Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Torn

Miget gets the credentials today, so I'm stuck in my hotel room. It's actually not too bad, kind of relaxing. Besides, it's giving me time to browse the internet for Convention news. I just received a video that's left me torn.

I've seen plenty of riot police since arriving in Denver. But generally, they seemed to be just lounging around on their cars, or riding along on their horses and bikes. I did see an image of them lined-up, batons at the ready, a full show of force, but besides the absurdity of the fact that they were armed at an anti-war protest,I figured it was just a stance of intimidation, not a real threat... after all, I've been part of some peaceful protests like this one, and the police don't really do much other than elicit irritation, anger and the occasional muted boos from protesters. But I guess I'm still incredibly naive... Here's proof of it.

Police Trap Peaceful Protesters in Denver



Protest Denver 08



I am a Barack Obama supporter - not because I think he is perfect but because I do believe that he has the potential to be something that this country really needs, i.e. a smart, critical politician and moderately progressive about issues of justice - social, economic, environmental and global. I do know that just as he has disappointed progressives during this campaign, he is very likely to disappoint as president as well. But I do believe, maybe naively, that his election will mark a major turning point for the U.S. - not in terms of what will have been achieved, symbolically or otherwise, but what is possible, what is achievable. In terms of U.S. politics, I tend to be hopeful just as much as I tend to be cynical. And given that a lot of people whose political sensibilities I trust and respect support Obama, I feel more positive about my own support for him.

Today, though, I feel torn and somewhat guilty about my excitement at being at the Convention. As Miget remarked this morning, being around this big group of Democrats is extremely seductive, 'seductive' being the operational word. Because being there at the Pepsi Center with thousands of cheering, excited crowds... or even just walking on the street and passing across hundreds of pass-toting folks, makes you feel not only super-privileged but also lulls you into a false sense of security and excitement. Ideologically, I am in agreement with what the protesters were marching for. And in fact the police violence just proved their point. I can understand why these folks don't want to support Obama or any mainstream candidate for that matter. And why should they vote for someone who they see as just more of the same, or who as far as they are concerned represents little to no change?

But then again I think about this article I read about HRC supporters who refused to support Obama. The author argued that these supporters - mainly white, upper middle class women - stubbornly stuck to HRC not because of the issues but because they wanted HRC in the white house, not some "inadequate black male." And so thanks to them, those who always already bear the burden of bad policy - i.e. poor women, women or color, immigrant women - also have to bear the brunt of the actions of foolish folks that harbor a deep sense of entitlement. If HRC folks were issues voters, they'd know that Obama actually has more progressive policies than Clinton.

I'm not suggesting that the non-voting actions of the protesters are of the same nature as these HRC people. But I can't help but wonder if their actions - even if they are ideological- or issue-based - will have the same effects. Most of the protesters seemed to be young, white, possibly middle class - I saw just one black woman in the video. I don't know if they realize the impact that their non-vote might have. It reminds me of the Socialist group at Oberlin - the issues they addressed were of importance to working class folks - most of whom are people of color. But, while I was at Oberlin, there was probably just one person of color in the group. I attended a couple of meetings of the group but understood soon why activists of color couldn't position themselves in the group. It really takes a lot of concerted effort to address issues of race and immigration with groups such as these and most folks here tend to think well, we talk for everyone and everyone is welcome to join us, so if they don't that's their problem. I think most of these folks would have a hard time articulating why issues of race, nationality, gender, sexuality matter, and matter differently, when addressing large issues of, say, the establishment of a quasi police state.

I agree with these folks that the political system needs to change massively. But ultimately, politics is about us and our ability and willingness to force change. But in order to create radical change, I believe there first needs to be a small change. If Obama doesn't win we're bound to be in much deeper shit. And then the protesters march will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obama isn't going to make any grand gestures, making change will still be left up to us. But we stand a much better chance of instituting change with Obama in office than with McCain. I hope that people will come to that realization very soon.

Of course, none of this is meant to excuse police violence. It is inexcusable. Obama needs to come out and denounce it. But again, I guess that's me being naive.

No comments: