Saturday, September 07, 2013

A Dream Denied

There was a great deal of fanfare a couple of weeks ago, when thousands of people gathered on The Mall to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington. Barack Obama stood where Martin Luther King had stood and declared that the United States was "the greatest nation on earth."

Without a doubt, King would be pleased with Obama's ascension. But Gerry Caplan wonders, in today's Globe and Mail, if King would agree with Obama's assessment of the country:

King had three great objectives: human equality, social justice and peace. But given America’s distance still from anything remotely approaching equality, social justice and peace, you really had to wonder what part of Dr. King’s dream, health care aside, President Obama had actually been working on since becoming president.

Caplan then goes on to flesh out just how far from King's dream America is:

We can be pretty confident that King would have been aghast at the vast inequality that characterizes America today; disconsolate at the thousand ways in which racism still plagues black America; distressed by the neoliberal economic advisers with whom Obama has surrounded himself; startled by the corporate lobbyists who have so much influence in the White House; and shocked that the President’s defence budget is a mind-boggling $660-billion a year. Not to belabour all those killer drones needed for Terror Tuesday or the fact that it’s easier to buy a gun in America these days than it is to vote.

Given King’s passionate opposition to American aggression in Vietnam, we can be pretty sure what he’d have thought of the multiple American aggressions since he was murdered, from Cambodia to Nicaragua to Panama to Afghanistan to Grenada to Iraq. So he might be spinning once more at proposition that a righteous America is somehow entitled to punish the president of Syria for his transgressions.

No, the Baptist preacher would not be happy. America is far from being, "Free at last! Free at last!" The dream has been denied.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I was embarrassed seeing Obama speaking on this occasion. He is all that Dr King struggled against. American's focus on Dr King's struggle for civil rights ignores his more radical concerns for economic equality for all and his strong anti war commitment. Interestingly, Jimmy Carter, the southern gentleman, has spoken out more forcefully on the radical issues of Dr King than Obama ever could. His voice was not publicized.

Owen Gray said...

And Carter has done more than Obama to merit the Nobel Peace Prize, Philip.

Lorne said...

There is no doubt that Obama is a largely self-induced failure, Owen. I once attended at talk by Chris Hedges shortly after Obama became president, and I still remember his words: "Brand Obama is no different from Brand Bush or Brand Clinton."

Hedges has proven to be eerily prescient.

Owen Gray said...

Caplan makes the point that Clinton made $17 million giving speeches last year, Lorne.

That was not why King gave speeches. But money is even more corrupting today than it was fifty years ago.

Anonymous said...

I think Obama is in a difficult position. As the first African American to hold the office of President, he has to move slowly and incrementally in all the changes he makes. I think he understands the situation, and is making the best of it.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Anon. Racism in the United States is alive and well. That said, I can't imagine that the man who advocated "meeting physical force with soul force" would be happy that Obama was contemplating attacking Syria -- even if Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people.

Troy Thomas said...

Your post title reminded me of a poem.

A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the reference to Hughes, Troy -- the Poet Laureate of African Americans.