and wild aspirations of the average working class person.  What we’ve all been hearing for the last six months is the emotionless recitation of the same broken promises that we threw our votes away for the last four times.  Playing it safe in order to keep power is what got us here to start with and placating the establishment so that it facilitates the rise to the ultimate power of the Presidency is not my idea of radical transformation.   

Creeping up inside of my listless and dispirited soul is a powerful melancholy because we’ve been on the smooth glide path toward plutocracy for over a century and nothing in the last twenty-five years has slowed down the process.  Instead, what we’ve seen is an acceleration of the total corporate hegemony over our democracy.  

I am incapable of realizing the eminent death of our democracy and the moribund nature of national democratic leadership while smiling optimistically into the face of Barack Obama as the physical embodiment of my youthful idealism and the personification of my adult ambivalence.   

While Rev. Jackson paid homage to this nation’s diversity, America is not like a blanket — one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The white, the Hispanic, the black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt.” 

“Even in our fractured state, all of us count and fit somewhere. We have proven that we can survive without each other. But we have not proven that we can win and make progress without each other. We must come together.” 

Obama tipped his hat to a white vision of race-less, class-less American-ness, “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”  

Common ground can never be reached by a pander bear reaching out to people blinded by willful ignorance and deliberate racial amnesia.

I am angry that  Rev. Jackson has bequeathed the legacy of his progressive imprimatur to a man with the audacity to deny the necessity for slave reparations.    

I am angry that Obama is content to go through the motions of opposition while leaving reactionary power arrangements intact. 

I am angry that Obama claims the mantle of the biblical Joshua and then secretly  dons the robes of a Pharaoh.  

I am angry that our system of presidential selection is a closed process of capitalist kabuki dancing that is all calibrated to telegraph the non-threatening intentions of the contenders to the white power structure so that they may choose the most willing corporate whore.  

I am angry that my voice no longer matters and that the hunger for true leadership is turned against us so that we’re forced to accept Wall Street’s favorite ventriloquist dummy as our President.  

I am angry that identity politics is no longer a means of empowerment but an instrument of our oppression.  

I am angry that my youthful idealism is in reality a childish delusion.  

I am angry that I am losing my willingness to stay in this country and fight the forces of reaction that are devouring our planet and killing our people.  

I am angry that my writing and local activism isn’t enough.   

I am angry that the one man that speaks to my frustration, Dennis Kucinich, is marginalized, belittled and ignored.

I am angry that I am still just one lonely voice as powerless after 225,000 site views as I was the very first day I posted over a year ago when nobody was listening. For me, the thrill of politics, the driving passion of my life, is gone.