A Letter to My Closest Friends ---
About a year or two ago one of you shared with me your admiration for President Obama, indicating that he is your hero and seemingly elevating him to messianic status. I was dumbfounded; for, as far as I was concerned, I considered my close friends to be men and women who, among their other wonderful virtues, were solid critical thinkers. As is my custom, I essentially turned the spotlight on myself, deciding that maybe I had it all wrong and that perhaps I was missing something. I certainly do not share the popular view about President Obama. In particular, I do not see him as having any connection whatsoever to those stalwarts such as Frederick Douglas, DuBois, King, Jr., Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and others as many would like to suggest.
I don't know Mr. Obama personally, so I cannot speak for his integrity, character, and virtues. All I can say is that he seems likable, a nice family man, and one with whom I would most readily drink a beer or two, engage in conversation, or play a game of basketball. And all the ridiculous things that some have been said about his citizenship and his affiliation with Islam are really reprehensible. I do recognize, as you, my friends, all do, Mr. Obama's charm, his charisma, and his eloquence, all of which he has used to his advantage. His attainment of the presidency of the United States is certainly an achievement that cannot be minimized, and by all means he should be lauded for that achievement. However, my beloved friends, that achievement does not place him at the same table of those great men and women mentioned above. His achievement is simply a corollary of the great work they were able to accomplish.
Further, those great men and women mentioned above were relentless critics of the establishment and the system that has been at the heart of this country - a system and establishment that Mr. Obama currently oversees, heads, and runs, a system and establishment whose narrative Mr. Obama continues to propagate (such as in those "chest-thumping" bombasts of American exceptionalism), and a system and establishment which policies he continues to vigorously promote. That system and establishment has not changed much throughout history, and it essentially remains the same under Mr. Obama's tenure. Given careful consideration, you will notice that the only difference between President Obama and the other US Presidents is the color of his skin. Other than that, he, like they did, has pretty much maintained the status quo, presiding over a foreign policy that is largely imperialistic (with a view to global supremacy) and a domestic policy that is increasingly widening the gap between the 1% and the 99% and that favors a police state.
But perhaps the most telling point for me was a statement that President Obama made during his Nobel Peace Prize speech. While recognizing the radical pacificism of Dr. King and Gandhi, he made it quite clear that as the President of the United States he could not be solely guided by the examples of these men. Fair enough, but by that statement Mr. Obama, as head of state of the U.S., placed himself squarely in the firing line of Dr. King's scathing indictment of the United States being "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." Mr. Obama (like other presidents before him), in his current tenure, presides over the orchestration of the violence such as Dr. King had in mind. His authorized drone attacks which have killed many innocents are a case in point.
And so, Mr. Obama, is no doubt a good-hearted man who cares about people, but he does not offer hope; he certainly talks about it. Neither is his power limited as some would say. He is the President of the United States, for Chrissakes; he has the power. Unfortunately, that power is exercised for the establishment. As Cornell West says, he "is the black face of the establishment." I might not be the brightest bulb in the constellation, but I have to tell you, the emperor wears no clothes. And if it turns out that I am the one who is misguided in my assessment, I am sure, my friends, that you will bear with me, for, like I said, I might not be the brightest bulb in the constellation.
[photo art by Ric Couchman]