West vs Obama

A lot of folks, especially black folks, have turned against Dr. Cornel West since he called out Pres. Obama a few years back during his first term. His deep disappointment with the president largely stemmed from his observation that Obama’s soaring rhetoric & big plans did not match reality – specifically the reality of the average citizen. He once called Obama  “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This comment made him a lot of enemies and many who were once close to him (like Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, and Melissa Harris-Perry) defected. Personally, my admiration for Dr. West grew. He saw the truth & was not afraid to speak it – let the chips fall where they may! Wasn’t this the same thing that happened to Socrates whose uncompromising manner and penchant for making the pompous appear foolish made many enemies among the Athenian upper crust?

In an interview with the Guardian published on Sunday, West explained his views on the state of America today and his fall from grace, by design, with President Barack Obama: “He’s just too tied to Wall Street. And at this point he is a war criminal.”

West actively campaigned for Obama during his first run, but painfully learned  what he was dealing with – Obama became the epitome of Washington corruption in his eyes. This was kinda hard to swallow given Obama’s symbolic importance, but sadly, after reviewing the facts,  it is true. I remember earlier this year on Obama’s second inauguration, West was beside himself when he saw that Obama was sworn in with the same bible Dr. Martin Luther King used. In his mind the two couldn’t be any further apart. Dr. King epitomized peace & justice. Pres. Obama epitomizes drones & injustice. I have to admit, West makes a valid point although I have to give Obama a thumbs up on some things like universal health care (albeit with a conservative concept, the individual mandate, at its core, rather than the liberal single-payer concept);  lowering taxes on the poorest fifth of Americans by 80%;  using the Justice Department to defend affirmative action to the Supreme Court (although he used the DOJ to illegally wiretap AP and other news organizations); signed an executive order blocking deportations of undocumented young immigrants (albeit after deporting well over a million Hispanics, moving them out at a faster rate than Bush.); ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and publicly supported marriage equality and nominating two Supreme Court justices who will defend a woman’s right to choose.

Dr. West takes particular umbrage to the total blackout when it comes to poverty and war-mongering.  He states, “King died fighting not just against poverty but against carpet-bombing in Vietnam; the war crimes under Nixon and Kissinger.” West goes on:

You can’t meet every Tuesday with a killer list and continually have drones drop bombs. You can do that once or twice and say: ‘I shouldn’t have done that, I’ve got to stop.’ But when you do it month in, month out, year in, year out – that’s a pattern of behavior.” […]
I think there is a chance of a snowball in hell that he will ever be tried, but I think he should be tried and I said the same about George Bush. These are war crimes. We suffer in this age from an indifference toward criminality and a callousness to catastrophe when it comes to poor and working people.” […]

I knew he would have rightwing opposition, but he hasn’t tried,” West said of Obama’s unwillingness to curb Wall Street’s hold on Washington. This particularly irks me as well – where was the bailout for millions of folks who lost so much after the 2008 financial meltdown? If you look at the folks Obama brought in in his first term ( and even now in his second term), it is clear whose interests he holds to higher esteem. The vast majority of us had best stand at the back and hope that some trickle-down money falls in our tin cups. Dr. West’s comments reminded me of something George Orwell said: “ In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act“. No wonder he has become somewhat of a pariah in the US.

West hits it out the ball park when he observed in the Guardian interview:

And he hasn’t said a mumbling word about the institutions that have destroyed two generations of young black and brown youth, the new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex. It’s not about race. It is about commitment to justice. He should be able to say that in the last few years, with the shift from 300,000 inmates to 2.5 million today, there have been unjust polices and I intend to do all I can. Maybe he couldn’t do that much. But at least tell the truth. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones.”

 These are some serious times – time to put our political immaturity to rest already.



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