Why We Fight, 2008: Against the War, Against a Culture of Fear, And For Barack Obama

When that weariness beckons, it's more important than ever to remind myself why it's worth fighting on, no matter what. Here's mycirca 2008.
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As we stagger out into the middle of the ring for Round 1,293 of this heavyweight title-fight between two battered contenders for the Democratic Party crown, the cumulative effect of all the punches, head-butts and knockdowns has been to make us all feel soul-weary and half-concussed. As one who's become an Obama supporter, I've even found myself, in recent days, half-ready to toss in the proverbial towel --just give it to her already, we all know Don King appointed the judges, they'll award her the "decision" on points anyhow...As if I'm steeling to prepare myself for another corrupt, home-town decision, delivered by bought-and-paid-for judges.

But when that weariness beckons, I know it's more important than ever to remind myself why it's worth fighting on, no matter what. So here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list of reasons -- a kind of Why We Fight, circa 2008 -- that keeps me, and hopefully others, from saying "no mas" and abandoning the struggle:

--Because while hatred is a cancer, gnawing the hater from within, a righteous indignation is aerobics for the soul; and, between the two-bit cartoon-figures posing as political experts on TV, who've made this campaign feel like an endless re-run of Are You Smarter Than A Third-Grader (Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer, et al), and the Clinton operatives who ceaselessly exploit those cartoon-figures (Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson, Sidney Blumenthal, etc.)--and those with a poseur's foot in both camps (like James Carville and George Stephanopolous)--we have much to be righteously indignant about.

--Because we know that all the candidates need to think deeper, harder, and more compassionately about ending the criminal occupation of Iraq -- visiting that country's hospitals to see the damage first-hand, apologizing to our victims, and working to make reparations for the horrors we have visited on the innocent men, women, and children there -- and we sense, from everything we've seen, that Obama is more likely to show that kind of honest compassion than any other candidate.

--Because we are women, old and young, who feel that if Hillary Clinton's casual threats of genocide represent a victory for feminism, then where do we go to un-burn our bras?

--Because in the same week that Clinton made that genocide threat -- perpetuating a George Bush style that is not "cowboy" at all, with that word's overtones of tough-ass heroism, but instead the epitome of prissy, fey cowardice -- Obama openly considered the possibility of the war-crimes trials for torture that are already overdue.

--Because we know the Clintons extremely well (Bill Richardson, Ted Kennedy, Cris Dodd, Joe Andrew, Robert Reich, etc.); and, rather than earning our loyalty -- which is historically almost always the case in American party politics -- amazingly enough they have earned our distrust and suspicion instead, and we have reached out to a new candidate with no favors to promise us except a chance at a fresh start...

...Or because all we know of the Clintons nowadays is what we see on TV, and between Bill's shameless and amateurish bullyboy tactics, and Hillary's profound depths of blatant insincerity, we feel an overwhelming need to finally switch channels.

--Because anyone supported by Rush Limbaugh, the openly fascist Richard Mellon-Scaife, and Everybody's Favorite Ol' Crypto-Nazi, Pat Buchanan, is probably not earning that support by pushing for progressive social change.

--Because we know that it will take at least a generation to undo the damage to America's image around the world that George Bushes I and II have created; and we know that Clinton -- not only with her Strangelove-ian threat to obliterate an entire country, but also with her prim, smug promise to continue the curious Bush policy of refusing to even meet with foreign leaders unless she decides they're nice enough guys -- has shown she's not the person to best represent our country abroad. We'd be happier with someone whose background -- as a multi-racial child, growing up in a variety of places and circumstances -- and whose vocation as a civil-rights organizer has uniquely equipped him to represent a truly diverse America.

--Because we can judge a future president's government by the company they keep in their campaign, and we know that The Porcine Mark Penn is still puppet-mastering Clinton's strategy with one sweaty paw while eagerly pocketing blood-stained Blackwater dollars with the other...and that The Human Praying Mantis, James Carville, has nothing more left in his once-scary arsenal than laughable Judas-cries, darkly veiled threats, and bizarre testimony to the size of the ex-First Lady's "cojones."

--Because we reject the worn-out politics of fear that Clinton has so passionately embraced, starting way back when with surrogate Bob Kerrey's "Obama-is-Muslim" slurs, continuing with the dissemination of the ludicrous "Arab garb" photos and the 60 Minutes "as far as I know" vaudeville routine, through The Porcine One's racist depiction of Obama as some kind of streetcorner coke-dealer, and the 3AM phone-call campaign, ad infinitum, ad nauseum...Because, frankly, the Clinton campaign has left a toxic slime-trail of fear across white America...and, as Carlos Santana just told a cheering audience at the New Orleans Jazz Festival: "We've had enough war and fear...we don't want it any more. We just...don't...want it any more."

--Because, like Bruce Springsteen, we come from dying Rust-Belt cities (Utica, New York, in my case) with our eyes wide open, and we know exactly what Bill Clinton did to us with NAFTA and GATT, and what he's still doing to earn the tens of millions that he and Hillary are banking from the union-busting billionaires in Colombia -- and no amount of horseshit shot-and-a-beer photo-ops will convince us the Clintons are on the side of the laboring man and woman.

--Because we're sick to death of blatant pandering, whether it's with laughably cynical Gas-Tax Holidays (whoopie!) or 24/7 pastor-demonizing (boo!) -- and we prefer Obama's nuanced, adult, one-to-one way of speaking to the outmoded, Huey-Long-without-the-talent campaign style of Clinton and McCain.

--Because it takes a certain kind of person to vote to authorize a criminal and transparently-phony Shock-and-Awe attack on the women and children of a foreign country and never apologize for that vote, even when the con-men and two-bit thugs who fronted it have been forced to admit the whole thing was a charade; and, ladies and gentlemen, Hillary Clinton is that kind of person.

--Because Obama has shown gentlemanly class in refusing to work the "sniper-fire" lie into every TV sound-bite -- a kind of class unknown to Clinton, who pimped out the Reverend Wright "issue" until everyone finally cried "enough" except for the insatiable Tim Russert and her own too-cute-by-half operative at ABC, LIttle Georgie Stephanopolous.

--Because we know that smart, principled people, whom we love and respect, still believe deeply in Clinton, even if we can't always understand why...But we also know that politicians work to increase their appeal to all their "target-groups"; and when one of Clinton's biggest target-groups is now, as the TV commentators are so delicately putting it, "The Low-Information Voter" -- i.e., the willfully-ignorant, which is the only real definition of "stupid" -- Penn, Wolfson, and Co. will work tirelessly to increase the amount of stupid-friendly stuff in her campaign...

--Because Clinton started out with a virtually insurmountable head-start, in every way, and it took a genuine, heartfelt, and unprecedented grass-roots movement--spearheaded by newly-energized young men and women, black and white--to wrest the invisible tiara from her head, and while we know she ain't givin' it up without a fight, we know what it would mean for a whole new generation if their hopes were to be thwarted by some kind of last-minute, nationwide gerry-mandering, or Brand New Metrics, or the don't-count-little-states, change-the-primary-rules-after-the-primaries-are-over tactics that the Clinton campaign is trying to sneak into the Democratic Party process.

----Because -- and maybe most importantly of all -- in a week when newly-discovered photos of Hiroshima reminded us of the nightmarish horror that nuclear "obliteration" can wreak on innocent human flesh, Hillary Clinton defended, without shame, her threat to commit similar genocide on women and children.

I could go on, of course. I'm not a pundit, don't even play one on TV; I'm just speaking from the heart. And -- believe it or not, Clinton supporters -- I would eagerly read a similar piece on behalf of Clinton, and work to absorb it with an open mind, if it came from a similar place: one that advocates for justice and peace, against fearmongering and ignorance. Perhaps there's still time for Clinton to refashion her approach so that it feels like those are her driving forces.

But until that day...we have only just begun to fight.

--For Wesley Stromberg

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