Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dis'United States of America: The Red, White, Blue...and above all Green

This essay has been a concept for months, but the recent political rancor has forced me to finally sit down and write. I needed to find a way to cut through the rhetoric and get to the reality.

Those that have tried to debate religion know it is an exercise in futility. Talking politics has become as meaningless. People are so fixated on position, principle, or ideology, they forget reality.

As a social scientist, I believe in social facts. Everything is not debatable. For example, poverty exists. People try to debate why it exists...but there is an answer to that too that has to do with finite resources unevenly distributed through historical oppression where the wealth gained by a few came from the exploitation & poverty of the many - a two-sided coin (short answer).

Unfortunately, we have allowed everything to be about perception...but...reality matters...and it always will.

This essay is a lesson in the reality of politics in this country, and I think it is important to lay out the facts clearly. There is no point on debating questions that have answers and continue to focus on "what ifs" when our time would be better spent developing strategies to deal with "what is".
Most energy on the blogosphere and in political debate right now centers on the deception of Obama. Instead of being the "change" many believed they were voting for, Obama is now widely criticized for being anything from "status quo" to the "ultimate deception". The criticism leveled on him is intellectually dishonest because Obama is following the same script he has since the first speech that put him on the national stage in 2004.

The theme of that speech was "Out of Many, One".

Here are some revealing excerpts:

OBAMA:

It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?


Like most Obama speeches, it reveals exactly who Obama is and how he leads...i think this is what has been so ironic about the Obama debate...he is definitely a politician but a pretty transparent one that has been clear in terms of his philosophical bend but pragmatic approach to leadership and politics. The America he describes does not exist, but politically it is the only America any leader can address...the center. He has always tried to play down differences and speak to commonalities because that is the only winning position politically and electorally.


The reality is America could not be more disunited, with segments of the population having polar interests and objectives. And it is this reality all need to accept if we ever want to progress.


The Green: Fascism in the 21st Century

In reality, monied interests have controlled governments throughout history (even so-called "democracies" like the United States) , but the latest health care reform debate has been a glaring example of how little respect is given to the "will of the people". Despite a majority favoring a public option, the bill as it stands will not only not include a public option, but will be most favorable to insurance companies that have lobbied Congress and the President.

The Bailout of Wall Street is the most glaring example. The economy now constantly threatened by the collapse of banks "too big to fail"...so today we have socialism for corporate capitalists (public funds used to save private entities - a big no no in capitalism) only for these same private entities to turn around and lobby our elected "representatives" to make sure we don't get to use our money on ourselves for things like education, universal health care, etc...bail out for them...great...services for us...bad.

The GREEN is the smallest minority by number but most powerful by resources.

REALITY #1 = This is a fascist state w/ monied interest controlling governments...6% controlling 60% of resources 94% having everything to fight for but very little to fight with...

REALITY #2 = In electoral politics, politicians speak to the masses (red, white and blue) about common dreams to get their votes, but the green control the purse strings so NO THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE HAS A CHANCE (unbought candidate) unless monied interest are removed from the process.


The Red: Guardians of White Supremacy, Pseudo-Morality, & Free Markets

There is a strong minority here that have bought into this system completely. They do not have the power, but they have gained something from it....privilege...and they do not want to give that up. In order to protect that privilege, they fight change and protect the status quo. They espouse "tradition" over progress and "values" over change. Would they benefit from progressive change? Absolutely...but this is the man who votes against his interest and supports corporate interest in order to maintain white privilege... Universal Health Care and distribution of wealth would be better for he and his family, but instead he chooses to support a system that gives him nothing but has taught him that his skin color alone makes him something.

REALITY #3 = Changing a system many will lie and die to preserve is a continuous struggle. It will not be solved by a revolution, or a radical leader, or progressive policies...until the hearts and minds of this group change, progress on a macro scale will take the form of a constant battlefield (See Fire Next Time). There will be no forfeit. Know the game, and play to win...or suffer defeat. Right now the red is playing the game better than the blue...They know the season does not end with one game...and when this season does ends, there will be another one to get ready for next year.


The White: The Neutral and/or Neutralized Masses

The vast majority of people need better but are invested on some level in status quo. They have been neutralized through survival, media manipulations, and some level of comfort that comes from the known, no matter how difficult the known may be.

Consciousness and activism are luxuries all can hardly afford. When survival is your game, there is no time, energy, or possibility to fight the power! And of course, the system knows that and uses that to keep the masses in check. It is the ultimate paradox...To truly live, we must fight, but to truly fight we must be able to live...and right now, most are not living...most are existing...surviving...neutralized.

Those that may be able to live, learn and grow must survive the constant assault on reality by media. For the masses, media does not reflect reality, it defines it. Corporate interests and status quo power structure use media to manipulate thought processes. Hegemonic ideas are sold...what we should do, like, eat, support, not support, etc. The media controls information so the "white" masses will never be able to learn things they never get exposed to, or support what they never get to see.

Then there is the fact that the majority of those in THIS country are actually OK with status quo...because when we see social inequality as a two sided coin, one's advantages as reaped by other's disadvantages, the U.S. population is on the advantaged side of the equation and are not ready or willing to give up the status that they have become accustomed to....Most in this country don't SEE the world the way progressives see it...Malcolm X said it best at the end of this clip:





http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzuOOshpddM

"they won't even admit the knife is there"...THIS IS MASS AMERICA...


Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the same REALITY when he spoke to the greatest threat to civil rights for African Americans not being the KKK but the majority that sit comfortably and silently at home doing nothing...non-action. Ignorance is truly bliss for many. But as James Baldwin so eloquently reminds us, it is "the innocence that constitutes the crime".

REALITY #4 = In this case, white does not represent a race...it's a position...neutral; and the majority of people who have some ability to make change just don't. Inaction on the part of the masses for a multitude of reasons (some outlined above) is the REAL reason things stay the same.

The election of Obama (a black man in this racist country) is a symbol of the possibilities of what can happen when masses unite (whether he himself = change or not). ...so masses vote and believe their part is done and now it is up to the elected leaders to "bring change". But Carter G. Woodson details how this western thinking was part of our miseducation in his classic text, The Miseducation of the Negro. Masses have been taught to accept their powerlessness; that they have no power to change things and must depend on leaders (white supremacists). It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because when leaders do not bring change, masses become more cynical and disengaged believing they tried to elect change but got more of the same...but the problem is change does not come from an act like "voting"(noun)...it comes from acting (verb). It is a state of being, not a finite action.
It is understanding that change comes from us...and we are all we need if we seize that power...be the change.



The Blue: The Fragmented Left of Principled Idealists, Self -Righteous Elitists and Radical Revolutionaries (with no armies)


As someone who philosophically agrees with the progressive agenda, it pains me to disagree with their strategies. What i am trying to get folks to do is stop asking questions that are answered and doing the same thing expecting different results, and this is what progressives continue to do.

Staying ideologically pure with principles without strategy is what i would call "theory"...theory can provide answers to questions (like why is there poverty) but it never gets someone out of poverty until it is put into "praxis"..and praxis is a very different mechanism...not so clean because the real world is not a controlled laboratory and dealing with the realities as they are becomes a part of the solution...there is no way around that truth...

So for example, in this health care debate, the principled idealist will accept nothing other than a public option or single payer...and blame "leadership" (Obama specifically, Congress more generally) for not getting it done. They ignore the green, red, and most importantly "white" constituents of America...They expect politicians to act on principle and not reality of how they get and hold power, green lobbyists pulling their purse strings and white and red America not wanting any radical change in reality.

So for politicians, they alienate a fringe movement from the process, who they want to alienate anyway (sidenote: I started this essay before Rahm Emmanuel's remarks about the left but it just reinforces my point here)...they do not want the fringe minority to organize the masses.

So little gets done in Washington which successfully keeps masses disengaged (proving time and time again that Washington is broken so the majority don't bother to pay attention). Only a minority bother to vote anyway (what is it 30-40%?) and in between voting every four years disengage from the process altogether...And this is sold to us as democracy? Again, reality matters.

As I said in a previous essay, blaming a politician for being a politician is as effective to me as blaming a dog for barking...it is what they do...who they are.

Progressives on blogs and FB mad or disappointed in Obama for not being a principled strong leader are being disingenuous. The reality is Obama is doing exactly what Obama said he would do..be a pragmatic leader of all Americans. Change was never going to come from him, and to his credit, he has said that on many occasions as well. Maybe his pragmatism will actually anger people into action...and we will finally see real change...time will tell. REALITY #5 = If Obama ran on a progressive platform he would not have won because active progressives in this country are a minority. When will this reality ever be addressed??


Most in this country support the status quo actively or by default (via inaction). That is why a truly progressive leader (like a Cynthia McKinney for example) has no chance of winning in THIS country. If we are intellectually honest AND really want to find a way to foster a progressive movement, this reality can no longer be ignored.

Then there is the radical wing of the blue who understand the system was never for us and know change can't come from it. I completely agree with this analysis, but again disagree with the strategy. The revolutionaries or rebels without an army of masses behind them will not see change either...that is the state of the radical movement right now...they are fringe..and instead of trying to reach the community where they are, like the Black Panther Party did, progressives today choose to dismiss the masses for "buying into the hope Obama sold them" and would rather just bemoan the imperial system ...foster their own intellectual elitism by espousing critical analysis of the system but in that... CHANGE NOTHING...they have no foot soldiers. I know this to be true because I am around both the "activists" and "regular community folks". Black/Brown working folks for the most part are not actively supporting or rejecting Obama. They are doing what they usually do: surviving. But interestingly enough, they have harsher words for Obama haters than they do Obama. To their credit, they know one man is not their problem. They know the system is, and they want and need community support.

REALITY #6 = Knowing the problem is one thing. Solving the problem will take more than a pointed finger. Your energy is better spent organizing and serving our communities in need than bemoaning the system and leaders you supposedly don't believe in anyway.


I wonder if the energy we spend debating would not be better spent acting...serving our communities...looking in the mirror.

MJ...you had that right. RIP.





REALITY # 1-INFINITY =

"The time has come. This is It. People are always saying.. 'Oh they, they'll take care of it.' 'The government will do it. They'll' ...They who? It starts with us. ..it's US. Or else it'll never be done."
- Michael Jackson


"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You can't lead the people if you don't love the people. You can't save the people if you don't serve the people." - Cornel West

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” - Frederick Douglass

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.” - Frederick Douglass

"Who gets weaker? the king or the teacher
Its not about a salary its all about reality

Teachers teach and do the world good

Kings just rule and most are never understood"
- KRS One

"We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is." – James Baldwin


It's time to arrive where reality is...one of these days we will have no choice.

2 comments:

Julian Hill said...

Well, if it matters, I agree with your descriptive stratification of the American populous. I can go along with your depictions of the general sentiment of each "category" of American and I think they are really on point to a degree. What I do find, however, that you have an accusatory tone and no resolute position of your own.

You demand that we (I morph between "blue" and "fringe progressive") forget the cyclical debate of wrongdoing and wrongdoers and move on to solutions. Your position in and of itself is a debate I've heard throughout my personal political evolution and in all stages. If I may take the liberty of adding "you" to "we" and challenge you to posit a more tangible solution (than your closing piece) to the problem. I am a personal supporter of yours and will back your moves 100% - when you expound on what it is "we" should be doing.

Tina said...

@Julian - thanks for taking the time to read my essay and post a comment. I agree that next step is offering solutions, but basically this essay was just to try as you say to have us first move beyond the cyclical debate. In terms of what specific actions individuals can do in the context of their daily lives, i wrote an essay three years ago new years eve that i plan to repost next week that list 10 specific actions. here is link where you can access it for reference:

https://eee.uci.edu/06f/20000/Rise_up_dec2006.htm


I think a big part of our problem is all want to see change but when asked what are we specifically doing to address whatever issue we're interested in, most (my students for example) say they are doing very little or nothing...so i think if all actually did 3 or 4 things on the list, we'd actually start moving toward community self determination.

in terms of larger strategy, i really think the model U.N.I.A, and the BPP employed, and the solutions Woodson outlines in his book Miseducation can work...while both the U.N.I.A. and BPP fell, i think those circumstances can be learned from and planned for..in the case of the U.N.I.A, too much dependency on one leader. In the case of the BPP, warfare with Hoover and govt (which will always be the case but i think in this day and age community based orgs like these can accomplish a lot w/o the direct backlash that they got in the 60s...so many other "issues" that in many ways black empowerment is not at top of radar, so i kind of call it the possibility for a parallel movement..instead of fighting system, govt, oppression..we focus on community empowerment in ways Woodson outlines.