And I ask in the most concrete sense possible: what does this mean for our future? I believe in the importance of rhetoric and symbols, so I’m not going to go so far as to say Obama’s election means nothing – in fact it means a lot, I’m just not sure about what. It was heartening to see so many people happy – the group of people in Union Square last night was the largest unpermitted public gathering I’ve ever seen in New York, and the atmosphere was great. Obama did a lot to make people feel a sense of ownership over their government, and I think that matters more than anything – that’s the energy that can and should be translated into what the President-Elect already acknowledges will be a long series of battles to change the world.
I believe the anti-war movement faltered by and large on the question of hope: people stopped thinking they had the power to change the outcome of the war. The sense of being entitled to control the decisions of government, of being able to overcome ‘the system’ or the GOP machine has changed.
My reservations abound. Here’s the scene from from outside Downtown Community TV last night immediately after Obama’s acceptance speech. 6 cop cars (12 officers) gathered around to arrest two black men who apparently got into some kind of fight. As they were putting the second man into the car, a cop told the man “Obama hasn’t even been confirmed yet and you’re fucking up.” The message was: you got your black man, now shut up and listen to the cops.
That’s why I’m happy, but not overjoyed. ‘Hope’ can also be a straightjacket for criticism, and we need to avoid shutting down the necessary critiques of our new President in the name of a new day.