Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Save the cheerleader, save the world



Michelle Obama last night:

And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own. And one day, they - and your sons and daughters - will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country - where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House - we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.
I'm developing an allergy to "saving the world," or even to "building the world as it should be." More and more I agree with Candide's conclusion, one I've learned from the Desert Fathers: We must all tend our own garden. Wendell Berry is right: we can't even "think globally, act locally." We have no concept of the reality, the complexity, the vastness of the world, and it is hubris that would stun the ancient Greeks into silence to even imagine we do. In the meantime, I hear from Michelle Obama how much her husband will do for this country, how much he cares:

"Barack doesn't care where you're from, or what your background is, or what party -- if any -- you belong to. That's not how he sees the world," she said. "He knows that thread that connects us -- our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future -- is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree."
And yet I haven't seen one picture of Barack Obama that looks like this:



or this:



or this:



No nasty reminders that there is poverty in America. No photo ops in New Orleans, standing among the dispossessed and the displaced who look surprisingly like Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, except that when they dress, it isn't "cheap chic fashion" and "$79 Gap sundresses," because they can't afford even that. Which may be the reason only John Edwards went to New Orleans; he doesn't remind us all how few rich African-Americans there are.

What am I complaining about? I'm complaining about the idea that this is "Change We Can Believe In." It isn't. At best, it's change we think we can accomplish. And it's all being played out in the same arena it's been played out in since 1968, since the last time there was real hope of change. Rick MacArthur has precisely that much right:

When I looked at it, the first thing I noticed about Obama’s winds of change, his breath of fresh air, was that of the top twenty corporate and financial contributors to his campaign and Clinton’s, eleven were the same. So where is the big difference in their approach to politics?

The other thing that you should know about Obama is that he has been—he goes around saying he doesn’t take money from lobbyists. Well, it’s true that he doesn’t take money from registered lobbyists, but only a child or a naïf would think that corporate lawyers or Washington lawyers don’t lobby informally in front regulatory commissions and in front of members of Congress, and Obama has been all over the corporate law community. And he, early in his campaign, even went down—and this is audacious, I must say—to the headquarters of Greenberg Traurig, Jack Abramoff’s firm, the lawyers—the headquarters of the law offices in Miami, and did a video stream fundraising pitch, where he raised a whole bunch of money from the lawyers who worked alongside Jack Abramoff for I don’t know how many years. It’s absurd. It’s a distinction without a—a difference without a distinction, I think is the way one person put it, not taking money from corporate lawyers and refusing—or rather, not taking money from registered lobbyists but taking money from corporate lawyers, who in effect do the same kind of lobbying that registered lobbyists do. And now you’re looking at a vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, who’s very much in that mix.
And what does this have to do with Robert Kennedy in Kentucky or Mississippi?

I neglected to mention that on the big box minimum wage bill back in Chicago—and again, this is bread-and-butter Washington—excuse me, Democratic Party labor politics—Daley prevented a big box minimum wage from being instituted in Chicago, and there still isn’t one. He defeated the forces of labor. He defeated the independent Democrats in the city council, and Barack Obama has never said a word about that issue or really said anything substantive about Wal-Mart and their stranglehold on the wage scales in big cities all over the country now.
Nothing; nothing at all. We're going to save the world, donchaknow?

UPDATE: Following on Hillary's almost universally praised speech last night, I would like to associate myself with the comments of Mr. Harry Shearer.

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