Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If Only

At the end of more than a few episodes of “Get Smart,” Maxwell Smart would say something like: “if only they had done all that for niceness.” Those words keep coming to mind as millions throng Washington for Obama’s inauguration. If only they had come to stop Bush’s wars or to demand single-payer health insurance or to demand that the United States force Israel to stop visiting death and destruction upon Gaza.

Even so, there is much to celebrate today. It has to do with race. After all, Obama will be sworn in as President in a city that, just sixty years ago, was still officially segregated! That he won the election shows not only that “change” is possible. It also shows that, despite our not very democratic electoral institutions, we the people can bring it about – at a pace that our political class and their media flunkies can hardly comprehend.

That Cheney and Bush are about to be dispatched is also something to celebrate. May we see then next in shackles and orange jump suits! That’s an exhilarating thought for persons with a sense of justice, but also a sobering one. The Forgiver-in-Chief is likely to let his predecessors and their underlings get away with worse, much worse, than murder -- for the sake of “bipartisanship” and “moving on.” It’s the same mistake, magnified, that Bill Clinton made when he assumed office at a time when it was still possible to prosecute Reagan and (poppy doc) Bush and their underlings for the crimes of Iran-Contra. But, of course, Clinton, like his wife, was and is an opportunist slug. One hopes (still) for better from Obama. But as he relentlessly reempowers Clintonites and pals around with Republicans, the chances of getting more get dimmer by the day.

Maybe, though, just maybe the throngs will take consciousness of their power in numbers. Then, maybe, they’ll be back to stop the war in Iraq that Obama may not end or the one in Afghanistan that he vows to make worse (under the guise of waging it more “wisely.”) Maybe, they’ll be back to demand a sane health insurance policy!

On Inauguration Day in 1993, hardly anyone thought that the Clinton administration would continue the “Reagan Revolution” (actually, an anti-New Deal, anti-Great Society counter-revolution). But it did – as much as it could. We must take care to assure that Obama doesn’t do something similar by attempting to realize the neo-con’s vision for the Middle East – projecting U.S. and Israeli military power to divide, weaken, and conquer the peoples of the region. Should matters drift that way, the Democrats, as always, will be worse than useless. Only we the people, united and in immense numbers, will be able to stop him.

Today’s celebrations will be truly “historic” to the extent they encourage a sense of that power, peoples’ power, to emerge!

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