Friday, January 23, 2009

Fauxbama / Life on the Road

Of the estimated two million people at the coronation, er, inauguration of our 44th President, I think I was the only one protesting. I had a sign that was very similar to the one that I held up for McCain at the RNC, but this time, I was actually more nervous. Would the hoards of raving Obama fans tear me to pieces? Surprisingly, the reception was overwhelmingly positive. I had one or two negative comments, including, "C'mon, give the brother a chance!" But there were seemingly hundreds of knowing nods and dozens of passers by who came up to me to shake my hand or give me the old "terrorist fist jab."

Since then, I have been on the road to Santa Fe with my wonderful girlfriend, Alison. As I type this, she is actually driving as we are pulling up to Pensacola to visit some friends and IVAW & VFP members who are also big Ron Paul supporters. Alison has been incredibly helpful in making this difficult relocation. While I was out in the freezing cold making a blunt point with a crude sign, she was at home putting her thoughts together in a much more coherent and eloquent way in the following essay, titled Fauxbama.

by Alison Wilber

I'm extremely bothered by what most of this nation celebrated today.

The day's news began with a church service for the faces of the country's old and new administrations. Why church? Why does religion have such a symbolic presence in this, a nation built on the affirmation of the necessity of the separation of church and state? A prayer was delivered, including the pervasive sentiment of "God Bless America." Whatever God was being prayed to, why was it asked to bless this nation, a nation which refuses to recognize that it should cower in shame for its role in the world as it is today: robbing small countries through impossible debt burdens, thereby ensuring continued global poverty; occupying countries for corporate gain and giving money to grieving families when the endless number of innocents are inevitably killed in the deliberately indefinite conflict; eight years of an administration thriving on our people's ambivalence for holding policy-makers to an ethical standard; holding foreign nations to a different foreign policy standard, as though America knows what is better for the world more than any other country, thereby making it only right that it impose its “enlightened ideas;” and explicitly and unabashedly providing resources for continued conflict in foreign lands. Don't "God Bless America." America, stand up tall and take ownership of the external and internal opinions you have elicited and deserve. Make the bed you want to lie in, and strive to earn any blessings you receive.

Rick Warren spoke about justice for all, which by definition, includes the current administration, who have seemingly been absolved of all wrong-doing in Obama's spirit of looking forward and not dwelling in the past. In fairness, if we are to accept this sentiment, then it would only be fitting that the same type of justice be given to those waiting for trial in Guantanamo Bay and prisons the nation over, who have done far less damage than this administration. In a nation so focused on “justice,” why is it so easy to forget that those who see themselves as above the law should be unquestioningly allowed to do so? If that type of forgiveness is not the intent, then more caution should surely be taken in the inaugural prayer. Finally, Warren spoke about a more peaceful planet, yet the man about to take office supports a continued, troop presence in Iraq (a soldier by any other name would smell as sweet), a surge of troops in Afghanistan, and continued unwavering support of Israel in their unending conflict. Are these steps toward a goal of peace, the platform he ran on and was trusted to honor?

Aretha Franklin sang “My Country 'Tis of Thee,” and it was sung, "Let Freedom Ring." And let freedom ring! Let freedom ring in nations America robs of their freedoms! Let freedom ring for those in America who are oppressed by selective laws, corporate greed, and ingrained institutionalized poverty!

Then Obama delivered his inaugural address. He began by thanking Bush for his service. He could have been explicit about what exactly Bush is to be thanked for after his eight years of service, over which, he was overwhelmingly not supported by those he is in office to serve. Although his administration has been accused of corruption, war crimes, and other illegal abuses of power, and this country has established procedures to follow in such circumstances, what talk of impeachment was there? And while Obama has run a campaign promising change from the Bush administration, one which he has explicitly disagreed with, in his first words in his inaugural speech, he thanked the president who he worked his entire campaign to clearly distinguish himself from. This public expression of appreciation leaves an acrid taste in my mouth, and it feels disrespectful to me, as someone who voted for Obama, and who believed that he would prioritize holding the Bush administration accountable for the decisions made while holding the offices he and his own team would one day inherit and honor. Next, Obama spoke to the importance of equality and freedom for all, and it would have only been fitting that he talk about how these goals are represented in his policies, specifically as they relate to gay marriage and continued support for global militarism, to name a few. He also embedded some discussion of the problem of countries that induce terror, slaughter innocents, and seek conflict, although somehow, he actually wasn't referring to America's current foreign policy. While he cautions these nations that their people will judge them on what they build and not what they destroy, America has begun no formal platform for judging the Bush administration on what they have built or destroyed. It will be interesting to learn how he believes he can to avoid this with continued military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he believes in defeating this type of administrative presence, and that those who “cling to power through corruption, deceit, and the silencing of dissent,” are on the wrong side of history, yet he had just thanked the man responsible for the American practice of those exact same things. And finally, he paid respect to those remembered in Arlington Cemetery, referring to them as guardians of our liberty. However, it would be difficult to claim that as the reason for the deaths of the people who now rest in peace there since the wars began in 2001, when these young people were not treated as guardians of liberty, but rather as pawns of the government agenda, specifically in a war Bush publicly referred to as beginning from a "disappointment" in not finding WMDs, the touted reason for its inception, and somehow, people are still dying in this war, when nothing was ever found to legitimately begin it.

President Obama, your platform of love, inclusion, tolerance, remaking America, restoring trust in government, and dissolving lines of tribe is virtuous and praiseworthy. Forgive my predisposition to question authority in my supreme disappointment with the last eight years of administration, when I hold you to a standard to actually come through on making decisions that reflect your stated principles. Let us move forward in love and peace, as your poet, Elizabeth Alexander, called for, but not love for America, but for humanity and our planet, both of which we are all a part of. And let us not be known as a land of the brave, but as the land of the loving and loved, of the respectful and respected, of the considerate and considered. Let us repair our global relationships not as the paternal figure of the world, but as a teammate and participant in the spirit of what is truly needed for authentic peace.