Thursday, July 10, 2008

America's Original Sin

The Founding Fathers hold a place in American history and mythology akin to the place prophets and martyrs hold in some religions. They are cited, quoted, revered and lionized as no other figures in American history have been.

And fair enough, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are brilliant, radical documents that raised the bar for human liberty immeasurably and enshrined human rights in a legal context in way they never had been before.

Of course at the same time they were writing and enacting these radically egalitarian documents the American Founding Fathers were condoning, supporting and participating in a program on a gigantic scale of abducting people from their homes, beating, molesting, torturing, mutilating and murdering them until they were too numb with horror to resist and then turning them into livestock. They engaged in behaviour with the women and children among these abducted prisoners that nowadays would get them labeled as psychopathic sex criminals.

Slavery is America's original sin, blighting all the fine talk of liberty and fundamental human rights with hypocrisy and cruelty and abuse right from the start. Along with the systematic program of genocide against America's native inhabitants the effects linger to this day socially and economically.

The election of Barack Obama could be a major step in finally expiating that sin.

In terms of policy Barack Obama is a centrist, vaguely progressive American politician. There were candidates in the Democratic primaries including John Edwards and yes, Hillary Clinton, who were further to the left with better policy prescriptions. Although many of Obama's most energized supporters have been shocked and bitterly disappointed by his support for wiretapping and right wing framing of issues like abortion they wouldn't be if they'd actually been paying attention to what he was saying all along.

Of course even a centrist Democrat is miles to the left of the far right cabal currently nesting in the White House and Obama is certainly a better option in terms of policy to John McCain and his promise to continue the policies of Bush, but Obama isn't the progressive saviour some of his more overheated supporters thought he was.

He is however, a game changer for how the world looks at America and how they look at themselves. His election would be the kind of transformative event that would divide American racial politics into two periods: Before Obama and after.

Of late the Republicans almost seem to have conceded the race; John McCain recently bitterly attacked Social Security - often called the third rail of American politics - essentially, for being social security:
McCain said this:
Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.
As anyone who knows anything about Social Security understands, "paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers" is pretty much the functional definition of Social Security. Always has been. That's what John McCain is calling an "absolute disgrace."
So don't expect an AARP endorsement John.

Then his chief economic advisor Phil Gramm referred to Americans concerned about America's stumbling economy as 'whiners'.

On top of telling Americans completely soured on the Iraq War that he wants troops to stay there for a hundred years and making jokes about killing Iranians McCain seems completely out of touch with the zeitgeist. Faced with a choice between an economically clueless rich old elitist warmonger promising more of the same as Bush reaches polling levels below even Nixon just before he left the White House and an inspiring black centrist promising Americans a total break from their recent past and the words 'President Obama' seem more and more inevitable.

And America's promise of equality of opportunity for all that much closer to reality.

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