Monday, January 21, 2008

Boo Radley & Obama

Please read this typically excellent and penetrating critical piece by my longtime Detroit friend and colleague Rayfield Waller. Makes a LOT of sense, don't it?...So folks: What do you think? Oh, BTW: Boo Radley played a prominent and pivotal role in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) with Gregory Peck as the white southern liberal lawyer and the late, great Brock Peters as the innocent black sharecropper the good white citizens of Mississippi were trying heartily to LYNCH. Boo was played by Robert Duvall...For some reason Ray has always been obsessed with Boo's spectre-like subterranean and subliminal role in the film...I wonder why?...LOL...



I am on a personal level very troubled by the Obama campaign not in and of itself but for the deep ideological underdevelopment it exposes in African American popular thought. The uncritical, utopian, and downright parochial attitudes and reactions of the working class and the masses reveals itself in the attitude that voting for Obama is a fullfillment of 'thr dream' (whatever that is) and that all Black people ought to be uncritically, unquestionaingly overjoyed about and committed to Obama as a (finally, yes) viable Black presidential candidate.

And when contrasted against any (emphasis--ANY) of the Republican candidates, yes, Obama looks pretty good, and I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. Because he's a sane alternative to them, and because he's Black like me (more or less like me). HOWEVER, he is not currently a nominee for president, he is running in the democratic primaries leading up to the democratic convention where that party (a party I do not belong to) will choose its candidate for the general election. As a PRIMARY candidate, to anyone reading news sources, anyone with a historical sense, and anyone who considers Obama's voting record as a fairly conservative Chicago machine insurgent senator, Obama leaves far too much to be desired. Of course, prominent Blacks in the left union movement, in trade union political organizations and from the old guard Black power movement (sources like BLACK COMMNENTATOR have documented these marginalized Black intellectual and political voices) have been openly voicing criticisms of Obama.

Contrasted to John Edwards, who was also a senator and who has a far more progressive voting record in the senate than does Obama, Obama is revealed to be a fairly empty signifyer. He delivers a rhetorical, empty message of cultural and racial unity and vaguely progressive proposals such as single-payer universal health care (albeit heavily controlled by top heavy government management rather than transfer payments through heavily taxing the wealthy) and withdrawal from Iraq (without a SINGLE WORD) of criticism about the huge so-called 'embassy' being built there for the purpose of future US hegemony in the region, nor a promise that he will END THE CIA AND STATE DEPARTMENT MURDERS of arabs, the illegal incursions across the boarder into Iran, and general counter-democratic manipulation of Arab states in the region and swear against any future or further neo-colonial adventurism there. In short, for someone chanting, "Change you can trust" the Brother ain't talking about changing a damn thing as president.

Edwards, however, has gone on RECORD during his nearly invisible campaign against ALL of these things, and has thrown in a proposal for a socialist universal health care system, citing Canada by NAME. Edwards has on top of that, called out by name the corporations he plans to bring to heel should he be elected. Edwards' voting record (pro working class, pro democracy and local power and control, anti-corporate and anti-intelligence regime in terms of foreign policy) begs us to entertain the possibility that he might be telling the truth about what kind or president he'd be.

Thus, we can see, in the disparity between how Edwards and Obama are treated/covered, that CLASS is far more salient than RACE in this country. While the blatantly racist media cover a clown and fascist like Huckleby with more atrtention to detail and respect than they do Obama, still the media betrays its deeper raison d’être: to suppress class consciousness. Ironically, the white man, Edwards, has had his possible working class base undercut by the Black man's--Obama'--bourgeois message. Obama cuts right off the top of Edwards' base the Black and Latino and to some surprising extent even the long lost former democratic white working class constituency that would have rallied to a socialist message in terms not of race, but of unions, access to legal process, health care for the poor, full employment, an end to all wars, free education, full literacy, return to anti-trust, fairness doctrine, and NLRB standards.

Meanwhile, Black people, perennially unsophisticated politically, unaware of the details of history (even recent history ) are as short sighted, no, BLIND in their support of Obama as they were in their naive embrace of a war criminal who rather than being hailed as a 'role model' for Black women should instead by tried in the World Court in the Hague for crimes against humanity (it is Condi Rice, of course, to whom I refer).

The troubling thing? As a Black man I am expected to take none of this into account and uncritically turn my back on the civil liberties, global freedom, and unionist/socialist heritage of my people (Paul Robeson, Randall Robinson, Harry Belefonte, Angela Davis, Iris Young, Fanny Lou Haimer, Mumia Abu Jamal, Assata Shakur, Leonard Peltier--our Native American Brother, Denmark Vessy...well, you get me). I am expected to embrace Obama with no thoughts in my head and no fire in my belly.

I'm for a green party candidate, or for the Black female candidate who is currently fourteen years old living in Sandusky Ohio playing with her I-Pod and listening to Hugh Masekela who will some day be at the head of the Peoples' Independence Party with Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel as Emeriti advisors and Lani Guinier as campaign manager, Otherwise, I'll vote defensively for whoever the democratic nominee is, simply because we need to get the left hand of darkness out of the whitehouse before they kill the Earth. It would be nice if that default vote had a black face, but would be even nicer if he/she could be an insurgent humanist rather than a Chicagoan. It would be nicest of all if one could speak openly in public of one's criticisms of that Chicagoan without fear of being called a 'self hating Black man.'

Where is Boo Radley when you really need him?

Ray Waller