Hope is Just a Four-Letter Word

The other night the Dance Palace [our local community center] produced an event on “The State of the Obama Presidency” with journalists Norman Solomon and Bill Press in conversation. Co-sponsored by Point Reyes Books and benefiting the community center, the two were introduced by bookstore co-owner Steve Costa, who reminded us of the outpouring of hope and happiness that Obama’s inauguration had produced in our community two years ago. On that memorable morning Toby’s Feed Barn was packed to the ceiling with 500 happy souls watching the inauguration on a big screen. Some of them had even jumped into Tomales Bay at dawn as an initiation rite to honor the beginning of a new era.
Two years later there was little of that energy in the room and the tone of disappointment and discouragement was heavy. Norman Solomon considers the Obama presidency a betrayal of all of the progressive values and considers Obama himself a cosmetic marketing operation who can’t or won’t fulfill his campaign rhetoric. Bill Press was willing to grant him some accomplishments but had his own list of failures. At one point he said his was the glass half full and Solomon’s was the glass half empty.
My question is: What was in the glass you were drinking, boys? Do veteran Washington watchers actually think that a newly elected president comes into power like an avenging angel with a flashing sword able to slay the resident dragons? My metaphor is quite different. Think of all those movies you’ve seen about the new prisoner in the block. The door slams behind you and you feel the presence of the old-timers who’ve held the power in the place for longer than you know. They run the prison black market, they have the goods on all the guards and they know how to manipulate the various hate groups that have been cultivated by the system. They have the drugs and dispense the favors. And here’s this new boy who came in the door thinking he’s some kind of hotshot! He will be roughed up to see what he is made of. He will be humbled in front of the big bad dudes. He will have anything he’s attached to taken away to see how he behaves. He will have his reality spun on their terms. Then he will be evaluated to see if he will be allowed to play in the power structure that is the only game in town: theirs.
In the dying age of materialism, this is what politics is, folks. It’s rough, it’s mean and it’s desperate. And it’s unpredictable, which is the only good news to report. Very good news. The control that the system has on everyone, which is largely the control of money that corrupts everything, has begun to be unraveled. The ship has sprung a leak: WikiLeaks. The power of fear that holds it all in place has lost a vital organ: secrecy. When anything can be revealed, there is no measure of truth any more from outside authority. The only measure left is inside authority. This is the beginning of the disintegration of the illusions of the global plutocracy. The Empire has no clothes.
The financial sector is the next crack in the dike. Money these days is numbers speeding among computers. Real money barely exists. If those numbers are manipulated by what will be called “cyber terrorists,” faith in numbers will collapse. The financial wizards have been inventing new games as fast as they lose the old ones, but they need their elf nerds to do all the hard crunching. There is sabotage in their ranks inspired by the WikiLeaks adventurists. Stay tuned. The prison walls are going to come a-fallin’ down.
I was glad to see my friend Gene Ptak in the audience the other night. He reads the radical prose of Thomas Paine at the 4th of July celebration in Inverness and he teaches Shakespeare to kids. I hoped he was thinking, as I was, how like Shakespeare play is Obama’s presidency and how we should just appreciate the great theater of it all. Obama is a true warrior in the midst of enemies and allies, his allegiance not to the power brokers of Wall Street but to the people he saw in the projects in Chicago, the two fascinating strains of his own family, and the soulfulness of his in-laws. To accomplish his mission he has to go into the thick of it, get beaten and bruised, risk his life daily, and keep his allegiance to the world outside the prison, where social justice and equality are God-given, not man-made.
We here in West Main need to imagine what part in the grand theater of life we want to play as various institutional structures lose their ability to keep us together. Courage, sacrifice, generosity, faith and grace are much more interesting words than hope.


About Elizabeth Whitney

Blue Solar Eagle writer
This entry was posted in Democrats, Election 2008, Politics, West Marin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Hope is Just a Four-Letter Word

  1. Excellent post, Elizabeth! I love your Obama-as-new-prisoner-in-the-cell-block analogy. It certainly rang true for me. Also intrigued by your comments about our precarious financial structure. Theater of life indeed. Stay tuned…

  2. Brian says:

    I’ve just come across your ‘blog’, through reading an internet article that I think you may have written on Blake’s “Mind Forg’d Manacles”. Am I right? Anyway, I do like your articles here. It’s good to know there are kindred spirits in this world of – whatever it is – imaginative light, I hope.

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