Monday, August 8, 2011

Clinging To Dear Brother Obama

Unemployment in their ranks is stratospheric; this recession has decimated their three-decades’-worth of economic gains (awful for the rest of us, too); and the man they love is a pitiless seducer so sure of their devotion that except for booty-calling them now and again—or, better yet (for him), hitting them up with his wife—he feels no need to phone or even write.  For those whose hopes have been dashed Obamically, Brother Cornel West, Princeton’s own “moral philosopher,” is an electrifying spokesman. In an outburst of insulted amour-propre and pique, and with all his customary lyrical poeticism, he expressed his disenchantment, personal and political, in a May interview with Chris “Civil Disobedience” Hedges:  “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back.

And when I ran into him . . . [t]he first thing he told me was, “Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.” And I said, “I know you’re busy.” But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time.

[B]rother Barack Obama had no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to?

Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination.

He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want. . . . Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. . . . It is this smartness, this truncated [sic] brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.

And yet—like those aforementioned smart, savvy, effective Jewish white boys and their reproductive-rights-obsessed wives (“parenting” is a “choice,” and anyway, who’s going to clean their toilets if their housekeepers can’t get abortions?), who’ll go on supporting him until the very last moment, when they can no longer ignore the peril his presidency poses to American, Israeli, and financial security—in spite of the catastrophe that has befallen them on his watch, African-Americans hold fast to Brother Barack with all the pathetic passion of a wronged woman clinging to the man who’s treated her ill, groveling gratefully for whatever morsels he flicks her way, and defending him passionately. “We love us some Obama,” says Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy.  

But should they? No, they shouldn't. Did his election signal the promise of a great rising from the ashes of their history? Yes—in the abstract. The heartbreak is that the real Barack Obama was never going to fulfill that promise; he never had the wherewithal for it, and he never had the guts. Cornel West is right. Dear Brother Barack does not deserve their love. His performance in office has been shameful to himself and a calamity for them.

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