|Obama Just the Beginning|
by Julian X  /  non-fiction  /  26 Mar 2008
I realize now what Obama's been telling us all along: that he can't change America without us, that we have to be part of the solution.
Until now, I'd always thought that this meant that we'd have to vocally support his candidacy and his reforms. He's talked about taking his reforms specifically to the people, after all. But I always thought that our support was limited to boosting his approval ratings and, at most, turning out for some rally.
But it's more than that. And the movement that Obama represents is more than him.
I'd like to suggest that we owe America, and even Obama himself, more than our vote. I still believe that this is Obama's year, that he represents a real sea-change for the nation and its politics. And I will stand against those who seek to prevent this change -- and him getting the Presidency. For what he's done as well as what he's said, he gets his shot.
But the movement is more than that. We must, at this point in the movement, recognize that Obama appeals to us because of our own impotency. It's been perfectly clear for some time that his candidacy appeals to many as a symbol of the American outsider made good -- the ultimate Arnold Swarzenegger story. It's also been obvious, whether often voiced or not, that many whites feel that their vote for Obama obviates some of their white guilt -- that their support for him is the ultimate symbol that they themselves are not racist, but, also, that his successful candidacy indicates that America has finally moved past the legacy of slavery. Obama himself has resisted letting his voters so easily off the hook and has repeatedly promised that his won't be a panacea, but there it is.
What we must realize is that we love Obama in part because of our own impotency. Not only regarding the political process -- that part is clear. We know that we feel as if our vote doesn't matter, that we're endlessly supporting the lesser of two evils in a corrupt two-party system. Certainly, Obama appeals to that. But this neither is my point.
My point is that we feel impotent in a larger sense: impotent to make a better world. We watch Hotel Rwanda. We know about genocide. We know about children dying in American ghettos younger than they do in some so-called third-world countries. We know about corruption in administration of occupied Iraq. We know about corporations poisoning us under the approval of the government. We know that we are among the richest but most polluting, most consuming people in the world. And we do nothing. Not because we do not know what to do. Because we have mortgages, jobs, and children to raise. Because we have little avenue to make a difference, other than online charitable donations, telling us in stale letters that yes, we've contributed our fair carbon offset, or by going all-out hippie and thereby entering a culture of protest that seems to achieve nothing.
And so, knowing that the world is a horrible place and that we are complicit in this horror, we can think of nothing better to do than to vote for Obama. Oh, he says he's not a panacea, but we can always say that we did our part in voting for him and that now it's his problem. We don't have any solutions, God knows. So we turn out to elect our political messiah, then go back to the photocopy machines and lattés in non-recyclable cups and wait for deliverance.
The truth is that, yes, the nation desperately needs Obama. But contributing money on his website isn't enough. Giving him your vote isn't enough. Obama doesn't have much more idea of how to solve the big problems than anyone else. He's smart and he's willing to try new solutions: like sitting down and actually talking to our supposed enemies, taking the high ground instead of the aloof, superior tone we've too long adopted. But he's unlikely to come up with the necessary proposal to reform the U.N. -- to make it powerful enough to stop genocides like Sudan, to strip the political bullshit from its system, and to let it shoot first when innocents are threatened. To do things like that, he needs us. And, while we need Obama, we need this sense of purpose more. The country needs us more than it does him.
Voting Obama does not obviate your need to make a difference. And he's been telling you that all along.
My fervent hope is that others will realize this: that Obama will inspire more and more to find whatever ways they can to make a difference. Whatever your cause is, tell people about it. Start a website. Start a PAC. Hold rallies. Contact the press.
Because what Obama represents is more than just a single man. It is the belief that we can have a better America and a better world. And that will only come about when all of us, whether we support him or not, decide to make our lives -- and not only his -- the example.
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