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A Response to MoveOn's Umpteenth Forward of Obama's "Amazing Speech"

A Letter to Mom on Obama

by CAT WOODS

Hi Mom,

I checked out Obama’s speech. I thought it was well-written and well-presented, bringing up to White America some considerations they need to keep in mind, and handling the attacks on him and his pastor very well.

Now, I’m not saying this next part facetiously or sarcastically. This is a sincere question to which I am curious to know your answer: What is "amazing" about it? I’ve received half a dozen emails so far referring to this speech as amazing. The guy I sat next to on the plane the other day was insistent that I needed to listen to it, and that if I would only listen to it, I would understand why Obama was so radical and important and crucial to America’s future. I can honestly say it was a good speech; I can also honestly say that he did not say anything that I found radical or adequate to rescuing America’s future.

Obama included statements condemning the effect of corporate lobbyists on Congress — without acknowledging that his own voting record is one of kowtowing to the corporate agenda or that he himself has accepted millions of dollars from corporate PACs and registered corporate lobbyists. He mentioned that the founding fathers failed to stop slavery; he did not mention that the founding fathers institutionalized slavery in the Constitution in order to achieve a union in the first place. (Those bits about suppressing insurrections were put in there to lure the slavery-dependent South into the nascent nation by promising to put down revolts by slaves.) Obama apologizing for his corporate-controlled voting record and vowing to amend his ways and forego contributions from corporate PACs and lobbyists would have been radical. Confronting, instead of flattering, the self-deceits of the passive American public would have been radical. What he did do was politely divert unfair criticism. Well done and good job. But there is nothing to bowl me over into thinking that I would vote for a candidate who failed to defend the precious amendments to that Constitution known as the Bill of Rights.

All of these candidates — Obama, Clinton, McCain — took a vow to defend the Constitution when they took office. I take that to mean the Bill of Rights, not the institution of slavery. I don’t know (and don’t care) how they rationalize it; I do know that they all not only failed to defend the Bill of Rights; they outright capitulated and VOTED IN FAVOR of re-authorizing the Patriot Act in 2006. I will not vote for anyone who betrayed the most basic trust of public office, nor do I understand anyone else doing so. If you do not draw a line at defending the Bill of Rights, you have no line and will accept outright dictatorship. No reason to bother with this pretense of "democracy" in that case.

One thing I do find "amazing" — in a more sinister way — is that Americans can be so surprised that a few statements by a person’s friend or associate can not *rationally* be used to condemn that person. Due to the travesty of U.S. journalism typified by FOX News, "guilt by association" and guilt by exaggeration and distortion are so prevalent in U.S. culture that a statement like Obama’s is seen as something incredible and unexpected. Let’s establish something, shall we: a person can be judged by their own statements, not those of their associates; everyone can make mistakes or say something foolish or exaggerated once in a while; and the tactics of smearing people this way belong to dishonest people with too much influence over the media, not smart people, ethical people or people sincerely working to improve our world.

I’d honestly be curious for anyone to point to one thing Obama said in his speech that should be in any way earth-shaking to anyone with a 4th grade education. The idea that slavery has consequences for current race relations in this country should be obvious to any thinking person. The idea that post-traumatic stress from racial bigotry and institutionalized discrimination should be taken into account when considering angry statements from African Americans should be commonplace. The idea that one can not be condemned for associating with someone who is less than perfectly careful in their speech should be something learned by the 5th grade. If these are not the case, then yes, something is definitely wrong with this country. But I’m not convinced that Obama can cure the deeper ill just because he’s smart enough to notice those three things.

I want more than that, and I believe this country needs a lot more than that.

The Democratic Party has ever played bait and switch with progressive voters, and Obama is no exception. Kerry was an exception only in that he didn’t even pretend to oppose the war, yet anti-war activists still voted for him in droves, thereby erasing their own voice against the war.

Obama voted to continue funding the Iraq war, without the condition of withdrawal. The cost is half a trillion dollars and counting — to unjustly invade another country against the will of its populace and our own, all to put oil profits in the hands of a few corporations. The only truly amazing thing is that most of the 70% of the American people who oppose this intend to go to the polls and vote for people who voted in favor of it.

I myself support and will vote for someone who has spent the better part of 50 years actually fighting the ills he mentions in his speeches. I believe that is the road to achieving a longer term solution to a much longer term problem.

CAT WOODS has been a member of the National Committee of the Green Party and is currently at work on the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez.