Monday, November 2, 2009

Who Said Change Was Hard?

It’s hard to believe that a year has come and gone since then candidate Obama became President-elect Obama and then President Obama. For some reason it seems like it has been longer than that I guess if you listen to the “newsmakers” and other talking heads he has been in office for at least 3 years. I mean after all the war in Iraq is still going on, not to mention Afghanistan and the possibility of its escalation, unemployment is nearing record highs, we still don’t have health-care reform, and gays still can’t serve openly in the military. The list of unfulfilled promises is longer now than it was during the campaign. What has this guy done, besides win the Nobel Peace prize?

The American capacity for amnesia has never failed to amaze me and in the case of this President it has reached a new all-time record for brevity. Don’t get me wrong I have my own concerns that there is still much work to be done, but I think that what has been lost in these calculations was whether the Obamania would translate into actual activism and not just the usual round of after election complaining. So far there has been very little transformation of the electorate into a more activist population. I love it when people tell me they are supporters of this person or of that policy and then when you ask them what have they actually done to bring about the programs or policy changes that they supposedly support, they will often times say nothing. It kills me to see all of the people still sporting their Obama bumper stickers, yard signs, and tee-shirts (oh did I mention their chia’s) as if they are some new sort of chic fashion to say, “whoo I’m still cool.” If all you do is wear a tee-shirt or sport a bumper sticker on your Honda then you are not a supporter and you are not cool, you are someone who is trying to be identified with something you never understood.

Many people have expressed their displeasure with the pace and direction of change taking place in America and are ready to start blaming the President. To those people I say it took 244 years to end slavery in America, it took 144 years for women to vote, and it took 219 years to elect the first black President so change comes slowly to this country. When you add to this mix an entrenched opposition whose only plan is criticizing and opposing your plans then you really have the ingredients for rapid change. Why hasn’t anyone noticed that the loyal opposition has yet to submit a plan for anything since the President has taken office? Shouldn’t they be required to present some sort of alternative plan to be taken seriously? It’s amazing how little we require of our elected officials. I realize that after W. the bar has hit an all-time low but this is ridiculous. The opposition should be required to present an alternative plan within 60 days of the majority party’s introduction of a program. Ok, you don’t agree with this plan or this solution so what are the alternatives? The least they could do is to present the American public with their alternative and let them decide which plan has more merit.

The fact that change is difficult should not be a reason to accept doing nothing; it should be a rallying cry to continue the push for change. As much as I enjoy sitting behind my laptop and pumping out these compelling diaries what I know is that real change does not occur from behind this screen. For change to be real and sustained it must occur in the streets and in our local communities. A perfect example is the “summer of rage” and the “teabaggers” now of course these were Astroturf demonstrations but imagine if they had of been real the effect they could have had. Hell, they almost had an effect and they were fake. The point is that throughout the history of America real change has required people who were willing to get out of their comfy Lazy-Boys and slippers and take to the streets for what they believed in. If it had not been for those types of folks we would still be sending young men to their deaths in Vietnam and black folks would still be dodging fire hoses and police dogs.

We will only get the change that we are willing to stand up for, not sit around complaining about and if that change does not come fast enough who can we blame for it? One of my biggest concerns following the election would be that too many people would believe that the election changed everything. The truth is that the election changed nothing. It was a nice historic photo-op but the reality is that those who wish the status quo to remain the same are still wielding the levers of power and if you think that one lone black man is going to change that, then you are more delusional than I thought you were. Those levers must be as Charleston Heston famously put it, “pried from their cold dead hands.” Who said change was hard? Change is not hard, the hard part is remembering what needs to be changed and what needs to be changed is our attitudes. Change is not hard. What’s hard is draggin my lazy ass off the couch, now that’s hard!

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. - Joan Wallach Scott

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