Monday, March 24, 2008

Screw Unity, Save America!

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

I'm definitely a freak. There's a drum beating out there and I'm no where near in step. In fact, I don't even hear it. Just a dripping in the kitchen sink that calls for a plumber rather than some political savior like Obama.

I finally managed to have a look at his recent speech on race after reading glowing reports from both sides of the aisle. Expecting to bask in the warm glow of his great vision for America, I felt my skin crawl at his insistence on unity, unity, unity.

In my experience, unity usually translates as "Shut your trap, Bitch," or more nicely, "We'll get to your issue when we've solved the really important ones. It's just not the right time." Funny, the right time never does come.

After all, isn't unity what we've had under Bush? The minority Democrats voted in lockstep with Republicans for an Iraq War which is now costing us $5000 per second, burdening a family of four with about $330 per month, a failed economy, not to mention dead American relations, whole cemeteries of Iraqis, and a Middle East that may well be destabilized for generations to come.

Then there're the boatload of democratic perversions in the name of Homeland Security like wire-tapping, racial profiling, oh, and Guantanamo, that have continued even with a Democratic majority in Congress, all because we have to be unified to fight that endless War on Terror that has as many definitions as that soporific word, "nice."

Obama, above all, seems like a nice man. His heart is in the right place wanting to welcome everybody into his big tent, though I still balk at his campaigning down South with the same black preachers that Bush used for their popular rabble-rousing and money-raising capability. You just have to ignore their hellfire and brimstone conviction that all us queers are going to burn eternally. Come on in.

I get the idea he just can't abide anger. Not that he doesn't understand it. In this speech, Obama gives one of the more passionate defenses of anger in black and working class communities that I've seen, citing its deep roots, the damage it can do, how it can embitter, paralyze and blind. All true, including the fact we have to see past our anger to find solutions.

The problem is that he'd be happier if we put our anger entirely aside. It "... is exploited by politicians." "It distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition..." "Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits..."

He's forgotten, or never knew, that anger is one of the few things, maybe the only thing, that gets us into the street. Fury about injustice was what sent Jesus on a rampage in the temple knocking over the tents of moneylenders. Anger freed Malcolm X, ACT-UP, the Lesbian Avengers. It is an essential engine for change.

I am afraid we Americans are not angry enough, and that insistence on unity will lead to a white-washing of the past eight years, skipping the justice stage for reconciliation, and leaving Bush's damage intact.

No one except the grunts will be responsible for the men and women we've tortured in American prisons. No one will be responsible for lying about the imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction that got us into Iraq, or for deregulating the banks that are self-destructing, preaching the hate that translates into dead queers, refusing jobs and basic respect to people because of their accents or skin.

I find rage coordinates nicely with the Timberlands I wear to demos, though I understand the exigencies of politics. You can't only work from the margins, though it's the best place to be an activist. Politicians have other needs. To them I say, "Forge alliances if you must, hold hands, sing Kumbaya, but keep your eyes on justice."

For that reason, I'm wary of Obama. I'm troubled by how easily unity translates into silence and amnesia, and hope into absolution. I'm afraid of his Christian rhetoric that makes it seem like his victory is sanctified by Jesus, a manifestation of divine will, and genetics. "...Seared into my genetic makeup [is] the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one."

In Obama's America, what will happen to those of us that are part of the devil named Multitude, and insist on dissent? How will we be labeled? Will the censorship that was imposed by Bush and the Republicans in the name of patriotism and fear, be replaced by that other American fascism of Niceness, Unity, and Hope? Will anybody have the guts to speak the truth?

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