Radical Jujutsu and Obama

Apologies dear blog.  A hectic time.

First – please please know and read Twin Cities Indymedia during the RNC.  The police response to protests has been violent, overbrearing, and cruel, and you should know as much as possible about the state of civil protest and policing in America.

Today was the first day of school for 2008-9.  Take Back NYU! had a press conference and delivered demands to the NYU administration.  Much fanfare, read about it in your tomorrow’s paper.

Some thoughts on my mind, regarding the eleclection.  While it increasingly looks like John McCain will self destruct of his own accord, something should still be said about this Obama fellow, and his rhetoric – specifically, regarding the radical reaction to Obama and the whole ‘hope’ thing.

First of all, I think that Obama has tapped into the feeling of total disempowerment that people feel regarding national politics.  Seriously: it doesn’t matter how much you hate the war, how many Democrats get into congress, it just feels like everything keeps going downhill.  Obama recognized this and drew on that discontentment to fuel what at least looks like an outsider campaign as a renewal of the American promise.

He’s running as a radical, Jefferson style politician, renewing the tree of liberty and whatnot; focusing on the little person.  He’s co-opting a lot of radical/classic far-left rhetoric, most prominently the “Yes we can” refrain lifted from Caesar Chavez – a particularly sinister device considering his connections to the Chicago School of Economics.

The radical response to Obama seems tepid.  The bulk of what I hear seems to be a very negative response, mainly pointing out that Obama doesn’t represent ‘real change’, and that by golly, folks better be ready to be disappointed.

Look, Obama didn’t become the candidate of change by just saying so.  He also didn’t get it by being real about change either.  He orchestrated a careful symbolic coup that involved his role as a black man on a national political stage, trying to ‘renew the American promise’ (a phrase he used more in teh Convention speech than the ‘change’ line).

The point is this: standing aside and snipping at ‘real change’ won’t get anywhere.  Barack Obama is selling Jeffersonian iPods, and just saying ‘no’ won’t cut it.  He is successfully pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a mainstream American- that’s an opportunity, not something to be casually condemned.  The most successful redeployments of Obama’s rhetoric will be done by folks of color, probably casually lifting snippets of rhetoric without making the connection explicit – trying to make the comparison outright would appear self-promoting, something that Obama carefully avoids, instead embracing a vague ‘community over individual’ aesthetic (there’s a reason he recalls being a community organizer so much).

This is a moment for Jujutsu, not for stodgy naysaying.


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