Friday, 18 October 2013

Chasing Daydreams, Fighting Nightmares

Game of Drones

posted on 10/18/2013 by the Salt City Sinner

A few Fridays ago, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager that the Taliban shot in the head for the crime of attending school, met with President Obama.

President Obama, you may recall, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for the singular achievement of not being George W. Bush (or, according to the committee, some flimsy fairy-tale about Russia and START). Malala, who has become a powerful voice for women's education worldwide, just happened to have been passed over for a Peace Prize preceding her meeting with Obama.

According to Gawker:

While thanking the President for his support of education and assistance to Syrian refugees, Yousafzai pressed the President on the issue of drone strikes, a counterterrorism method he supports. 
"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," Yousafzai said in a statement after the meeting. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

In the words that are Obama's peculiar verbal tic, let me be perfectly clear. The blush is off the rose, and if you want to think of this as my confession or my recantation, that's fine by me. Barack Obama, while not a terrible president or a particularly inept leader, is Not On My Team.

Let's turn the clock back to 2008. Obama was a terrific and gifted candidate, and said exactly the right things to win me over pretty much completely. I campaigned a bit for him, and attended the victory party in Salt Lake City when he won his first presidential campaign (the party I dropped by was the one for hard drinkers that was held at Club Sound, not the official Utah Democrats one).

Way back in 2008 I was working in the health care industry, was very concerned about climate issues and the policies that George W. Bush had adopted regarding the energy industry, and was involved in a long-term relationship with a beautiful Russian woman; naturally, everything Obama said about US-Russian relations (and war/foreign policy in general), climate change, and health care reform was quite appealing*. At this point, what do I, or people who care about the same things I care about, have to show for our vote(s) for Barack?

I'm crushingly disappointed by Obama's tepid, conservative health care reform bill, which lacks a public option. Sure, it's a step in the right direction, but compromise and Republican shenanigans essentially spoiled a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly fix America's health care system. Obama still has yet to take a firm stand on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

International relations are unarguably better under Obama than Bush, but the US' belligerent imperialism and the expansion of a nightmarish national-security surveillance apparatus have recently had predictable fallout after the extent of the security state's voyeurism was revealed by leakers like Ed Snowden. In short, not a whole hell of a lot.

When the Nobel committee awarded Obama the Peace Prize, the unspoken consensus seemed to be that they were awarding it to him not based on anything in particular he had done, but what he would do. This is what makes Obama's meeting with Malala particularly heartbreaking for me – because it starkly contrasts what Obama “would have done” with what he DID. What Obama has done, of course, is murder perhaps a thousand civilians by remote control and lie about how many innocent lives have actually been lost.

Meanwhile, in the reeking sewers of the right-wing id (helpfully represented by websites like WND, the American Thinker, etc.), the shadow cast by the “would be” Obama remains the focus of vitriol to the exclusion of any discussion of things Obama has actually done.

His supposed Communism, his supposed post-American worldview, his supposed dedication to helping people of color or people in developing nations; many of the same things that attracted me to the illusory Obama of 2008 induce clinical insanity in members of the right-wing proto-fascist commentariat.

It's fascinating – I suppose the allure of an imaginary enemy, it turns out, is stronger than that of an imaginary friend. After all, I and many of my fellow 2008 Obama-voters have chosen to wake up to who our center-right, conservative Democrat president is in real life.

The fever swamps have decided it's more satisfying to keep fighting shadows and illusions.

*: Obama's economic populism and vows to reform the financial industry are equally outrageous, but deserve extensive bitching-about which shall take the form of its very own separate post at some other point.

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