OBAMA: Post-election analysis (finale of three)
Once everything goes right, the world will witness a coronation of sorts next Tuesday, when Barack Obama is sworn in as the 43rd president (yes/Grover Cleveland counts only once) of the USA; and without doing a formal survey, I can safely say that most people in the world -who will be aware of this event- will be pleased. I can also safely say that this will be the most communicated event ever: whether by radio, internet, television, telephone, text messaging or whatever. The potential for this event -in terms of national and international human interaction- is proverbial; it will probably even surpass the attention paid to the coverage of the 9-11 cataclysms on that tragic day itself.
And yes, Negroes all over this planet will be extra happy. And yes, so too will be millions of human beings of other races; as well as millions of others of mixed races (like Obama). And of course millions of Caucasians too -who in the tradition(s) of William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, the early Quakers, Nat Turner, and others of those ilks- will also be pleased: given that they all will be -at least minimally- aware of the symbolic significance of this impending event.
This event is so historic in national and international dimensions that many still don’t get it; especially some of those journalists and commentators over at the Fox News Network. But later for them, since it is obvious that they just don’t understand how profound the impact of racism has been on the history of this planet; and they are not alone. Thus, to this day, there are many who are probably still trying to figure out why there was so much dancing in the streets (all over the world) accompanying Obama’s victory-night.
Despite the euphoria of these times, there are various warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. Too many of us seem to be always awaiting messiahnic deliverance, and Barack Obama isn’t Yehuda (Jesus Christ). He is only a man. He is as flawed and mortal as everyone else; he is no demigod. Of course there are aspects to his character and abilities that just happen to be brilliant, but for him to succeed at dealing with the myriad problems facing this country, this hemisphere, this region and the world at large, Barack Obama is going to need our help: big time. He is going to need the help, the ideas, the contributions, the good-wishes and the prayers of all us who wish him well.
Over a month ago, his campaign people put out a request that has gone unnoticed somewhat; it’s really a series of motifs that have been playing throughout his campaign: we are all in this together; we all have to roll our sleeves up and chip in; change cannot come about by one man or group handling the workload.
The campaign requested that all those who contributed money and are somewhat vested in the Barack Obama story, to now form and/or join small groups of politically active people all across this great country. People who are willing to do things in their immediate community to affect the changes we (they) desire.
Personally, I think Barack generates more hope and inspiration than say novel political ideas; but it’s a start. His oratorical gifts are the best presents for as politically complacent a society as this one here in the good ole US of A. He can become the catalyst for real change, but he cannot do it alone.
I remember that after reading the books Barack wrote, I was truly enamored with his commitment to public service. I was also impressed by the importance he placed on community activism. He had eloquently validated things I have devoted my life to: community involvement, social interaction, activism in education, genuine grassroots organizing, fealty to youth development, public service, political activism, et al. And that’s why it was easy for me to quickly join one of his many grassroots organizations (Brooklyn for Barack) a couple years ago.
I have spent a lifetime in these activities, and over the past twenty years -while lecturing at the university level- I have had many arguments with young college students, who don’t seem to appreciate that “public service is the rent we pay for sharing space on this earth”. Somewhere in the last half century, we have developed too many selfish and self-centered individuals; people who believe that government is there to solve all our (their) problems, with minimum -or no input at all- from them; people who refuse to sacrifice anything for the betterment of society. People who refuse to give time, energy, brain-power, strength or money, in order to even make an attempt at making this a better world.
Over the years I have been asking college students about the organizations to which they belong, only to find that very few are involved with civic organizations at all. Too few people involve themselves with charity work, or philanthropy, or politics. Too few people volunteer their time to do things like reach out to those shut-in, or visit the sick, or read for the blind or the infirmed, or spend time with kids -badly in need of discipline, context, motivation and/or inspiration.
Too few people join tenants associations or block associations. Too few join -or actively participate in- neighborhood watches, or neighborhood associations. Too few attend precinct council meetings -unless there is some serious crime situation threatening their insular existence. Fewer yet, attend community planning-board meetings, or committee hearings of any legislative branch, far less contribute to problem-solving. And you know what: they don’t even care.
When you get to the rationale, that’s where you see the selfishness that they seem oblivious to. These types of civic-minded activities are never a priority on their radar screens. Other things are more important; at least in their minds they are; but are they? I see all this within my immediate family. I see it amongst relatives and friends. I see it with students and strangers alike. We are victims of a rather impersonal society; and we wonder why we are also one of the most violent ones in this world.
Let me reiterate: too few people expend time or energy in civic-minded activities. Too few spend or donate monies to charities, or organizations which do lots of good things for those less fortunate. This is where Barack Obama is coming from. It is similar to what former president George Bush (senior) talked about, when he articulated his “thousand points of light” ideals. To make this a better world, we all have to chip in.
Look: change doesn’t start with “c”; it starts with you. All of you out there who complain about all the problems we face, but do very little (or nothing meaningful) to effectuate real change. Those of you who don’t generate creative new ideas, or even try to suggest alternative ways for affecting public policy decisions. You are the ones who challenge Barack, and now he has thrown the challenge back in your faces. I wonder if some of you are aware of this.
I look around at all the excitement that Barack’s victory has generated and I am amazed; those who told me point blank that he couldn’t win, now tell me that they were always in his corner. Those who ridiculed my predictions and political analysis -after reading my many lengthy columns- now call me insightful, and thoughtful, and brilliant. And yet, I wonder if they really understand Barack’s challenge (and his challenges also).
There is so much riding on Obama’s shoulders that I could only caution against expectations that are too high; expectations that are too great. And the fact is that these expectations run both nationally and internationally. Too many people believe that Barack will wave some magic wand and everything will be fixed; they are wrong. All we can hope for is that he does the best he can. We can be optimistic and that’s it. We can also roll up our sleeves and contribute to the change Barack has tried to articulate. We can become truly involved in order to reify his vision (sketchy as it maybe).
In closing, let me add one more observation; the energy Barack rode to victory was fuelled mainly by those under forty, and yet he has essentially ignored them as he assembles his cabinet. And maybe I am bit leery of his possible successes because I see so many mistakes being made in the post-election phase; all being made by a brilliant man and those around him, which leads me to expect many more mistakes down the stretch. A man who may be too full of himself to understand what’s really happening here (observe I said “may”), beneath all the glitter, the glamour and the glee.
Barack has too many Clintonistas in his cabinet. He played this too safe. He has re-cycled the same old, same old unimaginative people that are part of the problem. He may stretch his goodwill to a breaking point one day soon. That’s why some in New York are rooting for Caroline Kennedy as Hilary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate. There are many who badly want to change some of the tried and tired old faces. Ditto for Obama’s cabinet and some of those he has positioned in other high places.
For now, I guess we will all have to continue wishing him well. We may all have to wish him good luck too: he is going to need it. Stay tuned-in folks.
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