publisher's note
June 6, 2008



Cynicism well grounded
by Bruce Rodgers

There’s no denying that Barack Obama leading the Democratic ticket is a great thing. It’s one of those “show” not “tell” lessons for the world. Something like, “Yes, America believes in equality, in opportunity and in the inherent value of each human being, and we practice it”… just look at our Democratic presidential nominee, an inspiring African American edging out a tenacious and commanding challenger, a woman.

But as much as I can be moved by Obama’s speeches, his sincere, meaningful delivery and soak up his optimism about what this country can do, I am not sure he can beat the system. While I acknowledge Obama’s ability to breathe into this land a hope for change in bringing a broader range of possibilities for a better future, I’m not sure he can be a reformer.

To begin a process of political and economic reform — i.e. improvement — to make democracy work for more than just the wealthy or well connected takes an honest self-examination of the failings of this country’s governing system. And as America matures on the world scene, challenged for dominance by the likes of China, India, Brazil or Russia, self-revelatory efforts comparing the rhetoric about democratic principles, weighed against the reality, become more elusive. As America gets put on the defensive, it becomes harder to admit our mistakes.

Americans and their leadership must recognize that the protection of capitalism is the benchmark in public policy decision-making. Laws are debated, passed or defeated based on what is good or bad for the marketplace and by association, corporate interests — not necessarily an adhering to constitutional principles, Bill of Rights canons or the general welfare of the people.

Flag lapel pins, Mission Accomplished declarations, Fourth of July pronouncements are patriotic shrouds deflecting examinations of how this country treats its veterans, its youth, its poor, its sick, its old and its disadvantaged. The corporate media aids and abets in keeping those questions invisible in the popular culture by what it chooses to examine and how it reports what it considers news. How Obama gets around those barriers in conveying a positive message of change will be a measure of his commitment to be a reformer.

He is a once-in-a generation leader. That alone makes him suspect to the status quo. What carried him along to success so far has been the people. But will the people be taken in by a system fearful of his potential as a real reformer?

America’s political perspective is narrow. The public’s knowledge of political options beyond the two-party system, of tempering the capitalistic domination of all aspects of being human and of defining worth outside of a consumer society is held in check. The system’s inability and unwillingness to offer more by way of education, health care and economic opportunity keeps it so. And, in tow, sparse in its approach of giving the public the knowledge to demand systemic change, is the media.

For now, Obama keeps me interested and away from a Darwinian embrace that the inevitability of evolutionary forces will bring this world a much harder future. It is this mixed-race man, and the youth who see a brighter tomorrow with him that keeps me hopeful.

But I was there once, too, in my youth…with King, with Bobby, with the end of the Vietnam War. And yet the greed, the deception, the tainted politics of wanting power overtook America again.

I have to believe that Obama will have me shed the fear of a return of that sadness.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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