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Images On the Screen

Barack Obama picked up the nomination, and in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, who by all accounts won an election and defeated Robert Mugabe, was detained by the by the police a week and a half after his return to the country. Reports suggest that people in his party--the Movement for Democratic Change--have been subjected to threats, beatings, and torture, but then the TV cut to Obama telling Israel to never fear, because Jerusalem was their capital, and no collection of suffering, beat up people that strap bombs to themselves instead of driving good honest tanks, would take it from them if he ran the show.

Yeah, it was a good night to turn on the TV.

As you can see, I am much more interested in what is happening in Zimbabwe, a situation that has been existing for years now, because I think the 27th contest will see something violent come about, one way or another.

Perhaps oddly, however, I expect that Obama will make no difference to American politics. Rich white men, rich black men, rich white women, rich black women: it's all cut from the same cloth for me, though the television tells me that young black children now think they can become the President, which is, y'know, nice for those kids who don't wanna be astronauts and adventurers and musicians, or something cool like that. Even the celebrities in that Obama song want me to believe that there will be a difference, but honestly, I long ago decided celebrities weren't the best people to take political advice from. It bothers me, slightly, that I can't be more positive about it, because I recognise the racial weighting of it, and what its representations are on a racially political level, but a political leader is just a figure head, and what really matters are the people beneath him or her, the ones that form their party, and the people who fund elections; and even if they didn't, I suspect that I have just become so cynical about politics, that I expect nothing new to change in the world, not even if you stuck a six year old child as the leader, and told them to tell the world that everyone could have red cordial for free.

But hey, prove me wrong.

Here's the sugary message of hope clip for Obama, and the first person who thinks, 'but he's the lesser evil,' can get a glass of cordial and some morphine, because that's what the world is all about these days, isn't it?

Comments

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ex_benpayne119
Jun. 5th, 2008 11:31 am (UTC)
Word. While either Obama or Hilary gotta be a step up from Bush, I doubt either of them would see any radical change to the status quo... we'll see what he has to offer i guess...

I find Zimbabwe more interesting too...
nballingrud
Jun. 5th, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
Really? I heard the same argument in 2000. What's happened since then? State-sanctioned torture. The internment camp at Guantanamo Bay. The aggressive attack on the United States Constitution (maybe a little more important to those of us over here than elsewhere). The appointment of Supreme Court judges openly hostile to progresive social change. An unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, followed by its overthrow and the descent of that state into chaos. Please don't tell me that nothing will change. If the last eight years hasn't shown that even apparently small changes at the top can have tremendous consequences for this country and the world at large, then I despair for us all.

I do get where you're coming from. Money makes the decisions, and the election of Obama is unlikely to change that at all. In that respect, much will remain the same -- and that's not insignificant. But to under-value the kinds of changes that will, or at least can be made, is short-sighted and dangerous.

Furthermore: yes, the president is a figurehead, and the power of that office is largely symbolic. But that's precisely why this particular election is important, specifically on the level of national symbols. The neoconservative movement has devalued and degraded the symbol of this country, and that does have impact in the way Americans view the world and even themselves. The drumbeat here has been that opposition to torture is naive; that repsect for habeus corpus is a luxury we can and should dispense with against an undefinable enemy. People come to believe this. We are not far removed from real fascism in this country, and I don't say that as hyperbole. It's very fucking real.

The counter-symbol on offer -- and this is conscious, as Obama continually draws from the symbolism and idealism of the founding days of this country -- is one that exalts the ability of the common person to affect change (a symbol that has been proven to be extremely powerful throughout history), and hope to an entire segment of the population that has been culturally conditioned into believing that they are and always will be second-class citizens.

I think cynicism does us harm right now. Cynicism does not always congruent with realism. Symbols can have profound power on the political stage. It's vitally important that we have one that pushes us in the right direction.

Edited at 2008-06-05 12:39 pm (UTC)
ataxi
Jun. 5th, 2008 12:43 pm (UTC)
That was extremely well said. Frankly, a butterfly flapping its wings a particular way makes a pretty big difference -- if the butterfly happens to be President of the US.
benpeek
Jun. 6th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
look, don't get me wrong. i think change can happen--replace mugabe in zimbabwe, and you'll have radical change, but the states?

well, others seem to think it, but not me.
benpeek
Jun. 5th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
i dunno, man, maybe it's just the other country thing, but i don't think things would have been that different had you guys not had bush and his party, but i suppose that kind of argument is flawed, given you can't run what if scenarios. still, to me, it's not as if american politics did a total reverse turn around with the conservatives--it was just more conservative than it had been before.

of course, that said, i could be wrong. i hope there is some positive change should you get obama, but i reckon symbols are just devices through which you obscure a whole lot of issues. that is my cynicism speaking, though, and it is that of someone in another country.
nballingrud
Jun. 5th, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)
The changes are striking. Religious fundamentalists affecting environmental and scientific policy. Strict constitutional originalists on the Supreme Court, which curtails social benefit programs, extends corporate welfare programs, and places in dire, immediate jeapordy the right of a woman to have an abortion. The assault on church/state separation. A fucking concentration camp in Cuba. I can only conclude that it is the "other country thing" that informs this point of view, because you'd be hard pressed to find an American that is not aware of the large gap between What Was and What Is.

I'm not deaf to the similarities you mention, though. Hell, I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 precisely because of those reasons. But despite the vast similarities between the Republicans and the Democrats, the consequences of their differences are striking.

As a writer you should know that symbols are much more than tools of occlusion. The movements of society are driven by symbolism, and the people who know how to wield it. It's hard to overestimate their importance.

Edited at 2008-06-05 04:16 pm (UTC)
nballingrud
Jun. 5th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Read "occlusion" as "obfuscation." Dammit!
benpeek
Jun. 6th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
heh.

anyhow, i think my main thing is i don't think if you'd had a gore lead country over the last eight years that you wouldn't have the concentration camp in cuba. there's no way to prove that, of course, but i just reckon that, the abortion stuff and so on, it'd still be there, but i'll allow that it might not have been so bad.

i should probably point out that part of my post is that i think real political change will come to zimbabwe, should mugabe be removed--which i doubt, mind, but that i didn't think there'd be all that much change to the states in obama took power.
lucius_t
Jun. 5th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
There are good reasons to vote for obama, one being that a Dem win will bring a bigger number of leftwing people into gov, onto the supreme court etc. Things will be different. But it's all moot if McCain wipes him out. Unfortunately, I think that's likely to happen.
strangedave
Jun. 5th, 2008 09:44 pm (UTC)
US politics is actually a lot less party political in some ways than here -- sure the people beneath the candidate matter, but the choice of President does make a big difference to who those people are. The Bush government has been a pretty good example of how that does matter -- it has been a very different, and far worse, government

And the problem with cynicism is, well, it's just not that interesting. Yeah, I know a bunch of people are apathetic, but why should I care that you are one of them? I'm cynical about cynicism as a justification for apathy, myself.

And my short answer to 'the President doesn't matter, it's all the same' is 'that's easy for you to say, you aren't in Gitmo',
benpeek
Jun. 6th, 2008 12:34 am (UTC)
what i like about this post is that most people have focused on the states, and not zimbabwe, where i do think real change can happen (but most likely won't, due to the power that mugabe has, and which will ensure his control, no matter what). but it's still cool--i'l wait to be convinced that obama will make large changes, where i think he won't.
(Anonymous)
Jun. 10th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)
I think Obama would be a major improvement on the situation now. Say what you like, his policies and ideas are way different than any president we have had in my life time.

I certainly do not consider him the lesser evil.

Just curious, who do you think would be a good leader?
(no subject) - brendanconnell.wordpress.com - Jun. 10th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
benpeek
Jun. 12th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
honestly, i have no idea who would make a better leader. someone who is not in that policial lifestyle, i imagine.
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