The Audacity of Hope, c. 2012

For those of us who supported President Obama, the last 24 hours or so have been positively giddy.

There were the nail-biting first few hours of the election results…followed by the glad tidings of more and more of the big electoral states turning a glorious blue…capped by the wonderful thrill of seeing the President stride out onto the stage in Chicago to give the most rousing acceptance speech most of us have ever heard.

What a big heart this man has, to include in his acceptance speech itself the invitation to his opponents to meet him in the aisle and try to seek common ground!

In the very first words of his speech, before he even thanked his running mate, he reached out to Mitt Romney, offering to work with him to move the country forward onto a better, firmer footing:

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. 

We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.

In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

And then, towards the end of the speech, he said so memorably:

America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

This audacity of optimism is why we elected Barack Obama back in 2008, and why we continue to love him.

Whatever his personal or political failings, Barack Obama stands for the best hope of the USA: the raw immigrant passion and drive that founded this country and still makes it great.

He also represents, in his very skin, the polyglot future of the USA, the inexorable movement away from the European aristocracy of our founders to the broad multicultural diversity of our descendants.

Mitt Romney’s concession speech 2012

The Republicans are still stuck back in the good old days of the good old guys’ party.  As one commentator aptly noted, Republican political rallies look suspiciously like Ku Klux Klan rallies of the early 20th century.

For those who might rather not recall, let us remember that the Klan not only hated and lynched African Americans; they also hated and lynched Jews.  And they didn’t liked the Irish or the Italians much either!

Let’s not even talk about gay folk.  And women?  For the Klan and many contemporary conservatives, they belong in the kitchen or in the bed.

This is not the country we want to be as we move into the 21st century.

Although I thought the Obama campaign’s slogan “Forward, not back” was a little hokey when I heard it trotted out at various rallies, it does have the ring of truth to it.

We do not want to go back to the intolerance and violent hatred of our past.

We need to move forward, and we will need all hands on deck to confront the deeply unstable, uncertain future that awaits us in the age of climate change.

I want to see Barack Obama rise to the challenges of our time with all the power of his big heart.

I want to see him not just think about jobs, but think about green jobs, about jobs that will move our country forward into a longterm, sustainable future.

Enough kow-towing to Big Oil, Big Agriculture and Big Chemical.  It’s time to force these industries to bend to the winds of change, to adapt to the new paradigm of sustainability sweeping our country and our planet.

I applaud Bill McKibben for waiting until the election was over to come out swinging—and I applaud his continuing efforts to get the climate change issue into the center of political discourse.

Those who are still suffering from the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, along with their insurers, should be his best allies.

We need to face the truth that all the matters of social justice that concern us will be moot if we don’t face the pressing need to get our planetary civilization onto a sustainable footing.

We need to convince our President of this, post-haste.

But let’s take a moment to breathe a big sigh of relief that it is Barack Obama we’re dealing with, and not Mitt Romney!

This election proves that Big Money is not infallible.

Democracy still matters; individual votes still matter; as a country, we are not as corrupt as many of us feared.

Now is the time for all of us to embrace the President’s big heart and let it reach out even further to encompass our entire beautiful planet and all of her creatures.

This is the task we humans were born to undertake: to become the thoughtful, compassionate stewards of our planet, and the collaborative leaders of our own multifarious tribes.

It is so good to see more and more women stepping up to the plate now.  We are sorely needed, but we can’t do it alone.

Men and women of all heritages must work together as never before to reestablish the equilibrium needed to move our civilization forward sustainably into the 21st century.

These are not just words.  This is our urgent reality.

Barack Obama has answered the call.

Will you?

American insanity

I admit to a feeling of dejection at being back in the USA again.

Same old callous attitude towards women vomiting out of the Republican Party (“legitimate rape,” my ass!).  Same old desperate pleas for money from the Democrats, who are forced to beg for funds from small fry like me to try to compete with the billionaire Republican funders.  Same old blithe disconnect between the reality of climate change (drought, anyone?) and the steady roar of the fracking drills in Pennsylvania and the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.  Shrimp and fish turning up grotesquely deformed by tumors, eyeless and burned, for hundreds of miles around the BP spill.  Whatever.

Not that things were paradise in Canada.  The crash of the fish populations there is alarming, and they too are involved in the dirtiest of business in the Alberta boreal forest (which I refuse to call by the euphemism “tar sands,” implying as it does that there’s nothing there worth saving).  They clearcut forests and pollute rivers and all the rest of it.

But from just a few weeks of tuning into the media there, I can tell that there is much more clarity and focus there on environmental issues.  Every single issue of the Halifax Chronicle Herald has at least one article, and usually several, about energy or agricultural or fishery policy in relation to climate change.  They are actually working towards meeting the goal they set for themselves of generating 15% of the nation’s energy needs by renewable means by 2020, and many are calling for a more ambitious target.

Coming across the land bridge into Nova Scotia one is now greeted by a newly erected forest of huge wind turbines, and there are water turbines churning in the nearby waters of the Bay of Fundy, too.  Many more are in the works.

Although there is political strife in Canada, such as has boiled up in Quebec in recent months, there is none of the viperous, self-destructive attack politics that goes by the bland name of “the election year cycle” here in the States.  Politicians campaign on the issues rather than on smearing and sniping at each other. Voter turnout is about 60%, as compared to the dismal 40% in the U.S.

Why do so many people feel disengaged, disillusioned, and disgusted with politics here in the U.S.?  Why do we feel like no matter how we vote, our values will not be reflected in Washington?

Because it’s true.

I happen to believe that Barack Obama shares my values.  I believe he is a genuinely caring, ethical man who sincerely wants to create a country in which politicians collaborate rather than backstab each other; in which government and corporations serve the public good; in which the goal of economic activity is raising all boats, rather than creating a few luxury liners for the richest 1% of Americans.  I believe he’s a good man.

And yet, he has been unable to make a dent in politics as usual in Washington.  The Republicans have shown repeatedly that they are the party of the wealthy boardrooms of Big Business and Big Finance, and since they own so much of the news media, and so many think tanks, and so many political seats, including Supreme Court seats, well, they can do as they wish and everyone else be damned.

I have noticed a certain grim set to Obama’s jaw in the last year, as the reality of his fly-in-the-web position has sunk in.  He knows that even if he wins re-election, he will be foiled at every turn.  And it doesn’t help that it’s getting harder and harder for him to inspire his base—people like me who are beyond frustrated with the status quo, and no longer believe he and his team can make a change.

When I get those daily emails from Democratic headquarters pressing me to donate to the campaign (just $12!), and then I hear about how the Koch brothers are donating millions to the Romney campaign, the little sprout of hope that springs eternal in me just starts to wither.

Yes, if 100 million Americans donated $12 to Obama it would make a big difference.  But frankly I would rather see some savvy crowdsourcing through social media, with the goal less raising money to burn up on TV than getting more people out to the polls on election day, and empowering ordinary Americans to rise up and insist on real representation in Washington.

I am not interested in betting on the horse race.  I can’t sanction the wasteful spending of huge sums on campaigning, while our planet burns and billions of people are locked in poverty.

Romney will be bad—very, very bad—for the health of the environment and all living things, including humans.

He, and all the slimy bastards who prop him up, must be defeated.

But this battle is about much more than just one country’s Presidential race.  It’s about our future on this planet.  A vote for Romney is a vote for business as usual, and then some—drill, baby, drill.

Why is it that so many Americans are so suicidal?

Maybe we need some collective social therapy more than anything else.

It really does seem that as a nation, we are insane.

Bill McKibben: The Sky Does Not Belong to Wall Street!


Thanks to the magic of You-Tube, we can see a terrific 6-minute speech by Bill McKibben today, linking the fight to save the climate to the fight against the Wall Street tycoons.

He’s planning another big action in D.C. next month: setting up a ring of protesters around the White House, standing siege until the real Barack Obama comes out–not the zombie who’s actually considering letting the oil industry raze the boreal forest in Alberta and run a leaky pipeline all the way to the Gulf.

We need our Obama to stand up to those guys and remind us why we elected him!

Let’s hope Bill McKibben and company can free the real Obama from the stranglehold of Big Oil, so he can be our champion in the White House, as we so hoped he would be.

“The sky does not belong to Exxon.  They cannot keep using it as a sewer into which to dump their carbon,” Bill reminds us.

Barack, are you listening?

What happened to the Obama we elected?

If you won’t do it, Mr. President, we will!

Pretty Ugly

“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — er, treasonous, in my opinion.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, speaking about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s efforts to prevent deflation

When I think about Texans “treating someone ugly,” what leaps to my mind is lynching.  Even so conservative a group as the Texas Historical Association is unable to whitewash the truth of white Texan oppression and brutalization of the Mexican Americans (“Tejanos”) and African Americans throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

To be heading into a Presidential election year with this kind of hateful invective being thrown around, especially in a contest where a Black man is involved, is truly frightening.

We who are watching the slow-motion political lynching of Barack Obama unfold cannot afford to be silent bystanders.

The Rick Perrys of our country are treating our President “pretty ugly” every single day.

Although I share many progressives’ disappointment with Obama’s reluctance to call out these ugly folks and fight fire with fire, I recognize the bind he’s in, and I cannot stand by silently while he’s symbolically dragged through the mud (as happened to the victim of one of the most recent Texas lynchings, Brandon McClelland, in 2008).

I’ve spent a lot of time this past month wishing I could just move to Canada and be done with the ugliness here in the U.S.

But this is my country, at least for now, and I must do my best to make it a better place, a country I can be proud of.

My ancestors left Russia, Poland and Germany in the 19th century precisely because of the kind of slimy and dangerous hatred that we heard come out of Governor Perry’s mouth this week.  They believed they would find a more welcoming and ethical society here in shadow of the Lady of Liberty.

Of course, America they knew in the early 20th century had terrible problems of racism, elitism and sexism. People fought for change throughout the 20th century, and they won big victories.

We can’t let the clocks be turned back now.  We must fight on, now more than ever!

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