Bahamas Blog International
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Reflections of Fidel:
I did not want to write a third consecutive reflection, but I can not leave this until Monday.
There is one accurate response to Bush’s "democratic capitalism:" Chavez’ democratic socialism. There couldn’t be a more accurate way to express the great contradiction that exists between North and South in our hemisphere, between the ideas of Bolívar and those of Monroe.
Bolívar’s great merit was having stated it at a time when modern means of communication did not exist — not even the Panama Canal. There was no U.S. imperialism. There were just the English-speaking Thirteen Colonies which, united, gained their independence in 1776 with the support of France and Spain.
The Liberator, as if he were capable of seeing through centuries ahead of his own time, proclaimed in 1829: "The United States seems destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty."
Hugo Chávez is a Venezuelan soldier. In his mind, Bolívar’s ideas germinated naturally. Suffice it to observe the way in which his thinking went through different political stages, starting from his humble origin, school, military academy, his readings of history, the reality of his country and the humiliating presence of Yankee domination.
He was not a general; he didn’t have any armed institution under his command. He didn’t perpetrate a coup d’état; nor could he do so. He did not want to wait; nor could he. He rebelled; he took full responsibility for events and turned prison into a school. He conquered the sympathy of the people and gained their support for his cause while being out of government. He won the elections under a bourgeois Constitution. He took an oath under that agonizing document and swore allegiance to a new Constitution. He clashed with both right and left preconceived ideas and started the Bolivarian Revolution in the midst of the most difficult subjective conditions in the whole Latin America.
For 10 years, as president of his country, he has not ceased to sow ideas inside and outside his homeland.
No honest person should have any doubt that there is a true Revolution in progress in Venezuela, and there is also an exceptional struggle being waged against imperialism.
It is worth mentioning that Chávez does not rest, not even for a single minute. He struggles inside Venezuela and at the same time he systematically travels to the capitals of Latin American countries as well as to important nations in Europe, Asia and Africa.
He communicates, hour by hour, with the national and international press. He is not afraid to address any issue; he is listened to with respect by the main leaders in the world. He makes correct and efficient use of the real power his country has —the largest proven oil reserves in the world, in addition to abundant gas— and he is designing an unprecedented national and internationalist program.
With the signing of an association agreement between Russia’s Gazprom and Venezuela’s PDVSA for the prospecting and exploitation of hydrocarbons, he has created a consortium in that field that is equal to none in the world. His economic association with China and Russia, certain countries in Europe and others in Latin America and Africa with abundant resources, has released the liberating forces that will pave the way towards a multipolar world. He did not exclude the United States from the energy supply or the commercial exchange programs. That is an objective and balanced conception.
He thinks about a socialist revolution for his own homeland, without excluding important productive factors. At this historical juncture, after being hit by nature and the criminal ravages of the decadent empire, our country is truly privileged t be able to count on Chavez’s solidarity.
We have never heard a more internationalist and fraternal phrase than the one he said to our people: "The country of Venezuela is also your country!"
Imperialism is trying to get rid of him politically or eliminate him physically no matter the cost, without realizing that his death would be a disaster for Venezuela as well as for the economies and the stability of all other governments of Latin America and the Caribbean.
My conversations with him are characterized by one point of view I defend: at this point in time, the most important thing is to save Venezuela from the political onslaught of the U.S. government. During his last visit we discussed the magnitude of the assistance he is giving to us as well as the assistance he wishes to give to us, and our suggestion that he should concentrate the largest possible amount of resources on the domestic battle that he is waging today against the offensive launched by the media and the conditioned reflexes that imperialism has been creating for many years.
From now until November 23, the battle to be waged will be of great transcendence, and we don’t want his support for Cuba to be used as a pretext for damaging the Bolivarian Revolution.
The 92 Venezuelan construction workers who are members of the Socialist Voluntary Work Brigades sent to build houses in Pinar del Río are a real symbol of our times.
We are living through very important moments. The popular referendum to approve the new Constitution in Ecuador the day after tomorrow will be of great significance. Chávez will meet with President Lula in Brazil on Monday. Tonight there is a televised debate between Obama and McCain. All of this is important news.
That is why I did not want to leave writing these lines for Monday. Tomorrow, Saturday, Chávez will be back in his country and on Sunday he will address his people. He always uses something from these reflections in his battle.
Fidel Castro Ruz
September 26, 2008
(Translated by ESTI)
|September 30, 2008 | 6:57 PM
US debates bailout as crisis worsens
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BY: ASIM ERDİLEK:
The US Treasury’s sweeping bailout plan hastily presented to the US Congress last Monday to end the global financial crisis has unleashed a furious debate, stalling congressional approval of the plan.
This welcome debate, after Congress commendably refused to give the Treasury a blank check, was waged over the plan’s potential winners and losers as well as about its effectiveness in ending the crisis, which continued to worsen last week. As a result of the often acrimonious debate in the marathon congressional negotiations, the Treasury had to agree to several substantive changes in its initial financial rescue plan, which was to last two years and to require up to $700 billion in taxpayers’ money. A newly assertive Capitol Hill proved its mettle by not allowing the Bush administration to push it into rubber stamping such a critical, costly and initially ill-conceived mega bailout proposal to avert a feared financial Armageddon.
The revised plan, called the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), was expected to be approved by congressional leaders by the end of last weekend and by Congress early this week. It might help to lessen the severity of the financial crisis by letting troubled financial institutions get rid of their illiquid and distressed assets, but it will not solve their other critical problem of equity capital deficiency, requiring recapitalization. In fact, solving the first problem could exacerbate the second. The bailout will also not stop falling home prices, which is the root cause of the housing crisis -- i.e., rising mortgage defaults and foreclosures -- that has developed into the global financial crisis. Moreover, the Treasury’s intention to have other countries affected by the financial crisis come up with similar bailout plans of their own is unlikely to prove successful, whether or not foreign-owned financial institutions operating in the US are covered by the US plan.
The heated debate on the bailout plan (see last week’s column, “Uncle Sam to try cutting the Gordian knot”) occurred at different levels, drawing in politicians, including President Bush and the two presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, economists, journalists, business leaders and a surprisingly large number of angry and frustrated constituents, who called or wrote to their representatives in Washington to protest the bailout of Wall Street by Main Street. In fact, much of the debate in Congress reflected the opposition to the bailout plan by the majority of the US public, which clearly saw that it would privatize the gains but socialize the losses from the crisis, potentially costing the US taxpayers billions of dollars. The arguments by the architects of the bailout plan that the public would fare even worse in a deep depression that would be caused by the collapse of the financial system did not prove to be persuasive. President Bush’s prime time national TV address defending the bailout was ineffective.
Within Congress itself, the most vociferous opposition to the original Treasury plan to purchase toxic mortgage-related securities by spending up to $700 billion came surprisingly from Republican members. Many of them, especially in the House of Representatives, openly rebelled -- on both ideological grounds and political concerns about their re-electability next November -- against their congressional leaders and against the unpopular lame-duck Republican president who supported the plan. Protesting the violation of the “free market principles” under the original plan, which some of them labeled “trickle-down communism,” they proposed an alternative scheme that would have provided premium-based government insurance for bad loans to troubled financial institutions to help them get back on their feet. This insurance program proposed to replace the Treasury’s bailout plan did not get very far, although some of its elements could be included as an option in the finalized package.
The Democrats, on the other hand, supported the Treasury plan in principle but, after loudly blaming the administration for the global financial crisis, forced the plan to be revised significantly to include broad congressional oversight, gradual release of the $700 billion in tranches, audits and transparency to prevent abuse and waste, safeguards against conflicts of interest and concessions to Main Street in terms of caps on the compensation of the executives of troubled financial institutions that would sell their rotten securities to the government. The Treasury also agreed in principle to the demands of Congress that Uncle Sam should receive mandatory equity warrants toward a partial ownership stake in the troubled financial institutions whose toxic mortgage-related securities it would buy in reverse auctions. It seems, however, that the Democrats could not persuade Republicans, as part of the bailout package, to allow judges to rewrite mortgages to enable bankrupt homeowners to avoid foreclosure. Although Democrats control both houses of Congress, they understandably do not want to approve the bailout, which is opposed by most of the US public and is perceived as politically lethal, without Republican support.
In the first of the three presidential debates last Friday, McCain and Obama both voiced general support for the bailout, although they disagreed on who was to blame for the crisis. However, even after being pressed repeatedly by the debate’s moderator, they failed to specify how after becoming president they would deal with the costly consequences of the bailout. Prior to the debate both had become conspicuously involved in the congressional negotiations, following the impetuous insistence of “maverick” Senator McCain, who even wanted to postpone Friday’s debate presumably to give his full attention to the bailout, after having briefly suspended his campaign to that end. Senator Obama reminded his rival -- whose blatant injection of presidential politics into the bailout debate raised questions about his judgment -- that presidents should be able to multitask.
As the bailout debate raged last week, the financial crisis continued to worsen and the prospects for the US real economy deteriorated. We witnessed the collapse of Washington Mutual Inc. (WaMu), the largest bank failure in US history, which the proponents of the bailout argued should help Congress focus on the urgency of government intervention to avoid a total collapse of the US financial system akin to that of the 1930s. After losing $16.7 billion in deposits in 10 days, WaMu, with assets of $307 billion but deposits of $188 billion, was seized by the government. JP Morgan Chase & Co. bought the bulk of WaMu’s assets for $1.9 billion, with a $31 billion write-down for the toxic securities. Two other major banks, Wachovia Corp. and National City Corp., came under increasing pressure as their share prices plummeted.
The era of independent investment banking came to an end last week. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the only major US investment banks left in the devastation of the financial crisis, became bank holding companies. As commercial banks, they will broaden their funding base by taking deposits in order to survive but at the price of being regulated by the Federal Reserve Bank and earning lower returns. Also, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating possible fraud by four of the financial institutions deeply embroiled in the financial crisis, the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, insurance giant AIG, which were all bailed out by the government earlier this month, and the investment bank Lehman Brothers, which went bankrupt.
As for the bad news about the real economy, the Department of Commerce revised downward its earlier 3.3 percent annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for the second quarter to 2.8 percent. It reported that in August orders for durable manufactured goods dropped by 4.5 percent, with new home sales falling by 11.5 percent to the lowest level in 17 years. It also reported that sales of single-family homes shrank by 11.5 percent in August to its lowest seasonally adjusted annual rate since January 1991, with the median price of a new home falling by 6.2 percent since August 2007. The US Department of Labor reported that new claims for unemployment benefits jumped in the previous week to their highest level in seven years, following the rise of the national unemployment rate in August to 6.1 percent, its highest level in five years. It seems increasingly likely that real GDP will shrink in the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2009, saddling the US economy with an output recession as well as a jobs recession. The global financial crisis has already begun to take a serious toll on the US real economy. As I concluded in my last column, even if Uncle Sam succeeds in cutting the Gordian knot of the global financial crisis with a mega bailout, the US, as well as the rest of the world, will have to reckon later with many unintended and unpleasant consequences, which I hope to discuss in another column.
|September 29, 2008 | 4:53 PM
The goal that cannot be renounced
Related to country: Cuba
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Reflections of Fidel:
AROUND 35,000 Cuban health specialists are providing free or paid services in the world. Furthermore, some young doctors from countries such as Haiti and others among the poorest of the Third World are working in their homelands thanks to the assistance provided by Cuba. In Latin America, our main contribution has been the ophthalmologic surgeries that will help to preserve the eyesight of millions of people. In addition, we are assisting in the training of tens of thousands of young medical students from other nations, both in and outside Cuba.
However, this is not something that is ruining our people, who were able to survive thanks to the internationalism that the USSR implemented with Cuba, and it helps us to pay our own debt to humanity.
After carefully meditating and analyzing in detail the history of the last few decades, I have come to the conclusion, without the least bit of chauvinism, that Cuba has the best medical care in the whole world, and it is important that we are aware of that, since it is the starting point for what I wish to state.
The basis of the aforementioned success lies in the network of polyclinics and family doctors’ offices set up throughout the country, which replaced the disastrous and precarious capitalist system of medical care based on the private practice of medicine, although the harsh reality of the times had imposed the necessity of creating a number of mutual-benefit healthcare centers. To the youngest ones amongst us, I should clarify that these were cooperative institutions where those services were offered for a monthly fee. Under that system, all the members of my family benefited from some of those services at a hospital located in the far-away capital of the former province of Oriente. However, I cannot remember one single sugarcane or sugar mill worker entitled to be a member of that institution, for they lacked the necessary resources and never traveled to that city. Wherever the principles of capitalism prevail, society moves backward. That is why we must be extremely careful every time we see that socialism is forced to resort to capitalist mechanisms. There are those who get intoxicated and alienated while dreaming about the effects of the drug of individual egoism as if it were the only incentive capable of mobilizing people.
The great need for medical specialists generated a bourgeois elitist spirit in that sector, which Cuba put an end to once and for all, as the Revolution, throughout these years, graduated growing numbers of doctors who rejected private medical practice and later became specialists through study and systematic practice, coming to constitute a mass of well-qualified professionals.
Under capitalism, the limited number of specialists whose work had to do with health and life became gods. We have no other alternative but to cultivate in these people, as well as in the high-level educators and other professionals who require great doses of knowledge, a profound revolutionary spirit. Experience has shown that is possible, especially in a profession that has so much to do with life and death.
Our network of polyclinics provides coverage to all cities and rural areas throughout Cuba; it was created as a result of a process aimed at developing health centers adapted to the most varied situations in our country and among its inhabitants.
In a city such as Havana, the largest in the country and an example of the complexities of urban life –which, on the other hand, are different from those in Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Camagüey, Villa Clara or Pinar del Río, just as much as they differ amongst themselves –each polyclinic is responsible for approximately 22,000 people.
After the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, the citizens of the capital used to flood the emergency rooms of hospitals that were generally many blocks away from their homes, seeking the assistance that the Revolution was providing there free of charge, with the equipment then available. They did not go to the recently-created polyclinics where, quite often, the least efficient doctors were assigned. Later on they learned to receive such assistance at the polyclinics which were gradually better equipped and staffed with doctors of increasing quality and professionalism. Finally, they opted for the best variant: going to the family doctor’s office, where they would be looked after by a young doctor who was trained after a six-year program of theoretical and practical courses skillfully designed by eminent professors. Afterwards these young doctors continued studying until becoming specialists in General Comprehensive Medicine. The polyclinic provided them support through its laboratories and equipment.
One day, when I visited one such center to check on its professionalism, I asked them, without any warning, to examine my vital signs. That was one of the best and fastest tests I had ever seen in my life.
Not for a single second has the Revolution waned in its efforts to repair, adapt or build new polyclinics and family doctors’ offices, while thousands of students were enrolled in and graduated from more than 20 medical schools. It has been a long and fascinating experience.
According to the current approach, polyclinics must always be ready to offer 10 basic services: diagnosis, emergency care, dental care, comprehensive rehabilitation, maternal and child health, nursing, clinical and surgical care, assistance to the elderly, mental health, hygiene and epidemiology. The system was designed to provide services in 32 specialties, including those that must be looked after at any time, day or night, ranging from an agonizing toothache to a heart attack. Polyclinics should have emergency rooms, thus placing emergency care closer to family households.
When I wrote "Vices and Virtues," I pointed out that any attempt by those workers to appropriate goods passing through their hands, as some do, was something unworthy of the conduct of those workers, whatever their social status, skills, education or knowledge; whether they harvest potatoes, milk cows, cook in a restaurant, work in a factory or a school, a library or a museum, whether they are manual or intellectual workers, anywhere. Nobody wishes to establish slave or semi-slave labor in our world. We all believe that citizens are born to live a more dignified life.
Those who steal forget that everybody wants tranquility and respect for themselves and their relatives, a variety of quality foods, decent housing, electricity without outages, running water, roads without potholes, comfortable and safe transportation, good hospitals, well-equipped polyclinics, first-class schools, shops and groceries that work properly, movie theatres, radio, television, the Internet and many other nice things that can only be the result of methodical, efficient and well organized work by highly productive workers.
The production of consumer goods and services requires modern equipment in construction, agriculture, transportation, high-voltage electric power, chemical or flammable products; working conditions that encompass risks in terms of heights, depths and many other unavoidable variants. The tiniest negligence causes mutilation and death, and so we are forced to always observe measures to prevent them or minimize them as much as possible, even though, unfortunately, we have been unable to avoid the occurrence of a painful number of such cases every year. Added to this there are occupational illnesses and the suffering and damages they cause. Those goods and services everybody longs for do not come out of mere chance. Heavy investment, state-of-the-art technology, costly raw materials, abundant energy, and, especially, human labor are indispensable if we do not want to remain stuck in prehistory.
Just recently, I requested data from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security about the number of workers involved in health and education programs in the country; they accounted for almost 20% of the active labor force involved in economic production and services.
The data I received, which I carefully analyzed, justifies the steps we have taken to increase the retirement age. In the draft law, this is associated with real improvements in household income and, in my opinion, it is also related to the pressing need to avoid an excess of money in circulation and the duty we have to swiftly recover from the ravages of the hurricanes in a way that nobody feels they have been abandoned to their own fate.
The question I am posing is whether or not human beings are able to rationally organize the society in which they are obliged to live.
The efforts being made by musicians with their instruments are probably just as powerful as those of the welders at the Antillana de Acero steel plant. Sometimes there are no differences between the first and the latter in terms of their mental and physical efforts, although there might be some differences in their way of thinking, because the first are well-known and constantly applauded, and the latter are not. However, the first can make use of their influence to combat the old vices of past societies, as many others do, not only musicians, but also prestigious writers and painters who have been trained by the Revolution.
There are professionals who specialize in the economic sciences, labor organization, psychology and other branches, who are aware of these realities, dealing with subjects associated with them in some way or another. We read or hear about interesting concepts seeking answers which will no doubt end up pointing in the same direction as the national and international debate opens up.
Nobel Laureates in Economics are stunned by a crisis of developed capitalism never seen before, and which at this moment requires an additional $700 billion that will have to be paid by the children of American families. Apparently, the experts of imperialism just can’t get it right, while heads of state, prime ministers and high-ranking officials attending the United Nations General Assembly are racking their brains trying to find solutions. It is curious to see that many of the United States’ allies in NATO are no longer speaking in their own national language, but in English — visibly broken English — the Esperanto of our era.
I think that there is no alternative but to re-evaluate everything, looking for more productivity and less waste of human resources in all vital sectors, including health and education – as well as in all others in the productive economy and the services – without strictly abiding by figures that were issued years ago, trying to enhance – rather than allowing a decrease of - the quality of everything that is being done in our country, without neglecting our internationalist duty, the fruits of which have started to be clearly noticed. Those are many more than one could imagine and considerably less than those needed. We have to contribute the rest without any hesitation whatsoever.
Fidel Castro Ruz
September 24, 2008
Translated by ESTI
|September 28, 2008 | 4:20 PM
Meditation and God
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Meditation and religion:
By KARAN MINNIS, Guardian Lifestyles Reporter -
Sharon Bowe, 46, is a devout Catholic. She attends Mass at St. Anselm's Parish, Bernard Rd., religiously on Sundays and is even involved in ministry. However, this practicing Christian, still wishes her relationship with God could be deeper, because she says that one can never be too close to Him.
"I am a strong believer in the power of commitment," she says. "I have made the commitment to obey God's word and to work in his church. With that said I have also committed myself to becoming closer to God, and to do that I have to put both time and effort into making it happen. I also know that this is not something that will happen over night, instead, it's something that I have to work on in the years to come, and it will take much effort. Although I'm prepared not to give up, I want to know if there is more that I could be doing. I feel like there is but I just don't know what that is," she said.
If you're like Bowe and also desire a closer relationship with God, pastors are suggesting that you try a simple technique called meditation.
"In the context of religion, meditation means concentration," says Reverend Dr. Philip McPhee of Mount Calvary Baptist Cathedral, Bailllou Hill Rd. "It means applying yourself to quiet time and to studying the word of God."
He said meditation takes you away from the busyness of the world, the contentions of what's happening around them, and causes them to focus on something more divine and spiritual. "During a time of meditation people should not allow themselves to become distracted with things that are around [them] or things that are trying to take you way from focusing on what God wants [them] to do," he said.
"Continuously the Bible talks about studying the word, reading the word and even digesting the word and you can do this though meditation."
Adding that meditation is more than just reading the word. McPhee says that meditation is more about letting the word become a part of your intellect and your being.
"The goal of meditation is to bring you to a more realistic understanding of what God wants from you and what God needs of you if you're going to be His servant. In order to conduct proper meditation you need a time for meditation and a place for meditation. This will give you an opportunity to not be distracted by visitations, the telephone, noise, and any other distractions. This will give you the opportunity to share intimate time with God because you know that will help you to develop your relationship with Him. It also helps you to understand God and everything else in life. Intimacy is most important when dealing with God and that's where meditation comes in.
"However, even though you should set aside a time to be intimate with God, there is no set time on how long your meditation should be. It can be as short as five minutes, or it can be as long as a day — even a week. I don't think that you can have a set time. Once you realize that the quality is not determined by the longevity of it, you will understand that the point of meditation is to get what you need for God, and at different points in your life the amount of time you need to do that will change."
According to Monsignor Alfred Culmer of St Thomas More Catholic Church, meditation also elevates our sprits and our lives before God.
"Meditation gives us tremendous insight to God. It's a form of spirituality, and if you're living your life day-to-day without stopping to reflect, that's how people end up with problems. It's the whole notion of God's word which says be still and know that I am God. This just means that when we come into the presence of God we should always be mindful of who we are, but in order to be in the presence of God we must pray and the deepest level of prayer is prayer done in silence or through mediation."
Adding that silence takes us beyond praying with words, Culmer says at this point we are no longer in control, and that God is.
Culmer also said that when meditating you can meditate on a lot of things, and that meditation leads sometimes to important decisions, which we have to reflect on and think through. But he says when it comes to the word of God, even though you can just read it, you have to step back and allow the word of God to penetrate for understanding. "You know the scripture says that the word of God is alive and active, but only when we step back from what we read or heard through meditation can we appreciate that fact," he said.
Rev. Marie Roach, assistant curate at St. Gregory's Anglican Church, adds that meditation is all about focusing on God.
"Meditation helps you to focus on God or to focus on God's word, depending on what you are mediating on," she says. "If you're meditating on scripture, mediation also helps you to internalize what God is saying to us and it helps us to quiet ourselves and become open to learning and understanding the messages that God is sending to us."
Adding that even meditation is not essential to a relationship with God, Roach says that it is a tool.
"Meditation is not an absolute when its comes to getting closer to God," she says. "It is a good tool but it is not absolute. However, it does better the quality of your relationship with God, because it is during those meditation hours that you are sharing and becoming one. It's just like if you're husband and wife, you understand that the more moments you spend together, getting to know each other, your relationship will be better. It's the same with God. When you spend those quiet moments with God, you will begin to feel closer to Him, and that's what we want. We want a closer relationship with Him and with Christ."
|September 26, 2008 | 11:57 AM
‘Know your place’: Obama’s challenge to American racism
Related to country: United States
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By: CHRISTOPHER VASILLOPULOS:
“They could succeed, but they could hardly, in any real sense, return. They could expiate their crimes in a technical, legal sense, but what they suffered there warped them into permanent outsiders.” -- Robert Hughes, “The Fatal Shore”
Robert Hughes was writing about Australia; yet, if one changes “return” to “be white” and “crimes” to “experience in a racist society” his words apply with perhaps more force to black Americans. While the nomination of Barack Obama calls American racism into question, his campaign pays tribute to its continuing power. The election will show which factor is more important; it will show whether black Americans will cease to be outsiders.
The nomination of Obama has by itself illustrated one of the most important American ideals. What matters is who you are and what you can do. Both of these evaluations depend on your character as it has been demonstrated by your achievements.
No other factor beyond your control -- such as family, ethnicity, race or religion -- is supposed to count. Perhaps more than any other nation-state, the US has exemplified this emphasis on individual merit. Of course, there have always been reserved places for the socially and economically privileged, preferences for the sons of the elite. Nevertheless, America has been the land of opportunity for the hardworking and the talented.
Obama is the most important current example of this value. President George W. Bush (or perhaps Paris Hilton) is the most egregious example of privilege.
If the 2008 presidential election were a contest between merit and privilege, the result would already be clear. Given the Iraq War, the dismal economy, disgust with the Bush administration and its neoconservative ideologues and a host of unaddressed issues, the Democrats would win in a landslide. The election is in doubt not because John McCain, also an underachieving child of privilege, is more qualified than Bush was or because of any of his proposed policies.
The election is in doubt because Obama is an African-American who “might really be a Muslim.” The election is in doubt because America remains a racist society. This does not mean that most Americans are would-be members of the Ku Klux Klan or any other white supremacist movement. It does mean that many well-meaning Americans who would never consider themselves racists or prejudiced in any way have reservations about Obama’s “qualifications.” For many of these Americans, Obama’s lack of experience is as much about his lifetime of experience as a black man as it is about his relatively few years in national life. In other words, there is concern that Obama does not know his place.
Obama, like any other black man, can be celebrated for his success. He can be a poster child for his race. He can be an emblem of American fairness and goodness. He can become rich and famous and even powerful, so long as he remembers his place. By demonstrating its concern for “place,” the Obama campaign has paid tribute to the power of American racism. It has made very few references to Obama’s race. It has distanced itself from his black, read radical or extreme, background and from his religious convictions, real or imagined.
It has discouraged his supporters from appearing in headscarves or otherwise appearing Muslim. Obama has been portrayed as an attractive, talented, charismatic politician who happens to have (some) black ancestors. These ancestors have not located him. That is, they do not define him in any significant way. Some voters are therefore invited to conclude that Obama does not need to know his place, because he is not really black. Others are invited to conclude that his white ancestors will remind him that he needs to know his place as a black man.
The point is not how much Obama’s blackness has determined his character or will determine his performance. The point is that his campaign has made an effort to quell race-based fears that a black president will undermine the “white Christian” values of America. The Obama campaign is trying to keep the racist and fundamentalist genie in the lamp. Let me illustrate why the campaign is properly concerned about race.
When a politician comes from humble circumstances, his success is normally proclaimed as a sign of his extraordinary character. Abraham Lincoln is the most famous American example. Poverty and other disabilities, when overcome, are celebrated by virtually all Americans. Contrast this attitude with how many Americans deal with the greatest obstacle of all: blackness. Americans sympathetic to Obama pretend it has no significance at all, at least when campaigning.
Americans nervous about race will vote for McCain. No one celebrates Obama’s triumph over the greatest barrier to success. Instead of a sign of his character, his supporters suggest that his blackness is bleached by his “white” achievements. His detractors suggest that his blackness is waiting in the West Wing to reveal its horrific implications for white Americans. Does anyone believe that he would have won the nomination if he had a white wife? Or a Muslim wife?
Perhaps the Obama campaign is just being cautious. Perhaps it has overestimated American racism. Perhaps Americans no longer require a black man to know his place. The answers will come in November.
*Christopher Vasillopulos, Ph.D., is a professor of international relations at Eastern Connecticut State University.
25 September 2008, Thursday
|September 25, 2008 | 12:46 PM
america american bahamas bahamian bahamians caribbean crime crisis cuba cuban economic economy global government haiti health history ict4d individualeconomy international investment obama people political revolution social war washington world