Being an idealist by nature, I�ve always been a sucker for
hope. The idealism is pretty tarnished by now -- to the point where hope is
really all I�ve got left. I certainly no longer have any faith in the
institutions where faith should naturally reside, especially in the
institutions of government.
So it was with a kind of wary hope that I watched Barack
Obama�s speech to the joint session of Congress Tuesday
night -- the non-state of the union. It�s been years since I watched a
presidential speech, unable any longer to abide the insult of the illegitimate
presence of George W. Bush standing where an actual elected president was
constitutionally required. To tell the truth, I found the contrast reassuring.
Despite my misgivings about Obama, who has become the black
Bill Clinton that I feared he would before the election, I cannot help but
admire the man. He seems to have an amazingly focused intelligence, without
Clinton�s psychological baggage, but with the same gift for politics. He�s the
first president since JFK who I think I would genuinely enjoy having a beer
with -- if that�s still the standard by which we�re supposed to judge
He may also be the best that progressives could have hoped
for under the circumstances of an utterly corrupt political system. I
sympathize with the view of my fellow radicals that Democrats and Republicans
both work for the same puppet masters. But after eight years of Bush, I don�t
think that anyone can honestly say anymore that there are no differences
between the two parties. The old saying is true: the difference is that
Democrats think the corporate slaves should be treated humanely in contrast to
the ruthless exploitation that Republicans favor.
That seemed to be the message of the speech last night, as
Obama highlighted the most popular components of his stimulus package and
budget plans, to raucous standing ovations from the left side of the room. It
was hilarious to see the dawning realization in the Republicans� faces that
they were getting punked; and by the end of the speech, they were standing up
and applauding themselves, in opportune moments, just so their misanthropic
ideology wouldn�t be completely obvious to the viewing audience. Even
totalitarians have to cater to public opinion sometimes.
The dilemma for me, as a radical, became clear when Obama
was talking about how important it was to save the present economic system. It
was ironic, because I found myself in the same situation as the Republicans,
but from the other side (triangulated again!). Here I am watching Franklin
Delano Obama trying to save a capitalist system whose priorities are ravaging
the Earth (I cringed when I heard him say �clean coal�) and inflicting untold
suffering upon humanity (e.g., Afghanistan), and probably needs to crash and
burn before the phoenix of a better system can rise from its ashes. Yet I also
know full well that the impending collapse of the present system is already
causing many people to suffer even more all over the world, and could easily
lead to global chaos and a more militant fascism than what we already
I suppose this makes me a gradualist. I�m not Rush Limbaugh;
I don�t want Obama to fail. Yet at the same time, I don�t want him to
completely succeed, either. I want him to be the pragmatist that he says he is,
and come to the realization that the �change� he�s offering is not enough of a
change to meet humanity�s real needs.
But of that, I have little hope.
Hasty lives on a farm in West Virginia, where he wrote a column for seven years
for the Hampshire Review, the state�s oldest newspaper. In 2000, it was named
best column by the West Virginia Press Association. His writing has appeared in
the Charleston Gazette, Online Journal, Common Dreams, Buzzflash, Tikkun and
many other websites. He publishes the blog, Radical Pantheist.
He plays guitar and harmonica with the folk/gospel trio, the Time Travelers.
Email:. radicalpantheist(at)gmail (dot) com.