I’ve been pretty skeptical about Barack Obama’s campaign of change from the beginning. I didn’t believe that they’d let a Black man become president. Even after he won, I shook my head and said, no, it’s not going to happen. Well, it’s happened. And I wonder why. Why now? And I still don’t believe it’s true.
I have found myself split apart by this phenomena. I want to be overjoyed by the fact that, finally, I can look up on the hill and see a face that looks like mine staring back at me. Yet, I have the nagging feeling that change is long in coming, if it ever happens. And this feeling is exacerbated by the fact that, as I glance around his cabinet, Obama has surrounded himself with conservatives, ex-military, and nogoodniks of all sorts. Still, as they call him in my neighborhood of Hyde Park, he is Chicago’s “favorite son”. And why is that?
Obama is the American Dream. He is the true to life man-from-another-land-white-picket-fence-pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap idyllic American. And he’s Black!
He’s a man of humble beginnings, the son of an immigrant, raised by his poor white mother, he overcame all that life hurled his way and built himself up to become the first Black President. Barack Obama is the dream deferred. He is the fulfillment of a promise made when white Europeans first landed here and pushed the natives off their land. This promise was eventually sold to the Black man in order to make it seem like poverty, the ghetto and all other problems the Black community faced was a result of their own inferiority. It was the same song that the dominant class of whites had been singing for years, first to the natives and later to other immigrants. So, if we’re free at last, why do we still suffer from oppression?
Well, somewhere along the line we bought into the B.S. and believed that we could overcome if we just did like the white folks do, keep our noses to the grindstone and yank on our bootstraps. This is why the white power structure has allowed Obama to win the elections, why he has not been and will not be assasinated and why he will most likely be elected for a second term (provided things go their way). In a time of great uncertainty and economic crisis, when the government has continued to fail us and a war that we used to endorse has fallen apart, we were all looking for a little hope. Bush pulled us together after 9/11, but without another major rallying point (the successful end of the war should have been that point, but Bush screwed that up), the spirit of the people fell. Yet, out of the darkness arose Obama, the spirit of America, to save us all.
The inauguration of President Obama signaled the latest revision of the American Dream:
…For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.
What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath…
This new design of The Dream is mostly different in one unique way: a Black man ascended to a position of power. So, now the people are actually daring to believe in miracles and that our freedom, technically given in the 1860s but never fully realized, has finally come.
To those touters of change I say to you: It’s not over. And if you think that, then you’ve forgotten everything that’s happened since we were slaves. You’ve forgotten that this man, though holder of the highest office in the land, is still surrounded by tons of old guard white folks, still has to answer to the Congress, and is still head of a racist, heterosexist, classist country of which he is a product of.
The way they call his name…OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA…the way the older women cry…and the children run to his side…all of this reminds me of another young political upstart named María Eva Duarte de Perón. Also known as Evita.
Also from humble beginnings she, with her husband Colonel Perón, took the country by storm promising a “New Argentina”. Sound familiar?
And it ended in fascism. An further correlation is that, although a Democrat, Obama’s policies and cabinet picks keep him at the center of things rather than on the left or right. Notice the two pictures and beneath the stencil of Colonel Juan Perón it reads “Neither Left nor Right”.
I’m not saying that Barack Obama is a facist or that his regime will support personal and political repression. However, I think that it would help to remind ourselves that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Barack Obama may be of the people, but he’s not necessarily for the people. Let us stay vigilant and keep both eyes on this new regime. Maybe he’ll surprise us all and keep his promises…or maybe he’ll betray us all. Only time will tell.