Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/One-Year-On-Obama-s-Yes-by-Kevin-Gosztola-091102-88.html
Dateline: November 2, 2009
By Kevin Gosztola
A week or two ago I began to think about the reality that it had been about a year since Obama won the election. And, about a week or two ago, I began to see and read the first conversations about how the 2012 Election is set to begin in the spring of 2010.
I do not know how many Americans can handle the beginning of another election right now. It’s too early. We aren’t done with the man who currently occupies the White House.
Too many of us have failed to make him create the change we need, too many of us are still willing to buy into this idea that he could go to the root of many of our problems and make things better for a broad swath of America.
At least half of the country still believes in the power of Barack Obama.
I do not know what they believe or have faith in as they cling to these beliefs but my guess is these beliefs are compartmentalized—separated from the oncoming expansion and escalation of the Afghanistan War, separated from the permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq, separated from Obama’s cozying up to Big Banks like Goldman Sachs which placed risky bets on the housing market that heavily contributed to the economic collapse in 2008, and separated from the bailout to health insurance companies that will be cloaked in a so-called public option.
The separation of Obama from all the inequities and evils that continue in America’s name (the torture, the erosion of American civil liberties, the persecution of the Other, the drone strikes in Pakistan, the bailouts for the richest 1%, the rising costs of living, etc) is the glue that holds this country together. It keeps the country from totally coming apart from the stress of illusions and disillusion that reinforce each other.
The perpetuation of thinking that what we got on Election Day is fundamentally better than what John McCain would have been pacifies the masses, keeps the civil unrest significantly depressed, and quells the anger and frustration many are feeling.
A year on, Americans still wear cheaply made commercial merchandise they bought that night when Obama claimed victory (or that day when Obama was inaugurated). They wear hats that say “President of the United States of America” or “HOPE” or “CHANGE.”
The hats and shirts people wear with Obama’s name on them say it all. They say despite my hardship, despite my poverty I push on because you made me believe this country could do better for me and other people some day.
I do not think they know when that will happen. It probably will not happen before Obama’s Hope and Change Reunion Tour kicks off in the Spring of 2010 as he fights to maintain the support of those who were die-hard supporters in the spring, summer, and fall of 2008.
They don’t know when they will get Medicare for All and have their health care bills significantly reduced, they don’t know when they will be able to live a life without fear of having their home foreclosed on, they don’t know when they will be sure that their union won’t be forced to make concessions which result in a pay cut, they don’t know when they can be sure that they will have enough money to help get their sons and daughters through college, they don’t know when the next week or the week after they will know if they can afford to pay for all the groceries they need to feed their family— But the vast majority continues to live knowing the alternatives, giving up or dying, to be worse than the trials and tribulations they are experiencing.
Some turn to communities they live in for support —churches, neighborhood groups, schools, unions, clubs, family, etc. Some have the courage and wherewithal to point the finger and consider why they live like this —- why anyone in the world has to live like this.
Why does anyone have to live like that?
How do you sum up this past year and why the answer to one’s prayers has taken so long to do what was necessary?
Do you pinpoint American democracy as an utter failure? Do you put the blame on Obama and say he has not been the transformative leader necessary for real change and failed to take on corporate power? Or do you address the psychology of America, the systems that run rampant in America and suck human goodness, kindness, caring, and decency like a leech?
Truth is, stress and duress in society created by corporate dominance and power in this country has led to an American people who have psychological traits of the Corporation.
We all try to get by as those with the money and power exhibit callous unconcern for the feelings and plight of others, we all try to maintain enduring relationships despite our incapacity to stay grounded in the illusions we need to entertain to get so that these relationships can continue, we all show a reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of others, we all practice a level of deceitfulness and con others to maintain a hold or grip on the rung of the class ladder that we temporarily occupy, we all to a certain degree have an inability to feel guilt or responsibility for war, for continued environmental destruction, for government repression, for policies creating vast inequality and manifesting a great fear in the Other, and we all are prone to a failure to conform to social norms with respect to the law.
We act out because we know we must to survive. We act out because we see others doing it and figure if others do it and we can get away with it then it must be okay.
The psychology of the corporations which have penetrated the halls of power, the traits of the special interest groups that now for the most part control what goes in and what comes out of Congress have over the past decades spread rapidly like a virus to American citizens.
We now think like they do. We think about “the good of the country” and not ourselves or our communities or the greater humanity, which we are a part of.
We subscribe to the idea that this is the way things are and we have to get used to it just like the CEOs, boards of directors, and other members of the moneyed elite want us to do so they can continue to direct the bewildered herd which they are convinced they must direct and exact influence over for the good of the country.
We have been brainwashed to believe we must get change through the system and any action for change outside the system will go nowhere and so our actions for the change we believe in prevent from happening what leaders and politicians don’t want us to believe in.
The idea of “change we can believe in” prevents creative action which could blow open a whole set of possibilities for radical reforms and systemic change if a mass majority participated in it. It shrewdly deludes us all into thinking, instead, that incremental change is what’s possible and what’s only possible.
It leads us to the current point in history when “Yes We Can” and “Change We Can Believe In” has transformed into phrases like “Change is hard,” “Change isn’t supposed to be easy,” and “Change doesn’t happen overnight.” Such phrases put a damper on all populism across America.
So, finally, the disappointment of Obama’s first year is that several opportunities presented themselves for real change: health care reform could have been single payer, “financial reforms” could have been created to include a worker’s bill of rights, the PATRIOT Act and its expansions could have been repealed, the economic crisis of the time could have kickstarted a radical restructuring of our national economy in favor of Main Street not Wall Street, the bloated military budget could have been cut significantly so that more money could go toward education, jobs, housing, etc, foreign policy could have been created to end the wars in the Middle East, and much more could have been done to deal with the impending environmental destruction that will occur as a result of global warming.
All of these changes could have been put into motion, but these were deemed changes we were not to believe in.
Change we can believe in was never anything more than a figment of our imagination, a largely undefined belief to keep us all in check and allow for a president to tap in to the political energy and frustrations of the time.
“Change is hard” is not an acceptable outlook for the future. “Yes we’ve failed” is much more appropriate for summing up the past year since Obama’s election.
Kevin Gosztola is a trusted author who publishes his writing regularly to OpEdNews and Open Salon and he is a 2009 Young People For Fellow. He is a documentary filmmaker currently completing a Film/Video degree at Columbia College in Chicago. Currently, he is working on a documentary project on Renaissance 2010 and Chicago Public Schools. On Columbia College’s campus, he helps organize events and programming with a humanities/social sciences group known as Critical Encounters. He is currently working with the group to plan a media summit for Chicago in April 2010 and is currently seeking speakers who are willing to participate in talking to artists and media makers about how they can use participatory or social media to create art & media that promotes conversation and action on political, social, and cultural issues.