An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Triumph of Illusion




The drumbeat of betrayal is relentless. So far Obama has broken every progressive promise. Let’s examine the record as laid bare in Paul Street’s recent article, “The Dawning Age of Obama as a Potentially Teach-able Moment for The Left”, znet, May 30, 2009, then we will examine the spiritual pathology that underlies the self-deception of progressives regarding “hope” and “change”. So far the record is blazingly clear. Obama has extended and intensified the previous human rights assaults of the Clinton and Bush years. He has acted vigorously to:

“* Significantly expand the reach and intensity of imperial violence (replete with the mass slaughter of civilians and the related escalation of targeted assassinations) in South Asia.
* Promote a notorious assassin and death-squad leader (Lt. General Stanley A. Chrystal - former chief of the military's special Joint Special Operations Command) to the position of Commander of U.S. Forces in the newly merged ‘Af-Pak’ war theater.
* Sustain the criminal occupation of Iraq beneath rhetoric of withdrawal.” Essentially, we must remain in Iraq as long as the world remains “dangerous and unpredictable”, which it might be for some time to come – at least until the capitalist cancer has managed to make over the earth in its own spiritual image.
“ * Increase ‘defense’ (empire) spending, consistent with the following statement in a report issued by the leading Wall Street investment firm Morgan Stanley one day after Obama's presidential election victory: "As we understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend."
* Revive military commissions.
* Continue the practice of renditions.
* Maintain secret prisons for persons ‘held on a short-term, transitory basis.’
* Continue the unspeakable torture of prisoners by an ‘extrajudicial terror squad’ (Jeremy Scahill's description of the Pentagon's sadistic ‘Immediate Reaction Force’ in Cuba) at Guantanamo Bay.
* Advance the policy of ‘indefinite detention’ (potentially permanent incarceration) for Guantanamo prisoners for whom no legally compelling evidence can be marshaled.
* Intimidate England (with a threat to withhold intelligence data on potential terrorist attacks!) into preventing a Guantanamo victim from having his day in court on the Bush administration's torture practices.
* Sustain the Bush administration's abrogation of habeas corpus rights in regard to the roughly 600 "enemy combatants" kept at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (where people rendered out of other countries like Yemen and England can be considered ‘war [-zone]’ prisoners!.
* Advance nauseatingly specious legal and moral arguments (‘better to look forward than backward’) to prevent serious federal investigation of the Bush administration's human rights crimes.
* Sustain George W. Bush's domestic wiretapping program.
* Invoke the ‘state secrets’ (akin to the divine right of kings) doctrine to prevent disclosure of evidence in response to lawsuits emerging from Bush era rendition and surveillance policies.
* Suppress photographic evidence of U.S. torture practices.
* Justify all this and more in the name of the supposed ‘global war on terror’ that was supposedly launched in legitimate defense against the supposedly unprovoked jetliner attacks of September 11, 2001.
* Disregard qualified progressive defenders of civil liberties and human rights from consideration for appointment to succeed Supreme Justice David H. Souter and to thereby counter the hard right leanings of the court's conservative majority.
* Send clear signals of intent to roll back and partially privatize Social Security and Medicare benefits.
* Betray campaign pledges to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to insert stronger labor and environmental protections.
* Betray campaign pledges of serious intent to advance an elementary and overdue labor law reform (the Employee Free Choice Act).
* Force and approve an automobile industry re-structuring that drastically cuts domestic autoworkers' jobs, wages and benefits while subsidizing General Motors' further shifting of jobs abroad. [8]
* Advance a tepid, business-friendly health care ‘reform’ that leaves the leading parasitic insurance corporations (major campaign sponsors of his) in power.
* ‘Methodically erase single-payer advocates from the picture’ (Glen Ford) of health care reform despite the fact that a majority of Americans have long favored a single-payer (‘Medicare for all’) health insurance system.
* Spend trillions of federal dollars on taxpayer handouts to giant Wall Street firms who spent millions on his campaign and who drove the economy over the cliff. Obama's Wall Street bailout rejects the elementary bank nationalizations and public financial restructuring that are required to put the nation's credit system on a sound and socially responsible basis, choosing instead to guarantee the financial, insurance, and real estate industries' toxic, hyper-inflated assets while keeping existing Wall Street management in place. It amounts to a giant effort to ‘keep perpetrators afloat’ (liberal economist James Gailbraith) through a scheme in which the government takes more than 90 percent of the risk but private investors reap at least half the reward. “

I replied to the article on znet as follows:
The response of progressives has indeed been disheartening, primarily because it indicates despair and detachment from reality. Despair because somehow the assumption has seeped into political discourse that Obama is the best progressives can realistically hope for these days. Such "hope" is just a mask for a practical abandonment of hope for significant change. However, the detachment from reality is more frightening because facing the truth of the situation provides the only possible remedy to despair. Our inability to face the facts about Obama before and after the election is part of a larger failure - the failure to penetrate to the core of the issues of economic power relations in this country and to realize that they can't be reformed, but only overturned.

As Christians, we cannot tolerate illusion. Jesus teaches us to look truth square in the face. We cannot join in the cynicism of believing that the Democratic Party represents a true alternative to the Republican Party. Only an economic system that privileges human need over the rights of property owners can conform to the promise of the Gospel.

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