Monday, April 11, 2011

Solidarity: the talk and the walk

What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?(...) Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice! Paul Krugman - New York Times

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home. Bob Herbert's last column in the New York Times

(I)n agreeing Friday night to what he called the largest annual spending cut in the nation’s history, the president further decoupled himself from his party in Congress, exacerbating concerns among some Democrats about whether he is really one of them and is willing to spend political capital to defend their principles on bigger battles ahead. New York Times
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I wonder if all those kids, the ones who worked so hard to get out the vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and thrilled to his "Audacity of Hope" and "We are the change we seek", knew that what they were electing was an animal many thought to be long extinct: a moderate-Republican?

And I wonder if now that they know the score, they are going ring all those doorbells for him again in 2012?

He is letting a lot of people down, who put a lot of hope and trust in him.

You can bet that the budget cuts are going to come out of "entitlements", that is to say, protection for the vulnerable members of society, and certainly not from the budget of what Steve Walt calls,
(...) a military establishment that costs more than all other militaries put together and that is used not to defend American soil but to fight wars mostly on behalf of other people.
I thought it might be interesting to talk about what trust and "solidarity" really mean. To begin with it means standing by the people that you have caused to believe that they can count on you to stand by them when things get really tough for them. Solidarity means "having someone's back." Not letting down the people who are counting on you to protect them. This is sometimes painful and often dangerous.

To illustrate this concept of solidarity I have chosen a short, but powerful video, taken from the Portuguese version of bullfighting.

As you may know, in Portugal, they don't kill the bull, so at the end of the tourada, the animal must be subdued and led alive from the ring. This "final act" is often done in traditional manner, by a group of young amateurs called "Forcados" who take control of the animal with their bare hands.

Belonging to one of these forcado clubs is considered an ultimate masculine rite of passage in Portugal, like playing varsity football in the USA, with the difference that "a pega de cara" is much more dangerous than football, for even with his horns padded the Iberian fighting bull is like a half-ton Rottweiler. Things can go terribly wrong, and when that happens, as the saying goes, "that is when you find out who your real friends are".

Watch this short film and learn the basics of solidarity.

For a long time I have wondered who Obama thought he was fooling... and I have finally come to the conclusion that he is fooling himself.  He is simply afraid to fight and he covers it with talk. I find his lack of self-knowledge frightening.

If he really thinks he got a "deal" from his negotiation, that the Republican Congress is going to go quietly along with what Boehner agreed to, then his self-delusion is total. Read this from former Clinton adviser, morphed into ultra-right agitator a toute faire, Dick Morris.
It is the duty of every Republican Congressman to vote no on this terrible deal. It violates our campaign promises to the American people. We promised $100 billion of cuts and we delivered $38 billion ($62 billion on a twelve month basis). In the Republican House's first real test out of the box it has broken the promise over which it was elected.(...) And the lesson is this: We need to purify our party and purge it of the likes of John Boehner and all those Congressmen who vote for the budget sellout. The Tea Party must take the lead in this purifying fire. We must not let the RINOs win! Dick Morris
This was the ground where he should have made his stand. He had everything to gain by drawing a line in the sand there and declaring, "no pasarán".

The president and his handlers seem to have forgotten what a near run thing the 2008 election was until Lehman Brothers went down, and how important the enthusiasm of his base was to to his final victory. This is the battle where he could have broken the Tea Party, split the Republicans and coasted to victory in 2012. What he has done is split the Democrats and alienate progressives and perhaps open himself up to a challenge from his own party or from an independent from the left who inherits the spirit for change that he so fraudulently invoked in 2008. DS


Anonymous said...

David, I want to remind folks that you were among the early voices warning about obama. But I don't think that even you thought it could be this bad. There is no hope at all for the US until they hit some kind of bottom --- and even then...

Anonymous said...

Like every liberal I know, I'm perplexed by Obama's stark unwillingness to fight for our cause. I ask myself if I'm somehow misreading him or us. Maybe the nation itself is so compromised by corporatist propaganda that there's no benchmarks left to judge truth. If that's the case, we have no possibility of sustaining a social democracy, which means actual democracy is over. I don't know. For liberals, it might be that the only test is whether we take up the fight and defeat Obama before he inflicts the final coup de grâce.

Anonymous said...

I was cheering for the bull.