When I originally started listening to what Barack Obama had to say, I had some serious doubts. There was a lot of talk about whether Obama's message was simply "fluff". But what exactly did we mean by this?
Recent events have shown me how his ideology and his approach to politics is sometimes backwards. He says that change can only happen *after* we have united people with a shared sense that we are all Americans. What a claim...that it is possible to unite such a population diverse in race, political affiliation, and thought. In fact, he claims that not only is it possible, but it is essential if we ever hope to get "beyond" politics as usual and get something done.
But the question that remains largely unanswered is...what is it that we are supposed to be getting done?
He wants to bring hope to this fat, bloated, crumbling empire on the verge of destruction. But the question remains...what exactly are we hoping for?
Yesterday he said that the reason we are unable to address issues that concern people is because we are unwilling to first "unite". In making this claim, he is making the classic mistake of defining reality incorrectly...making the wrong assumptions about reality...and then claiming that things aren't turning out as he had hoped because people aren't behaving according to the way he imagined reality. That's pretty much the approach of every ideolog, and that's where ideology always goes wrong (the point at which it confronts reality).
This flawed approach does have a lot to do with the mess he got himself into in the past weeks. He might have admitted from the very beginning that, of course Rev. Wright has some crazy ideas...I don't agree with most of them but he's free to express them. He might have admitted that he sometimes attends that church, but has his own ideas when it comes to religion. He might have admitted that he attended this church because it was a good way to organize and get things done in Chicago. But, instead, he was blinded by his own ideology...his own belief that everybody would come around to his way of thinking and completely change. How foolish it was to expect Rev. Wright, or anybody else, to change what they can and can't say simply because he's running for President. How foolish of him to expect white America to somehow understand where Rev. Wright is coming from...that this was somehow possible to do by wishing it were so.
This is not the way to unite people and not the way to get anything done. The way to unite people is to present an idea they believe in or a vision they can hope for. Unity isn't the first step or even the goal...it is the inevitable result of visionary leadership. Visionary leaders don't tell us to consciously unify, they inspire us to unintentionally unify around a great vision.
Barack Obama is still my only choice for President, as flawed as he may be. But I really wish he'd drop the Unity, Change, and Hope nonsense...and finally start giving us a clear vision of what that change will look like and what we are to be hoping for. My gut told me from the beginning that there was a problem with his approach, and now we are starting to see the messy reality.
I, personally, don't really care all that much about uniting with everybody "as an American". I care about my progressive values: ending the destruction of this planet, single-payer health care, free college education, establishing a better social safety net, ending war-profiteering, promoting true democracy in the US and around the world. Maybe its time to start articulating some specifics. Maybe its time to treat us like citizens of a democracy and let us decide, as adults, who we are going to unite with and why.