OK, this last email pushed me to my limit. The subject line heading read: “Barack needs you, right now.” You’ve got to me kidding me. Barack needs ME? For what? Well Michelle (the email was sent from Michelle Obama), before I am willing to help Barack, I’d like to see Barack help the people of this country – the people who voted for him, who went doorbelling for him, who stood up for him because they believed in his message of “Yes We Can.” President Obama, your policies, practices and actions since taking office in 2009 are completely opposite of what you said you would do and I will not support you, so stop asking. In case you are wondering why, here is a list of a few of the things you have done that I do not condone and hence why I won’t give you any money or support.
- Instead of helping the working class and poor people, you have aligned yourself with Wall Street and the corporate giants of the world.
- Instead of ensuring protection of our food supply, you have appointed Monsanto executives to your government.
- Instead of thanking whistle-blowers for uncovering the corruption and violence in our government and private agencies (as you said you would), you are hunting them down and prosecuting them.
- Instead of ensuring the protection of constitutional rights, you have signed into law the NDAA – allowing for unlimited detention without charges or a trial.
- Instead of upholding the law and following a path of peace and nonviolence, you have dropped drones and killed innocent children, women, men and community leaders.
- Instead of protecting the environment, you appoint people in your government who are hell bent on destroying our environment.
- Instead of confronting issues of race and racism, you talk platitudes while considering appointing the NY police commissioner, Kelly, the one in charge of the controversial stop and frisk policy in NYC that has led to the harassment of black and brown men at alarming rates, as the head of Homeland Security. All the while claiming that Trayvon Martin could have been you or your son.
Give me a break President Obama. Before you have any chance of getting my support, stand up for the values you spoke about – empathy, caring for the well-being of ALL, understanding the plight of the working class and poor. The policies and practices I mention above are truly a disgrace. The audacity you have to ask for my support and money. You have taken the liberal and progressive constituency for granted for far too long. You have assumed that we would support you because you are the lesser of two evils, because you support typical liberal issues such as women’s rights and gay rights. Good for you but so does the vast majority of the public, so where exactly is the risk or “audacity” (you promised us in your book – The Audacity of Hope) in that?
Stop sending me emails asking for my support. It is not forthcoming, at least not until you have a sea change in your policies and practices.
I wrote this a couple days ago and have waited to post it, as I usually do, to make sure it truly captures what I want to share. Upon reflection, while it does capture the truth of my indignation, it doesn’t simultaneously capture the part of me that has disappointment and sadness with many of my friends and people I respect who vote into office politicians who capitulate to the interests of the 1% and fail to support the poor, the powerless and the environmental needs of our planet. Nor does what I wrote above capture the part of me that yearns to have compassion for all, including President Obama.
As I reflect on the latter, I understand that Obama has psychological wounds that make it hard for him to speak truth to power and to engage in conflict. At the same time, I am so enraged by his choices that it is hard for me to hold that space in my heart right now. If he wanted to be President and professed that he wanted to turn this country around, and yet is unwilling to make the difficult choices that are needed, including standing up for principles that may be ahead of the consciousness of some Americans (but isn’t that exactly what we need in a leader?) then he shouldn’t have run for President.
And, this is where I get upset with the rest of us – the liberals and progressives who knew, especially after his first term, that he would not be the President we had hoped for – who voted for him rather than insisting on a viable progressive alternative in the primary. I believe many of us made that choice out of fear of the alternative (a Republican President), but nonetheless, we bear responsibility for our complicity.
I know that my unwillingness to support Obama will not impact Obama. So instead, I want to make a call to all of us who want a government that prioritizes kindness, love, caring, generosity, environmental sustainability, social justice and the like to commit to not settle for a spineless liberal candidate ever again out of fear. But instead to push, as Rabbi Lerner did in an article in the Washington Post on December 4, 2010, for a progressive alternative candidate. To read the article, click here.
It’s not too late now for us to form a movement that would run principled progressives in the Democratic primaries in 2014 and particularly 2016 – candidates who are willing to challenge corporate power and the privileges of the 1% and who are willing to stand unequivocally for social justice for the poor, environmental sanity, end to militarism and drone warfare, end to NSA or other governmental spying on American citizens, end to prosecution of whistle-blowers, and support for the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the Constitution and the Global Marshall Plan.
Cat J. Zavis is a member of the Inner Board of Tikkun Magazine and practices as a Collaborative Divorce Attorney, Mediator and coach and trainer in Communication and Conflict Resolution in Bellingham, WA.