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OPINION: Hope, yes; but real change is still up to us

After watching the movie The Great Debaters with some folks waiting to take showers at the house this afternoon, one of the guests remarked:

“My mother is white and my father is African-American.  I’m kind of like Obama!”

This, if anything, gives me hope. Change doesn’t come from the top, and no politician or administration is going to begin to solve all the the problems we are facing as a people.  But there’s hope he might inspire us to change – might help unite us, might awaken in folks who have been alienated from the system the possibility that they are now included and empowered to help make the changes we need.  

Musician David Rovics had some interesting things to say about his hopes, as well as his concerns, about the Obama presidency and what it might mean to the most vulnerable among us. Here’s an excerpt (pardon the profanity at the end; it’s quite descriptive):

Obama has promised to raise taxes on the rich back to what they were under Clinton. . . He is talking about taking soldiers out of Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan — not bringing them all home and cutting military spending by 90%, in line with international norms, and doing away with this rapacious empire. He is talking about the middle class, and sure, he had to do that to get elected, but when does he ever talk about the poor, the imprisoned millions, the thousands of homeless walking cadavers haunting the streets of every major American city? Every politician talks about building schools, but what about free education through graduate school like they have in most European countries?

No, the scope of debate is far more limited than that. It is a scope defined by that increasingly narrow grey area in between “conservative” and “liberal.” There are distinctions, some of them important. That 3% tax increase will do good things for many people, I hope. Perhaps we won’t start any new wars, I don’t know. Perhaps we’ll withdraw from Iraq, but I’ll bet no reparations for what we’ve done there will be forthcoming. Perhaps there will be no new wars on our civil liberties in the next few years, but I’ll bet the prison population will not get much smaller.

I hope I’m wrong. But if I am to be proven wrong and there are to be serious changes in the welfare of people in the US and around the world, it will only be as a result of a popular uprising of people calling for a real New Deal for the 21st century, an end to the empire, housing, health care and education for all, and so on. Because even if Obama secretly wants all of these things, as so many of us would desperately like to believe, he’s going to need plenty of popular pressure to point to if any of these things are going to become reality. If he really is the socialist wealth redistributor his opponents said he is, he’s going to need massive popular support just to avoid being impeached for treason by those corporate stooges who dominate both parties in the Congress.

And if, on the other hand, he really believes his own campaign promises of meager tax increases for the rich, raising the salaries of teachers a bit, fighting terrorism, passing more free trade agreements, being Israel’s best friend, and so on, then what we have in store is another Democratic administration. Different kind of like Starbucks is different from McDonald’s — they both pay poverty wages and feed you shit, but Starbucks includes health insurance.

It’s always been, and still is, up to us.  All of us.