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Eleven months ago, Barak Obama’s spectacular rise to the White House caused a societal euphoria and a sense of huge, unlimited possibility that I had not felt in America since the Sixties. Afro and white Americans alike wept at his inauguration. At last we were putting behind us our hateful racism, the legacy of slavery that has poisoned our noble democratic experiment at the roots. Unfettered freemarket capitalism had hoisted itself by its own greedy petard. Suddenly this charismatic multiethnic messiah had appeared, this incredibly poised and cool and intelligent guy who was going to save the day, stop the moral hemmoraghing and put America back on track and make the world look up to us again. He seemed to be one of these extraordinary leaders who are created by their historical moment, like Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Churchill. Or Moses. He was going to lead us back to the promised land. He even understood how critical things are for the planet, that only a great transformation in the way we live and do business in the world, something on the order of the Agricultural Revolution or the Renaissance, a new direction from our profligate consumption and oblivious wastefulness, a major paradigm shift, is going keep us from going under. The world was even more thrilled that such a person had arrived on the scene. If it had been a global election, he would have won by an even bigger margin.
But it was a superhuman burden that he had assumed : a national and global financial meltdown, the planetary, and two wars. The first order of business was to rescue the economy. Obviously the government had to grow. Who else was going to clean up the mess ? How else were the banks and the automobile and insurance industries going to survive ? But this did not sit well with the small-government contingent, the trickle-down economists and c.e.o.’s who were getting seven-figure bonuses and the out of power Republican congressmen who were lurking malevolently in the shadows, waiting to pounce, doing everything to derail Obama’s long-overdue reforms, particularly when he proposed a drastic overhaul the health-care system, where a lot of people had good things going. One of my old prepschool friends, for instance, discovered that hospitals were paying $200 for a scalpel that cost only 50 cents to make in Taiwan, and started a company in Wyoming that sold them for $60 and in six months he made a million dollars.
The red Americans still comprised almost half the population and still controlled the corporations and the military-industrial complex. Not a few of them, Jimmy Carter and Maureen Down have pointed out, were unapologetic racists who could not bear the thought that a black man was president. And they were nasty and vicious. They played dirty, trying to impeach Clinton, swiftboating John Kerry. Dirty tricks had been in the Republican playbook since Nixon, and they had at their disposal a new breed of attack flacks, who were expert at trashing and discrediting opponents and whistleblowers to the media and feeding damaging disinformation to a legion of eager, faithful independent bloggers who spread it all over the blogosphere. By the end of the summer the highly organized Republican tricksters had fomented a violent backlash. The country reverted to type, which is not surprising in such an unstable economic and geopolitical climate. Racism reared its familiar ugly head. It was more than just the health-care issue that provoked it. The media has started a slow, steady drum-roll, which will either end with Obama’s assassination, or when something new and juicier comes along to grab the headlines. The ones who are too good, so good that they threaten the comfortable, compromised status quo like Lincoln, both Kennedys, Martin Luther King, and Jesus, have to be taken out. It’s the tall-poppy syndrome : if you stand out too much, you are cut down. And Obama is particularly threatening. Not his “blackness.” What he really represents is the ascendancy of the mestizo and the end of white supremacy. Whites are going to be a minority in America in a few decades. The melting pot is already a mongrel stew, and it is going to become even more so. Obama is the apotheosis what the Mexican intellectual Jose Vasconcelos called la raza cosmica, in a prescient essay in l922 in which he predicted that gold-skinned mestizos were going to take over the earth.
People like Obama have been assassinated routinely in history (Lumumba is another one who comes to mind), but what is new is this media drum-roll. Not only by the right-wing corporate media and the Limbaughs, but by the endless debate on how much of the opposition to the health care reforms is race-based, whether there is indeed a resurgence of racism in the country, the reporting of Secret Service figures that Obama has had 400% more deaths threats than G.W. Bush did, that are being aired and rebroadcast 24/7 by CNN, a network which has liberal commentators and reporters, but is basically right-leaning. Not that all these media people even necessarily want Obama to be killed, but talking about it all the time, and fanning the flames, like beating the death of Michael Jackson to death, is an easy way to maintain ratings. Once you make the story big, you can go into cruise control for days. It is the nature of the media to act like the women knitting under the guillotine, when the scent of blood is in the air.
And if Obama is killed, what is going to happen ? An all-out race war is not impossible, and then a move toward fascism, as the military and the forces of reaction move in and take control in the chaos. This is what usually happens at these junctures, when an empire is dying and a ruling class is losing its grip.
I’m not seeing a lot of euphoria out there these days. All the signals I am getting is that America is not ready to do the Great Transformation, to provide universal free or at least affordable health care and education (the next bubble that has to be popped), which should be givens in any modern democracy, and are in all the others. As a Mexican friend reflected recently, “never has the world been so full of problems and possibilities. How do you see the future ?”

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