Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Response To Amiri Baraka's Letter

"So that it is distressing to read nominally intelligent black commentators lending their yowl to the hounds. Kofi Natambu’s characterization of President Obama as “gutless” is neither accurate nor does it add to the call for an anti –racist, anti monopoly united front. A call for the progressive democratic coalition that elected Obama to re-group and fight the right. We may, we have to, criticize Obama for his shortcomings, but our main fight is against the resurgent right wing...."

From: "Why are you all different from the Tea Parties?" by Amiri Baraka--September 7, 2010


I don't want to put my personal response to your remarks in the silly solipsistic category of merely "defending myself" since I think overall that you and I are mutually clear and in general agreement about who and what President Obama is and is not (despite your rather myopic out-of-context characterization of my remarks about Obama in your comments above). For the record however: As I've been saying since 2007 and have said repeatedly whenever I am either praising or criticizing him (or more likely BOTH): I will support the man and his agenda when necessary, I will openly criticize the man and his agenda when necessary, and I WILL ALWAYS FIGHT AND CALL FOR MORE THAN WHAT'S OFFERED IN THE MEANTIME. I bear no personal ill-will toward the President at all. In fact I have a great deal of respect for him and his situation--even if I don't always agree with or endorse what he says or does! My critical assessment of Obama thus remains in the much fuller and broader context of what I perceive the man and his administration to be doing and/or saying at any given time. As a result I have said what I thought when what he was doing was correct or courageous or important and when he has done the right thing and I also said what I thought needs to be said when he has not done so and at those moments I have attacked him accordingly. The simple truth of the matter is that from time to time (and especially in the last year or so) Barack HAS been "gutless" in his approach to certain issues and circumstances--which I have gone to great lengths in my writing for the Panopticon Review and other outlets to say clearly and fairly (i.e. within the proper and correct larger context). This does NOT mean however that I have forsaken in any irresponsible or dismissive way the ongoing need, desire, and commitment to seriously engaging this President and his program FROM THE LEFT and to at the same time not just throw up my hands in despair or frustration every time he does something that I know is wrong/incorrect/inadequate/ and-- yes!-- even "gutless." I don't see anything wrong with this nor do I think I am willfully supporting our enemies in making any necessary criticisms of the President's actions. I have made it very clear many, many times in my writing over the past two years that our greatest responsibility on the Left is to create, maintain, and expand a broad-based coalition of an "anti-racist anti monopoly united front" --as you put it-- in every single piece in which I've also criticized the President. In the same spirit and for many of the exact same reasons I have also consistently engaged in self criticism of the Left for not doing nearly enough to fight the right and that is and must always remain our major primary focus (for printed evidence of this fact please consult the following pieces in The Panopticon Review--see article and essay references below)...

So I wouldn't be too stressed or distressed about what I have said or what it means if I were you. My feeling is that intellectual honesty and integrity is still a very important aspect of what we all must do politically and ideologically and it is in that context that I make my remarks about Obama or anyone else. The bottomline however is that WE AGREE on where the movement among all of us should be going--whether we're openly criticizing Obama or not (which as you and I both point out MUST occur when necessary without losing sight or focus on the paramount necessity of fighting and defeating the right). So please RELAX brother (smile/grimace). We are still on the same page and will generally remain so for the forseeable future--again no matter what Obama himself does or doesn't do in the interim. The fact is that I vigorously campaigned for the man and his program--from the Left!--during his campaign against Hillary and fought very hard with many doubting friends and colleagues to convince them to do the same. I wanted Obama to win the national election and would gladly and openly campaign again for the man if necessary in 2012 in order to fight and defeat the loony dangerous right in this country. His election was indeed a provisional People's victory and should be embraced in those terms. NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WANTS OR WANTED the far right lunatics like McCain or Palin or any of their friends, associates, and acolytes to run the government and we still don't. By the same token that doesn't mean however that everything the President and the Democratic Party does is golden or can be lazily overlooked. We are NOT "aiding and abetting his/our enemies" when we criticize or even attack them when necessary. As you well know there must be a semblance of ideological and political clarity and commitment even under the most trying and demanding circumstances and my/our assessments of the President must, and should always remain, in that larger mature context in order for those of us on the Left to effectively impact the direction of the the general society and culture. It is in that light, and that light alone, that I make any comments--pro or con--about the Obama Administration and Barack himself...

I sincerely hope you can appreciate and understand where I'm coming from in that regard...

Peace & Struggle,


Here are the copies of the Panopticon Review articles I was referring to above (Please click on the following links):