Creating a better world through words and images

Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

SOME KIND WORDS FOR THE PRESIDENT

Many African-Americans are understandably proud of the accomplishments of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America and the first person of African descent to hold that high office. Likewise, many liberals and longtime adherents to the principle of racial equality feel proud and vindicated by the successes of Mr. Obama and the adroit manner in which he has performed his presidential duties.

And why not?

When it comes to ability, the first African-American Chief Executive has already proved himself to be one of the most capable, hardworking, and generally competent presidents in our history. In terms of the President’s character and style, he is affable and good natured, dignified and suave, civil, sharp, and always focused. Unquestionably, Barack Obama has demonstrated superb temperament and demeanor befitting a political leader and statesman (unlike his oafish predecessor, Bush, who gave spontaneous and unwelcome shoulder rubs to world leaders, blurted profanities into open microphones, and generally made a buffoonish, frightening spectacle of himself and the United States).

In dealing with his political detractors — save for those on the left — President Obama has been a class act and model of poise. Imagine how George W. Bush might have responded to “You lie!” in the middle of a speech to Congress — would “Dubya” have subsequently held a televised Q&A with leading Democratic critics of his signature policy, the Iraq War, before it came to a vote, as Obama did with leading GOP critics of the Affordable Care Act?  It’s hard to imagine on both counts: a) a Democrat actually standing up to Bush; and b) George W. Bush responding in so measured and confident a manner to this hypothetical Democrat.

[This might be a good time to point out the blatant dishonesty of the Republican talking point that so-called “Obamacare” (the ACA) was “rammed down the throats” of the country without any bipartisan discussion or process. On the contrary, the march toward passage of this far-right, industry-friendly (Heritage Foundation-authored, GOP-tested, backroom-deal approved) law was long and sloggy, filled with disrupted/ambushed town hall meetings and a good deal of dramatic debate in D.C., including much repetition of Politi-Fact’s 2009 “Lie of the Year”: “DEATH PANELS!” Contrast that long public battle over the ACA with the way both parties have stealthily and aggressively advanced the cause of privatization over the last few years — undermining schools, libraries, hospitals, the Post Office, etc. — with little/no public comment or deliberation.]

Regular readers of this blog may be surprised at the kind words for President Obama appearing in this space, but I want, for clarity’s sake, to distinguish myself from those Obama detractors who are utterly hostile to the man and have been from the start.

For the record, I have never felt particularly hostile toward Barack Obama — quite the contrary. An admirer of Obama’s since his excellent DNC speech in 2004, I donated a fair amount of time, effort, and money to his campaigns in 2008 (primary through general election) convinced that his candidacy represented the likeliest hope for undoing at least some of the terrifying damage the Bush years had wrought.

To this day, although I feel that Obama’s presidency has been a huge and shocking disappointment, I don’t think my decision to support him in 2008 was naive. I definitely don’t think that I “projected my ideals onto Obama” in 2008 (as the tired line goes), seeing a progressive hero through star-struck, liberal eyes. Far from it. I was scrutinizing the hell out of candidate Obama.

All I did when I chose to support Obama in 2008 was take him at his word (no rose-tinted glasses required). As a major theme of his campaign, Senator Obama explicitly promised to restore the rule of law and scale back the kind of Executive Branch abuses that had become routine under Bush/Cheney. Candidate Obama vowed to eschew torture and the over-broad powers exerted by a U.S. president (Bush) who had reflexively — and secretly — asserted extraordinary (hitherto illegal) powers while demanding independence from not just judicial or congressional review, but from the law itself.

Barack Obama claimed he would defend the law and champion (rather than persecute) journalists and whistleblowers. He promised a new era of transparency and Constitutional governance.

ABOVE ALL ELSE, OBAMA PROMISED THESE THINGS.

Yes, I had seen the good senator throw his reverend of twenty years under the bus — a good man who’d been cruelly caricatured and taken out of context by the media and slandered on a relentless loop. And I was deeply disappointed when Senator Obama pulled his flip-flop on “retroactive immunity” for the giant telecoms. The privacy-flouting corporations knew they were committing the same felony millions of times when they began warrantless wiretapping, primarily of America’s domestic phone calls, on behalf of the most radically un-American administration since Nixon’s, beginning seven months before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001; it would’ve been fitting that they pay some sort of penalty, if only to deter such conduct in the future.

Nonetheless, I voted for Obama in 2008 without giving it a second thought. The only other candidate calling for restoration of civil liberties and the rule of law was Ron Paul, and he’d been defeated in the Republican Primary by Senator McCain (albeit, a John McCain reinvented in the image of John Birch, with a rabid Alaskan mink draped around his ticket to excite the boys… I mean the base (okay, I mean the base boys who comprise the Republican base — quick, somebody feed Rush Limbaugh some porn; he’s getting surly and aggressive again!).

NEXT: Part 3 — Obama’s Putrid Predecessor!

My friends, this is a blog that’s been a long time coming and a blog I never hoped to write. This is the one where I deal with the fact that the left has failed to stand on principle (as I see it) and mount a primary challenge against the President… and the right, after some kerfuffle and griping from the base, is similarly preparing to abandon its principles and coalesce around Mitt Romney, the most transparently self-serving, reversible man in politics today.

This is the blog where I try to make peace with my enormous disappointment that there are fewer Americans who cherish habeas corpus and due process than I ever would’ve imagined — and reconcile myself to the fact that the oligarchs, elite criminals, and neoconservatives have, against the odds, turned their 2006-08 Waterloo moment into a stunning victory (thanks to corporatist “Democrats” who, boiler-plate rhetoric aside, refused in 2009 to mount even a timid defense of liberalism — despite the fact that 30 years of trickle-down economics and eight years of appalling GOP leadership had discredited modern conservatism entirely).

After months of Obama-bashing and Ron Paul-boosting, this is also the blog where I try to clarify myself on matters concerning the intersection of RACE and POLITICS:

1) Despite my support for Ron Paul’s candidacy, I believe he still has much to answer for with regard to his past courting of racist “paleo-conservatives.” (That said, I maintain that Rep. Paul has gotten a bum rap in the media, whose disproportionate attention to this matter would seem to suggest that Paul’s controversial 1980s-90s newsletter was some kind of outlier — and that the Southern Strategy wasn’t enjoying its heyday at the time, with Republicans from Buchanan to Reagan pandering outright to racists.); and

2) While many who criticize the President are apparently motivated by prejudice, I do not believe that racial animus has anything to do with my critique of his policies (I didn’t like them when they were Bush’s policies; I don’t like them any better now).

I hope the preceding statement will not come off as the classic white-male-American denial: “I’m not a racist!” (For one thing, I couldn’t make such a sweeping declaration without adding a caveat or two… like admitting that there are racist stereotypes — and other useless and offensive junk — in my head; stuff I picked up when I was very young, for the most part, and have been working to eradicate ever since). If anything, I’m more inclined to support President Obama on account of his race (just as I would be more apt to back the first woman president or the first openly gay president; as a liberal, I celebrate the rare moments when the marginalized and downtrodden overcome the odds and prevail).

If you want the whole truth, I count myself among the millions (billions?) of human beings who found Obama’s election genuinely inspiring, and I will always remember where I was on the day he was inaugurated.

I was awfully happy on that day.

NEXT: Part 2 — Some Kind Words for the President!

February is nearly over and I have yet to post a new blog… and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. Invitation2Artivism.com recently celebrated its ONE YEAR anniversary, and I’ve marked the occasion with a lot of questioning and reassessing my commitment to this site, its value, and my priorities.

I LIKE that Invitation2Artivism has enabled me to reach out to others, including fellow activists (from CODE PINK to the Occupy movement and beyond), with information and a perspective about current events that is somewhere between uncommon and eccentric, I suppose. I’ve tried — not always successfully — to be factual, clear, reasonable, and honest in this blog, without making a fool of myself (despite the fact that my honest feelings about the state of the world are mostly angry and despairing ones).

I QUESTION whether this site hasn’t been too much about blogging (and creating ridiculously elaborate political cartoons — some of which require a legend to decipher) and not enough about furthering my creative projects… which I hope will soon become OUR creative projects. (In short, I remain interested in collaborators, and I feel I have not done enough to communicate that interest — I badly need to update my “Projects” page, for one thing). I also wonder, after the past few months of participating in various OWS gatherings, how to strike the perfect balance between educating myself (and trying to share the benefits of that education) from my home, versus marching, rallying, and speaking out in person, with those in my community. Both, I feel, have value.

Whatever the future of this site, I should be clear that I have no intention of abandoning it… and I will continue to evaluate how it needs to grow (original video clips ARE in the works). I’ll also take advantage of this opportunity to THANK YOU, reader, for visiting Invitation2Artivism and helping me grow as a writer, artist, and activist. Some truly wonderful people have contacted me through this site, including some impressive artists, activists, and a marvelous poet (hi, Gianna!). I regret that I have often been slow to respond (I’m probably “too busy,” as I imagine myself to be, writing a vitally edifying and urgently needed play about “Zombie Nixon” or somesuch nonsense — forgive me, the self-amused nerd in me will never die, and these ditties keep me going).

Finally, since I’m already sharing a bit more on the personal side than I normally do here, let me encapsulate my February for you… I started the month working unhurriedly on a couple of ambitious blog entries (as yet unfinished, as I’ve been devoting more time to creative writing, placating my nagging muse… and feeding Zombie Nixon). Come mid-month, I found myself in Sacramento, sharing Valentine’s Day with my wife and visiting Occupy Sacramento. On the holiday, OS conducted an afternoon of teach-ins, culminating in discussions and presentations prescribed by Eve Ensler’s “V-Day,” to raise awareness of, and help reduce, sexual violence. The day was meaningful for me and the event powerful (kudos to the organizers, especially Kim). The trip was, overall, fantastic, especially the wonderful hours I spent with my wife. After leaving Sacramento, I came home to learn of personal troubles in my family, including serious concerns about some young people I love very much (“normal” life stuff, I suppose, however disruptive).

I’m just recently coming back down to Earth from all of the unusual rigmarole, reverting to my routines: newsing, reading WAR And PEACE with a group of friends, doodling, trying to be a decent husband/son/brother/uncle/friend, and endeavoring to contribute something meaningful to my community, local and global.

I look forward to continuing our conversation and CREATING SOME ART!!!

James

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I’ll close with a bit of free verse (that’s right, no charge) concocted from a comment I penned a week or two ago somewhere on the World Wide Web:

On a more personal note...

Okay, I just discovered “Garfunkel and Oates,” so here’s my new favorite song, “Save the Rich” (warning: some profanity… though not nearly as much as the subject warrants).

****** The PROFANITY-FREE version with Wierd Al is also tres bueno… ******

(Did you follow the link?  It’s funny and true.  Excellent job, G & O! — musical, comedic satirists, Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome)