2008-11-07 : Hope & Courage

One of the big lies is that someone else will fulfill your dreams for you.

The purpose of this big lie is the purpose of all big lies: to keep us quiet, sad, passive, inert.

When someone says that they think we Obama voters are in for a big disappointment, they're expressing this big lie. They think we're counting on him to fulfill our dreams for us. It's a sad thing to think and say - they've made themselves a tool of the lie.

If we expect Obama as president to fulfill our dreams, yes, we'll be disappointed. Duh.

The fact is, if we don't pursue our dreams, for ourselves, with all our hearts and passions, it doesn't matter in the least what Obama does and doesn't do as president. We'll be disappointed; our dreams will remain unfulfilled.

And if we do pursue our dreams, passionately and wholeheartedly, it also doesn't matter in the least what Obama does and doesn't do. We may fail, we may lose, but we won't be quiet, sad, passive and inert. It'll be too bad, but at least we did.

1. On 2008-11-07, Ron Edwards said:

That's why the appointment of Emanuel and the incipient appointments of Ross and Harman should incur the most wrathful bipartisan, cross-spectrum protest in American history ... and yet not be a rejection of Obama as our president.

I agree with you: such a response should not be powered by a feeling of betrayal, but rather of straightforward outrage against those appointments on the simple basis that they are wrong-headed, immoral, and (for Harman, relative to the Rosen & Weisman court case) treasonous. Doesn't matter whether Obama made or is making them, or someone else.

On a more general note, I suggest that we are cursed, culturally, with a massive shared delusion that "politics" are primarily performed and expressed as elections. Elections are horrible things, as they now stand. They've lost almost all of their primary function, which is to get the fuck rid of someone who's doing damage in his or her office, in favor of elevating people into impossible levels of "fulfilling dreams." And due to that, reinforcing and making it perceived as *natural* that activism is a silly and useless club that malcontents use to fill their time.

When you elect someone to fill your dreams or to "be you" in that office, then the last thing you're going to do is eject the fucker, via impeachment or election, when he does something heinous. You've sunk cost in him, you've identified him as your hope-bearer, it'd be like rejecting yourself. It'd be admitting that your guy should have lost, which is basically calling yourself a *loser* when you cheered and wore a funny hat and called yourself a winner. All this is founded on an infantile, responsibility-less worldview that politics ARE elections.

I voted for Obama and stand by that. But that doesn't mean I am stuck between (a) accepting everything he does as right because he's going to fulfill my dreams or (b) flipping over to hate and whine because he didn't do just as I wished. I fear that my outlook is very rare.

I'm a child of my culture enough to think that democracy's better than any other form of government. But that doesn't mean it's any good, untended. It's full of horrible pitfalls and as far as I can tell, our culture has fallen so deep into this particular one that I can't see a way out.


2. On 2008-11-07, Guy Shalev said:

I agree with what you say, but I disagree about people thinking or hoping [Insert President or presidency candidate here] that that person would fulfill their dreams (even if those are that things would remain the same).

Many people do. That's why many people actually go out and vote.


3. On 2008-11-08, Ben Lehman said:

And if we do pursue our dreams, passionately and wholeheartedly, it also doesn't matter in the least what Obama does and doesn't do. We may fail, we may lose, but we won't be quiet, sad, passive and inert. It'll be too bad, but at least we did.

Speaking of big lies...

Of course it matters whether we succeed or fail, and of course or government (which, of course, is something much larger than a president or a presidency) has a lot to do with whether we succeed or fail.

To give an example: A Chinese native with a rurally-located household registration, if he has a dream of running his own bank, cannot do so. To do so is illegal. He can try, of course, whole-heartedly, but that process will end almost immediately in dismal failure and likely criminal prosecution.

This is because of politics, of course. To say that politics doesn't matter is insulting.



4. On 2008-11-08, Brand Robins said:


Three times in the last week I've had fights with folks because, when I asked them what they had done in a political situation, they said "voted, that's all I can do right?"

I swear, it seems for many people politics is not only primarily expressed in elections, it is singularly, solely, and exclusively expressed by the community in the single act of casting a vote.


I think the other big lie is that any single person or group of person ruins a whole country. God knows that Bush has done horrible things and been a poor leader, but the end of Bush does not mean a new era of joy and respect for America.

A lot of reflection, understanding, and fucking hard, heart-breaking work might mean that. But ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead doesn't work any more than electing a demi-god to fix the world for us.


5. On 2008-11-08, JamesNostack said:

"a massive shared delusion that "politics" are primarily performed and expressed as elections."

But... but... if politics are MORE than just horse races, what in the world will the televised talking-heads jabber about for 18 months out of every 48(and the 30 months between)?  It's as if you're suggesting political coverage should be more than just "analysis" of which state is more Red than Blue...


6. On 2008-11-09, Matt Wilson said:

So far, the guy hasn't done or said anything that sends me into an uproar. If he does, I'll speak up. For now, I'm digging his choices, and also I'm kinda in a daze about holy crap he got elected.


7. On 2008-11-10, Dustin Cooper said:

Good point Vincent! I have to say, I was really hoping to take the lazy way out and have him fulfill all of my hopes and dreams, but it looks like I am going to have to get off the couch and get another beer myself! ; )


8. On 2008-11-10, Vincent said:

Dustin: you might fail, but remember that the struggle itself has value. Also, the grapes were probably sour anyway.


9. On 2008-11-10, Dustin Cooper said:

I am excited about this candidate because for once I feel that we are all going to have a present and not just the "real America" (if you get my drift). What gives me hope is that this upcoming administration is not being inclusive to those who voted for him (well, we will see, but still).

What got me in 2004 was not that Bush won again, but it was the fact that he kind of made it know that he is the president of those who voted for him and kind of blew off the other 50% of America. I do not even want to talk about how the Republicans in Oklahoma acted with those that did not vote for them (how many times did Tom Coburn get on the Daily show with his hateful comments?).

On the bad side, I had no clue this was possible, but Oklahoma went more Red. Oklahoma democrats are like California Republicans, so you got to know that Oklahoma Republicans are pretty extreme. Sucks for me!


10. On 2008-11-11, Curly said:

"But after eight years of the Bush administration, the country may not be quite ready yet for President Obama to be the one starting the knife fights around town.

So that's where Rahm comes in. Actually, in his case, "knife fights" may be particularly apt. One of the founding myths of the Legend of Rahm is of a night at Doe's, a divey steakhouse in Little Rock, Ark., shortly after Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. Emanuel had worked on the campaign, and would soon move into the White House as political director. Some Clintonistas were sitting around at dinner, griping about all the people who had betrayed the new president. But Emanuel wasn't satisfied just to whine about them. (After all, he races triathlons, marathons apparently being insufficiently challenging.) So he grabbed his steak knife and started plunging it into the table, yelling, "Dead! Dead!" as he rattled off the names of the new administration's enemies."


11. On 2008-11-11, Ron Edwards said:

Yeah, plus it's the "dad was an Irgun terrorist," citizen of Israel, served in the IDF during the Gulf War (not, strangely, the U.S. forces), that kind of stuff that I find most distressing.

My concern is not the calumny of "dual loyalty," but the much more straightforward observation that he has, indeed, single loyalty. To another nation.


12. On 2008-11-12, KingstonC said:


The issue you have with Rahm Immanuel is that he made a boatload of money on wall street and thus cannot be trusted to police it, correct?


13. On 2008-11-12, Brand Robins said:


But think of the peace he can bring with Iran!


14. On 2008-11-12, Ben Lehman said:


Do you think you're just maybe engaging in a little bit of Israeli exceptionalism there? Maybe, for instance, your views on Israel are clouding your perceptions?

I mean, traveling abroad to fight with our allies in wartime is a pretty common thing in American history. I don't think that, say, the Flying Tigers during WWII were disloyal to the US, or disqualified themselves from national office. Nor did the international volunteers during the Spanish Civil War.

Like anyone born to a foreign parent, he had dual citizenship until 18. Which he then renounced in favor of American citizenship. Again, this is true of any child of a foreign national and an American. It's not particularly a big deal (it's a bigger deal wrt countries that don't recognize dual citizenship, of which Israel is not one.)

Emmanuel has been elected to the US congress, and served loyally under a previous American president, and most important, he has the trust of the President-elect. That alone qualifies him for the office of Chief of Staff.

I'm missing the thing that requires a huge national outcry.



15. On 2008-11-12, Ron Edwards said:

"... he has the trust of the President-elect. That alone qualifies him for the office of Chief of Staff."

!! I consider that statement insupportable. Astonishing, in fact.

Regarding your main point, there's no way to disprove your charge as it targets an intangible "in my head." The fact is that either the combination of Emanuel's background details sounds the alarm for you, or it doesn't. He is, effectively, a war-mongering neoconservative with specific ties to specific groups in Israel as well as AIPAC, as are a number of the high-ranking Democrats. Whereas a person might be OK with more neoconservatives in power (and "chief of staff" is serious power; we're not talking about who organizes the overheads and secretarial pool), that's not OK with me.

One point, though: I have not seen any example of so-called Israeli exceptionalism anywhere. Rather the opposite: apparently infinite tolerance for actions which would be instantly censured if performed by any other nation.

You're incorrect in referring to my views on *Israel* as a whole. I share great solidarity with the Israeli majority poll results which urge talks with Hamas, for instance, and with those IDF soldiers and officers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories as they consider the military presence there to be atrocious.


16. On 2008-11-12, Ben Lehman said:

I dunno. Let's look at a couple of parallel cases, with Ireland and China.

Let's say that we have an Irish-American whose father was in the IRA, who was born in the US with dual citizenship, who lived in Ireland and served in the Irish military, but then moved to the US, worked in a previous white house, was elected to three terms in congress and was skilled enough to get a leadership position. He's an old political ally and connection of the new president, since they draw on the same South-Boston Irish Catholic political heritage. Is this person ineligible for Chief of Staff? Really?

How about let's go back a generation. A Chinese American whose father was deeply involved in the May 4th movement and the KMT during the formative nation-building years, but moved to the US to have kids. This person volunteered to fight in WW2 as one of the Flying Tigers (American pilots under Chinese command), and after the war moved to the US, worked in a previous white house, was elected to three terms in congress and skilled enough to get a leadership position. Is this person really ineligible for Chief of Staff? Really?

Maybe there is something there, and I'm not seeing it, because of the outrageousness of your "sins of the father are visited upon the son" argument.



17. On 2008-11-12, Ron Edwards said:

Whatever, Ben. I do not accept your argument by analogy, what-if, what-if. There is no "what if." Do not attempt to pose some case which I "obviously" would agree with in order to expose special-case logic. This is about Emanuel's politics, not a technicality of legalism/eligibility.

Your parallels do not apply because in neither case is/was the U.S. wrapped up in such a problematic relationship as we currently are with Israel. As in, our tax dollars hemorrhaging into this nation's military, the way our representatives typically vote and veto in the U.N. Security Council, the role of the Israel Lobby in the run-up to the Iraq War (granted, one of several powerful allied influences), the extent of spying on the U.S., and any number of other confluent, two-way interactions which serve to the detriment of democracy, peace (or shall we say "not carnage"), and human rights in both nations.

All of the above comprises a current, specific destructive situation which is long past crisis and has clearly been intractable to correction via ordinary, representative processes. That's why activism is called for - basic, plain, multi-organization protest against any further entrenchment.

Calling that "exceptionalism" in the sense of the term's traditional use toward Israeli-U.S. issues is bogus. It's a marginalize-opponent term, dismissing an opponent as a weak and prejudiced thinker. My views are specific to the current circumstances, yes, which is nothing more than sensible. Not the same thing.

There are any number of websites where you can butt heads with people about what exceptionalism is and how Israel is or isn't different from whatever country. If this is genuinely about your interest in what *I* actually think, and not an excuse to chop logic in public, then give me a call.


18. On 2008-11-12, Gregor said:

The Ireland problem is quite different from Israel. Though what Israel could learn from it is that the only long-term peaceful solution is a political one embracing both sides of the divide.

Every time I see an analogy made with the cause of Irish Republican (or Basque) freedom it is to draw a comparison with the Palestinian cause, not the Israeli one. So, yeah, it's a different can of worms from Israel, really.


19. On 2008-11-12, Matt Wilson said:

I'm waiting to see what happens in regard to the anti-arab comments Benjamin Emmanuel made earlier this week. How much will Rahm distance himself from his father on that one?

The steak knife thing... I dunno, I sort of think of him as Obama's Tigh, but missing a finger instead of an eye.


20. On 2008-11-12, Brand Robins said:


As someone with Irish ancestry, I'd be wary of having someone whose father was radical IRA in the Chief of Staff position.

I mean, obviously its not an absolute. I'd have to know way more than that about the guy, about his history, about the jobs he'd held and the political stances he'd taken. It could well turn out that'd I'd quite approve of him.

But if the guy's dad was Arm Saoirse N??isi??nta na h??ireann... yea, I'd be worried. Especially if he'd shown Sinn Fein sympathies.

All that said, I'm not convinced that Rahm is a bad choice or that he's what Ron fears he is. But in at least one of your parallel cases... yea, that would make me watchful and wary. Especially if we were on the brink of war with Britain at the time.


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