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Obama and the American Dream - Represent Our Resistance By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD, BC Editorial Board

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“…When you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodyness’ - then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Gremlins of the American Empire are holding their collective breath.  Aside from Rupert Murdoch, the beneficiary of hubby Bill’s Telecommunication Act 1996, the defense industry loves Hillary Clinton.  Supporter of the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, leave-no-friends-of-Bill behind, Hillary Clinton, is loved by Lockheed-Martin.  She’s received hefty defense contracts to solidify their marriage. But that’s not all! Citigroup, Comcast, Sun Microsystems, Morgan Stanley and many other corporations love Hillary.  Her backers are all about privatization, free trade, and astronomical profits.  Although people of color on her staff outnumber Barack Obama’s picks, Hillary Clinton is in love with powerful white men and their interests. 

That this lover and daughter of capitalism supreme came in third in the Iowa Caucus, January 3, 2008, has the corps experiencing a bit of shock and awe! They must have gone to bed Thursday night wondering if their get-away spaceship has left Earth too soon.  What happened to the good people of Iowa?

To their credit, the corporations left the fear campaign to their good buddies King George and Darth Vader.  Osama is coming to a mall near you! The people, scared and tired of being scared, responded on January 3rd.  Some are tired of the Empire.  It would be optimistic (or should I say, hopeful) to credit Barack Obama’s win in Iowa to the “people” fighting back the Empire.  They want change.

What kind of “change” do these people have in mind?

Obama’s mantra, “change,” was echoed by Clinton’s oh, yeah - “change.”  Yeah, that’s it.  And good number of other folks went to bed, smiling. Change. But the corporations love Obama too.  Clinton has more “experience” dealing with the corps, but they can love the new guy on the block who doesn’t nag them (at least not as often and persistently as John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich) with 60s mantra’s like “power to the people” or “hey, what about the poor and working-class people?” According to The Hill, three political aides on Obama’s payroll were “registered lobbyists for dozens of corporations, including Wal-Mart, British Petroleum and Lockheed Martin, while they received payments from his campaign, according to public documents (Lobbyists on Obama’s ’08 payroll). Wal-Mart, a friend of Hillary Clinton, who used to sit on the Wal-Mart Board, really loves the working class!  BP and Lockheed really love war profiteering!  But Obama can talk about foreign “terror” and “terrorists” with the best of them.  He can suggest “aggressive” talk with the Middle East to the Chicago/Midwest AIPAC crowd back in March 2007.  He can support his fellow Democrats’ Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act 1959, too.  And maybe Obama was out of the senate that day shaking hands and winning support from Will Daley, the son of shoot-to-kill Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, the day S456: Gang Abatement Act passed without an actual vote.

Yes, there’s so much of change in all of this - it is nauseating.

Why this 38 percent vote from the predominantly white state of Iowa? The emphasis is on the word kind in the question: What kind of change do these people have in mind?  It is the kind of change that does not remind white America of the connection between domestic enslavement of Black Americans and the practice of torture, terror, and repression at home and the practice of pre-emptive war, torture, and terrorism conducted on foreign soil against other people of color.

The concern about Obama’s “experience” has less to do with experience in foreign policy and more to do with his experience, that is, memory of domestic policy as it relates to Black Americans.  Obama’s mother is white and his father is Kenyan.  In other words, Obama is not a product of the Black American experience and, as a result, doesn’t share in the familial experience - the collective memory of the Maafa, the catastrophe of being kidnapped from Africa, shipped in chains, enslaved in the U.S.  He can travel to Selma, Birmingham, Watts, Detroit, and live and work in Chicago, but he resides somewhere between his mother’s heritage of white privilege and the voluntary immigrant - who isn’t from Haiti or Mexico.

Obama’s ancestors aren’t those enslaved Africans whose descendants have had to strategize for every gain and resist every repressive domestic policy.  The colorblind rhetoric of everybody is all the same within the American Dream and hasn’t tickled down to Black Americans because the everybody meant white bodies.  Black Americans, on the other hand, are the nightmare living the nightmare of struggle and contradiction in a country that has repeatedly set its agenda toward eradicating the victims of this atrocity.  No amount of whitewashing rhetoric will change this reality for the majority of Black Americans.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dropped the rhetoric of the American Dream when he came face-to-face with the nightmare of reality in Chicago.  The new struggle King envision after the Civil Rights gains would not be merely a struggle against “extremist behavior” witnessed in the overt speech and actions of citizens and officials in the South (“The Other America”).  King recognized that “racism is deeply rooted in America” and, from those who do not genuinely believe in equality for Black Americans, racism will be covert, but no less virile. 

Obama does not represent the typical Black as the scapegoat of the American Dream; he embraces it without demanding accountability for a deplorable domestic policy as it relates to Black, Native Americans, Latino/a Americans or to the people of Korea, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Cuba, the Republic of Congo, Haiti, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The further construction of air bases in Africa, the destruction of the food supply and contamination of water and lands, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and Asia will need another front man or woman - a fresh face.  This new fresh face will wave the flag and salute the Cross while articulating the aspirations of those who could afford to contribute to his ten million dollar win in Iowa. Those people in New Orleans who lost their homes before the holidays - what will they receive from Obama?  What will those who are losing their homes to predatory lenders receive? Who will articulate the aspirations of Black parents who want more for their children than the No Child Left Behind prison prep agenda?  Will he dismantle the police state in urban areas throughout this country and offer substantive programs to lift people from poverty and despair?

Black Americans have had to hope for the best long before Obama’s father came to these shores.  They don’t need Obama to tell them about hope. 

Barack Obama looks Black and biologically, he is Black - but he’s also a little different.  And different where it counts.  He doesn’t possess the reservoir of memory or the spirit of resistance that has sustained Black Americans through trials and tribulations.  Yes, white Americans have dreamt of the kind of difference Obama represents.  In the dynamics of U.S. politics, he’s like the pharmakon that looks a lot like the poison but just might be the cure.  His “American Dream” is memory with no sign - as Jacques Derrida would say Obama’s dream does not recall “the non-present.” He speaks the language of pleasantries and, therefore, can’t articulate what Toni Morrison calls the “unspeakable.” His difference saves white America from thinking about their fear of equality with Black Americans.  We are left with an unexamined American Dream in which the “memory” embedded within is as whitewashed as that of the Neocons’ dream of Empire - and certainly neither side of the same coin are any less violent as mechanisms that ultimately destroy the hope of change.

“We love Obama very, very much,” will be the new chant for a while. 

I say "for a while," because Hillary Clinton’s corporate friends, more and stronger, aren’t cheering now.  They aren’t chanting any mantra that doesn’t begin with money and end with profits.  The American Dream is corporate capitalism running full speed toward the agenda of Pax Americana.  Hillary Clinton is a start-the-engines-gal; let’s get this whole country, the world privatized by summer 2009! But what if Obama goes in, takes a seat, and starts to hear from those nagging Blacks, Latino/as, poor and working-class? What if he starts to buckle under that pressure like say Kennedy or Johnson before him?  Then what? There won’t be a whole lot of love then.  Will Obama risk turning his attention from the interests of corporate friends?  It’s not safe for us - Blacks - to dream, if it means consuming the same brew called “The American Dream.” 

The Gremlins of the American Empire will wait to see what this pseudo love affair with Obama will mean for their interests. 

News from Washington stays the same.  This we know.  Don’t bother to wait on change.  Say "power to the people" as we go back to work - in our struggle. Editorial Board member Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer, for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.

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January 10, 2008
Issue 259

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