Revolution Online, December 12, 2008
Views and Mood of Some People “Post-Election”
You may be interested in some of the views and mood of people I’ve run into recently in Chicago.
I’ve run into a very wide range of opinions of the current objective situation and the significance of Obama’s election. On one level, everyone knows that electing a Black man to the Presidency is historic, something they never expected to see in their lifetimes.
A Black man in his 30s, who works in not-for-profit education in the south side of Chicago, thinks the change that already occurred, which enabled millions of white people to vote for a Black man for President, is astounding, given that the foundation of American society is on the slavery and continuing oppression of Black people. He thinks the “Republicans gave up the 2008 election in the summer of 2007”, when they couldn’t find a strong candidate to run. To him, since the dawn of slavery of Africans centuries ago, “all black people know they don’t choose where they go”, which to him means that a powerful section of the ruling class enabled Obama to become President.
This man was intrigued by the concept of Obama’s election being a trump card played by the ruling class, because of the heavy shit that’s here and also coming ahead. But he proposed “an alternate understanding — Black people know he might sell out, especially given who he surrounds himself with. Everyone’s watching him, and it’s our responsibility to make sure he doesn’t (sell out)”.
A 43 year-old Black military veteran, who served in Desert Storm, had $1 out to buy a copy of Revolution with the American eviction story, but as soon as I told him the paper was put out by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, pulled his money back, saying “I can’t read that. I’m a veteran.” He agreed that people in this country and around the world are in desperate straits and need a revolution, “but hypothetically, if you (communists) were right, it would turn my world upside down...It would challenge everything I’ve done in my life”. He didn’t say what he’d done in his life, but he did not appear to be living the high life. The epistemological struggle of what he should do if “what’s true” would “turn (his) world upside down” was front and center; he never bought the paper. Later that afternoon, a middle-class Black woman balked at buying the paper for the same reason; when I recounted the vet’s story to her, she decided “I can handle reading a different point of view”, and bought the paper.
Separately from each other, two progressive upper class white women, both of whom voted for Obama, are worried about “reverse racism” now that he’s going to be the President. Both have put time and resources into trying to eliminate discrimination against Blacks. We talked about how implausible such a scenario was, how Obama was not even championing ending the oppression of Blacks, and that nothing one President could do could come anywhere near the systematic, murderous, centuries-long exploitation and oppression that Black people have faced. But I was so surprised by these comments that I didn’t find out where these women picked these ideas up, or why they think this, given their overall beliefs.
A 50-year old Chicano I know has had a very different reaction to Obama’s election from his reaction to the 2006 Congressional elections, when the Democrats took control of Congress from the Republicans. He thought that the 2006 election was “one of the greatest elections of all time”, especially when Rumsfeld was fired as Secretary of Defense immediately afterwards. Back then, he thought the people would tell Congress and Bush exactly what they wanted, which was to get out of Iraq immediately, and fix the economy in this country, and if Congress didn’t follow the will of the people, the people would vote all of them out of office. He’s been reading Revolution on and off since then, and continuing to hope the Democrats would live up to his expectations.
The day after Obama’s election, he said “at least it isn’t McCain/Palin. That would have been really bad.” He then said that he felt “despair. We’ve killed a million people in Iraq. Double it and we’ve done what the Nazis did. We haven’t seen the end of the financial crisis — it’s VERY bad. How the hell is it global? When my kids are my age, what’s the world going to be like?” He said he was much more hopeful in 2006, “but the Democrats didn’t come through”.
After that, he read the RCP’s Constitution. His initial reaction was “it’s like when you learn something really bad about your parents. Or when you learn there’s no Santa Claus. It’s like your feeling of safety is gone.” After we laughed about why an adult might want to continue believing in Santa Claus, I counter-posed communist understanding and revolution being very positive, the way to bring a radically different and better world without exploitation, oppression and social antagonism into being. His questions: HOW? What about their military? The ruling class has whole industries to make us think as they do, how do we beat that? We talked quite a bit about Revolution newspaper’s role in exposing what’s going on, why it’s happening, how a much better society is possible, and how to actually make a revolution, although none of these are “settled” questions.
A thread throughout this discussion was learning why things happen, and how people can look to underlying dynamics to understand what’s really driving things forward. As long as I’ve known him, he’s been a fierce opponent of the blind obedience and uncritical thought fostered by religion. I learned that he grew up going to Catholic Church every day (not every Sunday) until 8th grade. Music and art started his challenging his religious beliefs. Although his friends didn’t listen to classical music, he did, and he wondered “what were Mendelssohn and Bach thinking when they were writing their music?” And he learned that “spending an hour solving a problem was a much better way to deal with it than going to the church and praying about it”.
He also raised a lingering doubt about whether there was some kind of higher being or power — why did he walk away unharmed from what could have been a deadly accident one summer, while several friends of his died that from similar accidents within months of it? We talked about the similarities and differences of the accidents, and how one of the challenges for doctors is to learn why someone lives through a potentially deadly incident, so they can apply their new knowledge to future victims of similar incidents.
Often, when my friend sees how the US ruling class gets away with incredible greed and calculated brutality, he leans towards thinking it is all-powerful. Sometimes he thinks we’re up against a grand conspiracy by the capitalists, that everything is under their control. For instance getting bogged down in Iraq is a goal the ruling class desired, because then the defense industry and companies like Halliburton make huge profits. He connected this with the famous quote from the Bush administration about how they create their own reality. On the other hand, the current financial crisis is challenging that thinking.
Revolution’s articles on the Afghanistan war not being a “good war” had a big effect on him. Prior to those articles, he thought it WAS a “good war”, but “the articles feed my skepticism — everything’s a scam”. We talked about the need to understand when we’ve been deceived and then the need to figure out what the truth is, and about the contradiction the ruling class faces that they are really waging a global war for empire, but they can’t say that openly, so we have the “war on terror”, leaving aside how the US rulers are some of the biggest terrorists the world has ever seen.
His first reaction after reading “Stop thinking like Americans, Start thinking about humanity!” was that “thinking like Americans” furthers the wars the US is waging, and that fewer and fewer are getting rich on a global level, not just in the US. His second thought was that it was good to pose the divisions as the people of the world vs. exploiters, and not Americans vs. others.
I’ve met other people, for instance gays in Chicago who’ve never done anything political in their lives, who hit the streets after California’s Proposition 8 was passed, who are invigorated by Obama’s election. “Yes we CAN!” made them decide they had to fight for things they’ve never fought for before. This is some of the complexity of the current situation I’ve encountered — to them the Obama “hope” lays the basis for more change. But the more things continue, the more people will be running up against the reality that the “hope” of Obama is ultimately illusory at best. There’s both great necessity and possibility for the real hope of revolution to become a much greater force through this.
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