I remember the first time doubt crept in. I was standing in line waiting to get into an Obama rally that was being held at Nashua North High School in New Hampshire. Even though the New England air was biting at my ears, the energy from the crowd warmed up my spirits and gave me the wherewithal to endure the cold January wind. The excitement was palpable; Hampshirites were fired up and ready to elect America’s first black president. We stood in line for a seeming eternity, but friendly conversations with fellow believers made the wait and the frigid evening bearable.
It was during this festive occasion that I first thought “what if this is a ploy”. I’ve read about too many change agents from the past who were chewed up and spit out by the very system they spoke against. How is it then, I pondered, that a man, who heretofore few had heard of, was shot up from the ranks of also-rans to standing toe to toe with the juggernaut that was the Hillary Clinton campaign. I wondered if Obama was being presented to us as a veneer of change in order to prop up a broken system that yet again failed the American people.
I dismissed my own hesitation in a blink of an eye; I was too vested in Obama to ask questions that could crack the foundation of the pedestal I had put him on. This is the problem with idolizing human beings, it becomes impossible to properly assess people’s bona fides the minute we deify them as demigods. This is especially true in the realm of politics; our governance is broken because too many of us have a most unhealthy fixation with our heroes only to belittle people on the “other side” who mirror our predilections of bowing before their partisan golden calves. It’s so much easier to point at the specks in the eyes of others than it is to see the pine tree protruding from our own pupils.
I went on that year to drive myself into a state of physical and emotional exhaustion as I drove from state to state volunteering for the Obama campaign. I was determined to get Barack elected come hell or high water. With each sweat drop that I expended, each door I knocked on and each dollar I invested, the more I disregarded all evidence that Obama was the greatest con job ever foisted on America. I traveled to sixteen states, worked in countless field offices and became an indispensable contributor to Obama’s Virginia constituency director. My enthusiastic efforts on behalf of Obama for America’s were noted, so much so that I was one of the handful of volunteers who was invited to Chicago after his election to help launch Organizing for America.
I spent the next seven years in utter denial as Obama went on to stick a shiv in the back of his supporters in order to aid and abet Wall Street and the banks who criminally bled the planet. The hope and change was hype and craft; as he paid lip service to justice, he paid homage to the larcenists who fleeced millions by giving them trillions by way of bailouts, Quantitative Easing, Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) and a whole slew of monetary schemes that was the biggest wealth transfer in the history of our nation. Over $14 trillion was gifted to the grifters who played Russian roulette with our savings. When the gun finally discharged, we got the bullet and the trigger pullers got golden parachutes.
It took a walk shrouded by indigence and a bout of homelessness before I realized the true scope of Obama’s malicious economic and foreign policies. Adversity has a way of removing the scales of political tribalism from our eyes; two years shifting from mission to mission and calling the victims of corporatism my neighbors made me realize that both parties are colluding to capitalize fortunes for the 1% and socialize hardship for the rest of us. The only thing that prevents a critical mass of Americans from saying enough and doing away with the duopoly in Washington DC is our proclivity to value grievance above logic.
If there was any justice in this world, both Democrats and Republicans would be targets of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Sadly, too many of us would rather prostrate before icons and contort ourselves into pretzels in order to justify our political heroes. There to fuel these acts of self harm are corporate shills and partisan hacks who antagonize all sides of the political and socioeconomic divide in order to keep us trapped in a constant state of strife. The people who are given a platform by mainstream media are mostly fatuous blowhards who are paid to gin up conflict and perpetuate the left/right, black/white divides and the endless artificial social constructs that are erected to ghettoize us into the wastelands of identity politics.
The political dog ate its own tail two days ago as Democrats went into full meltdown mode. Bernie Sander’s mildest rebukes of Obama’s legacy and the way he rightfully pointed out how Barack lavished Wall Street with fortunes as he showered us with canned speeches elicited an uproar from the neoliberal establishment. How dare Bernie criticize Obama on the day that Martin Luther King was assassinated! Never mind that Obama enhanced the Patriot Act, a program modeled after COINTELPRO where we the people are surveilled by our own government. COINTELPRO was a program instituted by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI that targeted leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and declared war on anyone of note who dared to speak truth to power.
This same program harassed and threatened Martin Luther King for years before he was ultimately assassinated to the great satisfaction of the very establishment voices who are currently praising him as they whitewash King’s legacy. This is of course how pharisees always get rid of prophets; first they crucify truth tellers and then resurrect a caricatured version of their message. The silence of pundits and politicians in the media-politico complex is deafening when it comes to the issues that King gave his life for, how many people in mainstream media are talking about economic inequalities and the way that Martin Luther King was trying to bridge the racial and class divides. You are better off counting the number of times Donald Trump has tweeted something sensible since becoming president.
Bakari Sellers took the cake in this carnival of frauds who tried to tie in Obama insidious policies to Martin Luther King’s legacy. He took to Twitter to defend the First Bank President and use MLK as a human shield against a most modest criticism of Barack’s administration. Bakari noted:
“Y’all can defend Bernie all you want. On
#MLK50 his lack of self awareness and arrogance in dismissing #44, is wild. Bernie 2020 died 4/4/18.” ~ @Bakari_Sellers
At the risk of sounding like Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction, well allow me retort. I write this to my brother Bakari and the DNC flunkies who think they have a monopoly on Martin Luther King’s legacy. Contrary to your DNC propaganda and neoliberal talking points, Martin Luther King died standing against the policies that Obama and the Democrats keep pushing. Where King spoke out against wars, Obama unleashed the full might of the military-financial complex against Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia as he droned around the world like a teenager with a sugar high playing on his XBOX. Where King tried to rally public opinion against poverty, Obama exacerbated the wealth gap as his economic policies gave birth to a regression of the bottom 90%’s earning power while the wealth of the neo-aristocracy skyrocketed.
For too long, Democrats and the liberal establishment in media have used the plight and suffering of “black” folks and “minorities” to enrich themselves as they further the very policies that are at the root of the people they dismissively call their base. I write this to African-Americans specifically but really to all Americans, walk away from both parties. The Democrats and corporate bootlickers like Obama and Sellers are no different than the Republican hatemongers like Trump and the GOP establishment. Just because they look like you or echo your anger into the public square does not mean they are for you; after all, the most ruthless overseers during slavery were the same complexion as the people they were lashing. Remember these two thing about the deception of identity politics: skin don’t make one kin and they only let overseers in the master’s house.
Times change but the system of monetizing humans and turning us into assets is still in place. The plantation changed from cotton fields to corporatism and the overseers morphed from thugs in overalls to empty suits wearing Armani shoes. They’re still lashing us; both Democrats and Republicans sing together like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes from the same corporate sheet. In public they disagree, but behind closed doors, both sides of the aisle work in tandem to crack our backs with economic policies that keep putting us into the shackles of debt and indenturing a vast majority of Americans into a life of wage slavery or government al dependency.
Malcolm X made observations about the social and political environment of the 1960’s that are just as relevant in our time. He noted that Republicans are like wolves and that Democrats are foxes. Republicans show their teeth and snarl; Democrats show their teeth and smile—in the end both wolves and foxes eat you the same. They only differ in their means but the end is identical. Republicans prefer tilting the playing field to corporations whereas Democrats favor big government. What too many of us don’t realize is that government has been hijacked by the affluence and influence of corporations, in this paradigm government regulation is the same thing as corporate totalitarianism. We are a people who are being governed without consent and conditioned to vote against our economic self-interests. Comparing Barack to Martin Luther King is like comparing Nicki Minaj to Rosa Parks. Just because people share our complexion does not mean they share our struggles. Click To Tweet
Malcolm X made another astute observation that about the “black” intelligentsia and the bourgeoisie class. He made the case that the “black” elites—the people Du Bois identified as the talented 10th—have been lured by fame and status and cleaved from the struggling masses. Those of us who are fortunate enough to attend college and attain the American dream are indoctrinated to be about self as we feign a commitment to justice. There are few who are speaking for the impoverished millions throughout every city and town in America, it is easier to turn human suffering into hashtags than it is to actually do something about it. In this condemnation, I must include myself—pontificating is not service to the least among us who suffer in silence.The passing of giants like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King left us moral midgets who chase corporate dollars as they use injustice to stuff cash in their personal coffers.
Obama’s audacity of hope was in reality a paucity of courage. We are bereft of leaders; all we have are a bunch of narcissists who are quick to run to cameras to make billboards of broken people and retreat to their villas before the news cycle ends. Remember Flint, DAPL, Benghazi, Puerto Rico? It’s not bad enough they are creating the disasters on the front end, now the political and media class are profiting from disaster on the back end. This is what we get when we make idols of men; when we bow before the rich and famous and offer our backs to them, don’t act shocked when they step on us. From Obama to Trump, a society of masochists get the sadists we deserve. #MoralMidgetObama
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Check out this Ghion Cast where I discuss how both parties are colluding to push pernicious policies that serve to enrich their corporate masters while burying the rest of us into the pits of perpetual economic anxiety.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.