bg/ish: A Must Read, Howard Zinn on Obama and the Future
If you're not already familiar with the writings and speeches of Howard Zinn, lower your head in shame. Do it! I'll wait...
OK, you've been shamed, but fret not, I'm here to bring you up to speed. Zinn is "is a professor, political scientist, historian, social critic, democratic socialist, activist and playwright", and perhaps best known as the author of the classic A People's History of the United States. I personally count this book as one of my favorites. Ever.
Socialist Worker has run an article containing the transcript of a speech Zinn gave in Washington D.C. a few weeks after the inauguration of President Obama. I found this speech, as with most everything else Zinn does, to be intelligent, logical, engaging, and damned important. Here is a not-so-brief excerpt:
"I'm going to talk about Obama and his administration--what's going on, and what there is for us to do.
Because we are citizens, and Obama is a president. Obama is a politician. You might not like that word. But the fact is he's a politician. He's other things, too--he's a very sensitive and intelligent and articulate and thoughtful and promising person. But he's a politician. We have to remember that. Lincoln was a politician, and Roosevelt was a politician.
If you're a citizen, you have to know the difference between them and you--the difference between what they have to do and what you have to do. Although there are things they don't have to do, if you make it clear to them they don't have to do it.
From the beginning, I liked Obama. But the first time it suddenly struck me that he was a politician was early on, when Joe Lieberman was running for the Democratic nomination for his Senate seat in 2006. You may recognize that name with the same amount of distaste that I utter it--Joe Lieberman, who says he's a Democrat, who's really a Republican, and who's actually worse then both.
Lieberman--who, as you know, was and is a war lover--was running for the Democratic nomination, and his opponent was a man named Ned Lemont, who was the peace candidate. And Obama went to Connecticut to support Lieberman against Lemont.
It took me aback. But I say that to indicate that, yes, Obama is a politician. We have to understand that, and understand therefore that we must not be swept away into an unthinking and unquestioning acceptance of what Obama does. He will do some good things--he has already done some good things. He will do some bad things, and has done some bad things already.
Our job is not to give him a blank check or simply be cheerleaders. It was good that we were cheerleaders while he was running for office, but it's not good to be cheerleaders now. Because we want the country to go beyond where it has been in the past. We want to make a clean break from what it has been in the past. We want to go farther than where another liberal Democratic president will carry us."
Zinn goes on to discuss the current state of health care in this country, as well as the overwhelming financial crisis the United States now finds itself in.
I feel it's important for people to continue to hold the President and his staff accountable for what happens over the next 4 years. This country is so clearly in a transitional state, the foundation (or lack thereof) for the future is being molded and shaped right now. Every day.
The day Obama was inaugurated was not a day for people to then sit back, kick up their feet, and wait for things like "change" or "hope" to come knocking on their door. I've had private conversations where I've essentially compared the Obama election to 9/11 - a rallying point for an entire country, an event that get's people thinking in literal terms in relation to government. After 9/11 the populace shook with fear and then gave the government a free pass to do as they saw fit. I'm saying this population cannot afford to give the same leeway to this administration based on satisfaction and contentment.
Think about where your tax dollars are going right now, it's hard not to be slightly outraged. Think about where this nation, this economy, this way of life we've all grown accustomed to will be in 5, even 20 years. Remember this government is supposed to represent you, the People.
"Some people might say, "Well, what do you expect?" And the answer is that we expect a lot. People say, "What, are you a dreamer?" And the answer is, yes, we're dreamers. We want it all. We want a peaceful world. We want an egalitarian world. We don't want war. We don't want capitalism. We want a decent society." - Howard Zinn