TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Amiri Baraka on Barack Obama
6 PM Mountain Time
I have never seen a movement in the
It’s easy to get excited by it, and I get it. I never expected to see, in my own lifetime, any African-American achieve the presidency, and its looks as of this broadcast—recorded on Tuesday night before the results of the March 4th primaries are in—as if Obama will get the nomination and win the White House.
But my own excitement, based in part on seeing a man from my own so-called race get this far—indeed, like me, Obama is half-Kenyan—doesn’t overpower my determination to see justice advanced, not just image.
From what I can see, the primary appeal of the Obama campaign is what it wants to symbolise: that the United States has overcome racial discrimination, that the US need not be a warlike society driven by an economic and cultural imperative to dominate and destroy, that youthful, eloquent, non-insiders can rise to the highest offices by merit of their ideas and their appeal to regular folks.
However much American citizens believe in this symbolism—and I’ve been asking several, highly accomplished Americans in a recent slew of interviews on other topics—there is little evidence that there is substance.
On the level of policy, there seems to be little reason to believe that an Obama presidency would be better than that of a Clinton or a McCain.
Ralph Nader’s election website points out that Obama and his rivals promise equal inaction on preventing and punishing corporate crime, on a living wage, on the repeal of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, on NAFTA and the WTO, on Canadian-style health care, on sustainable ecological and economic development, on military reduction, on media monopoly, on corporate power, on electoral reform, on the $50B annual cost of the so-called War on Drugs, on “three strikes” laws, on the prison-industrial complex, on Afghanistan, on Israel-Palestine, on Cuba or on Iraq.
Indeed, Obama has already announced that he would bomb Pakistan, a US ally; Obama has abandoned his years’ long advocacy of the Palestinian plight in favour of an aggressively pro-Israel stance; he has engaged in saber-rattling on Iran; he has described Cuba’s revolution as a “dark time,” saying nothing of the American-imposed status of “bordello of the Caribbean” on that island-nation prior to 1959.
And Obama has said nothing in defense of
Unfortunately, in the
And for every flaw of Obama’s, there are dozens more in the Clinton clan, a group which expanded the racialised drug-sentencing laws of the US and saw the US become one of the world’s leading jailors; a group which bombed Sudan and destroyed half its pharmaceutical production, leading to the deaths of unknown thousands; a group which oversaw years of US-led sanctions which killed one and a half million people in Iraq, a group which successfully prevented the Security Council from employing the word “genocide” and thus allowing the actual genocide of nearly a million people to unfold in Rwanda.
One man who’s concerned about uneven critiques of Barack Obama is Amiri Baraka, the acclaimed Afrikan-American playwright, poet and essayist who was a leading force in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s, when he was known as Leroi Jones. Amiri Baraka has lectured across the world on music and culture. He is the author of over 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism.
His most famous works are the analysis of AA music Blues People and the play Dutchman, both from 1963. His most recent work is The Essence of Reparations, a collection of essays addressing “racism, national oppression, colonialism, neo-colonialism, self-determination and national and human liberation.” Baraka has taught at Yale,
His awards and honors include an Obie, the
Baraka also warns that, while it’s useful to get Obama elected, the man will do nothing on behalf of progressive causes and the needs of America’s poor, its people of colour, its environment and its need for justice, without an aggressive, progressive movement that refuses to go away at the sight of a dazzling smile and the sound of catchy slogans.