Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Barack Obama

Obama's face was staring at me all day today from newspaper stands. He has announced he is looking into announcing that he is running for president of the United States of America. Okay, that is a slightly flippant way to put it, but there is something slightly humorous to me about announcing this in the way Obama has.

I came across the announcement thanks to Tripp
I am though quite positive about Obama. He is one of the few current politicians in this country that I find little to be cynical about. I do though wonder about the image he will have to project and the image this announcement seeks to project. I wonder about it because it seems to be a contradictory image. I also wonder if and how our current classifications of race are contributing to the image that is being created.

First let me say that if I have my facts straight, it is very possible that if our classification system were different we would not think of him as "Black". His mother is "white" and his father is an African immigrant to the United States. I point this out not because I think these facts in and of themselves are significant except in relation to the way race still plays itself out in this country, and as a way to address what I think is one component of the image that is being projected of obama. In a sense he will not a "Black" candidate in the same way as someone whose family comes from people who at one time were slaves and experienced segregation in this country. I am not saying that he is entirely disconnected from that experience but there is a difference. A difference that would perhaps be unremarkable in other circumstances. I in part base this assertion on my own experience of knowing how having a father who is an immigrant separates one from those whose families have lived in the states for generations. I see the world differently, I even see my connection with the United States differently because my father is an immigrant (in fact was a refuge). I think his potential candidacy is significant but it is significant in differing ways than if an other Black politician were about to announce a candidacy with as much anticipation and hope that he could be successful in pursuing the presidency.

However, more important in my mind is that Obama projects the image of one who cares for the grassroots, for local communities and for change in our political process, but that he now is saying that (he is at least contemplating this possibility) that he will serve the grass roots and change in our political process by running for the most powerful office in the land- namely the least grassroots, the most distanced from the local, one can get in the current political structure of the US. I find his message and the claim that running for president would best serve that message and goal, contradictory, possibly even oxymoronic.

But more so I find it troubling and in fact possibly showing a lack of deep reflection on a major element in our troubled political process: we have come to rely on the great father the President to solve our problems. What elections do we pay most attention to (and I will admit I have been guilty of this as well), it is the elections in which the president of the US is up for election. If there is no Presidential election it is difficult to get high numbers at the poles. I would argue that if Obama in fact believes in his rhetoric about grass roots and change happening from the bottom and from local communities coming together he should commit to remain a Senator, he should continue to represent the State of Illinois in congress. He should not project the image of the caring politician who will set things right if elected President of the United States, because that in fact places the power for change in the grass roots and in local communities coming together but in the places our two political parties and all our politicians attempt to keep the power for change and that is in the halls of power and in the hands of the most powerful office in the land and possibly for now the world.

Obama the power of the presidency has grown over the history of our great country, and it has grown in leaps and bounds in the late 20th century and continues to grow into the 21st century to the detriment of the proper role (constitutional) role of congress, and certainly to the detriment of grassroots and local politics and placing power into the hands of local communities. Granted we have willingly if also unwittingly given over our power to the presidency. However, if you really believe your grassroots rhetoric it seems to this blogger, pastor, philosopher/ theologian, and community organizer of sorts that consistency would demand that you stay in the Senate and not seek to run for the President of the United States. Obama we may need you but we need you as a senator who will speak for the grassroots and local communities and politics as the foundation of any good politics and government. You contradict that speech should you run for the least grass roots and least local office in the land.