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When I stood with Obama

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It seems like only yesterday when I stood with Obama on November 4, 2008

I have just finished another unpleasant exchange with yet another starry-eyed Liberal Obama supporter. I have yet to learn, that what the marketing folks from Madison Avenue have joined together, no man can separate. Like the inveterate Ron Reagan supporter who refuses to acknowledge Iran-Contra, so too the Liberals seem unable to shake the Obama pixie dust from their eyes.

They cannot seem to get it through their programmed brains that I am not somehow allied with the obstructionist racists whose hatred is wholly generic. When I attempt to explain this failed president and this most pernicious imperial administration in Amerikan history, they put their fingers in their ears and proceed to begin repeating their mantra,

“If only you Republicans would go away. If only you Republicans would go away. If only…”

I wish I could take them into my experience of Obama and show them my gradual descent from being one of many Progressives who worked on that first heady campaign to elect him only to see the smiling mask begin to erode, and the Nobel “V” sign of peace become the same traditional hard fist of a harder more merciless oppression. When I use words like these, my Liberal friends become nervous and start moving toward the exit.

“If only you Republicans would go away. If only you Republicans would go away.”

I have really grown weary of pointing out to them the number of campaign promises broken; the meaningless environmental rhetoric; the coziness he cultivates with the bankesters, Wall St. and the health insurance companies; his murderous drones; his virtual assassination of the pitiful remnant of our Fourth Estate; his attacks on Muslims, whistleblowers and immigrants fleeing the results of our past bad foreign policy decisions in Mexico, Central and South America; his stupid war on terror and continuing rendition and torture programs; his steadfast refusal to hold the past administration, the CIA, NSA and FBI accountable for past and present crimes; his draconian, illegal spying on and killing his fellow Americans; and  all these and so much more.

“If only you Republicans would go away. If only you…”

I have not always felt this way. Here are remarks I wrote down after witnessing the fruits of my labors on his behalf on November 4th 2008.

Chicago -- the city where hope died and was reborn November 5, 2008 by Bob Boldt

I was back in my old home town last night, in spirit, if not in the flesh, standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of my countrymen in Grant Park in The City of The Big Shoulders.

Chicago has always been defined by writers and poets: Algren, Bellow, Brooks, Dreiser, Sandberg. Forty years ago, during the 1968 Democratic Convention, I stood shoulder to shoulder against the tear gas with Studs Terkel in Lincoln Park during the police riot that drove the Yippies out of their Festival of Life. Later that week, I stood in protest with Alan Ginsberg, Jean Genet, William Burroughs and Norman Mailer in that same Grant Park that now celebrated Barack Obama. Those were troubling times, not unlike our own today. Unlike today though, in spite of all the troubles, the violence and the politics of deceit, I was filled with hope. We were living in shape-shifting mind-blowing times.

Two of our brightest and best did not even live past 1968. Martin and Bobby, who could have helped lead us out of the smothering darkness, were no longer able to bring their sweet influences to bear upon the powers that ultimately won the day. In the same way that Altamont and Charlie Manson killed Hippie, so too did Chicago kill our hopes for a true politics of change.

In a recent obit for Studs Terkel, Charles Osgood shared an old interview with the famous Chicagoan on CBS Sunday Morning. Studs was asked if he was optimistic about the future. He paused while a whole panoply of emotions played across his face. Here was a man who remembered the breadlines of the great depression, the heroic struggle against fascism in the Second World War, as well as the more recent battles with Joe McCarthy, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and Iraq.

“There is a Spanish expression,” Studs finally replied, “Hope dies last.” That’s what I am - perhaps not optimistic, but hopeful.”
I thought of Studs last night as I stood (virtually) in Grant Park in Chicago awaiting the acceptance speech of our next president.

Hope died for me in Chicago forty years ago with the brutal crushing of the young voices trying to “give peace a chance.” There have been few moments since that dark time when I dared feel even a small amount of optimism concerning my country. Last night was a heady moment for me and for America. It literally set my heart free again to hope and to, once again, believe that my working on behalf of a better country and a better world will not be for nothing.

I am under no illusions concerning the seemingly insurmountable troubles we face in our immediate future. Why do I even allow myself to dare to hope we can surmount the present difficulties and in Faulkner’s phrase “…not merely endure but prevail.”?

It begin with John McCain’s concession speech. There was a time, longer ago than I care to remember, when I actually admired the man - or thought I did. Last night, during his speech, I seemed to; once again, catch sight of the John McCain of old. He looked somehow younger. His face, no longer inflated with indignation and rage, had a smoother, calmer countenance. I thought he even looked somehow relieved, as if a burden he had never wanted had been lifted. He had dignity and his words seemed to come from a place of true reconciliation. I liked him. Better than that, I even dared to think that all those people I met at the Sarah Palin rally in Jefferson City earlier in the week might even be able to be brought around.

Perhaps the final, most moving experience of the evening was the montage of the countless faces of all the Americans of African descent I saw in Grant Park. They were very young, they were ancient, they were well to do and they were poor. They all had such a beautiful, nearly uncomprehending look of amazement on their faces, a kind of “pinch me to make sure I’m not dreaming” expression that I had not seen since the Civil Rights struggles of the early sixties. They were realizing, in a palpable, physical way, the words Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on that memorable day in August, 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

That dream had not been fully realized until the moment we all came to understand that a person of African lineage had been elected to the highest office in the land. He had been elected by all the people, a people who many, myself included, doubted would ever be able to surmount the brutal legacy of slavery that has plagued this country since its founding. Is racism dead in America? No, but we have finally shown that we have turned a corner as significant in every way as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Voting Rights Act. The dearly anticipated image of Malina Ann and Sasha playing in the same rooms where Caroline and John Jr. once had their games, moves me more than I can possibly express.

Stay tuned for what could be our finest hour. The whole world will be watching.

They say that if you live long enough the world will finally break your heart. Obama nearly broke this battle worn, tired heart. He has not succeeded. He has merely taken away hope. I now know there no longer is and there never will be redemption for this country on its imperial death spiral. I owe Obama a deep debt of gratitude for finally getting it through my thick skull that any promise of change in Amerika is fraudulent and for awakening me to the true dark reality of what this country has always stood for.


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