It is Inauguration Day as I write this, the historic occasion of not only the first President of African Descent and avowed opponent of the Iraq War but also seemingly the most compassionate and articulate in decades. He will support important alternative energy technology, put a halt to the Bush era practice of using simulated drownings (“water boarding”) to extract unreliable information from suspects, and issue hybrid cars to his staff. And he’s so sincere it make us want to trust him with our children and our world. On the other hand, I find it alarming the degree to which all but our most conservative of our acquaintances appear to have lost touch with reality, no doubt high on hope and (after George W.) slap-happy drunk with relief. I write this because it is dangerous to be self deluded or ecstatically oblivious and disarmed when the more exploitive and unsustainable systems of the civilized paradigm will continue to grow unabated. There are no clear solutions to the complex quandaries of our times, no politician or person is either all good or all bad, and if anything the election of a President of mixed race should be a reminder than nothing is as simple as black and white.
I am more apolitical and tribal than politically minded, and more Libertarian and Green than either Democrat or Republican. But even if one was a Liberal in the Democratic Party mold, there would still be much to be concerned about. If a main issue was getting troops out Iraq, one should be angry about the thousands he wants to leave behind as “Support,“ ‘Trainers” and “Advisors,” or at least be questioning his tripling of American combat troops in neighboring Afghanistan. If one is concerned about environmental regulation to protect what is left of biodiversity and habitat in this country, they should be appalled at his consideration of opening up offshore drilling in sensitive areas. If somebody opposes the open ended captivity of suspects in Guantanomo Bay enough to applaud his closure of the Gitmo prison facility, then they should also be disturbed that the new President has made no moves to close the detention and torture facility at Bagram Air Force Base as well. If you thought the State sanctioning of gay marriages is an important issue, you would have been disappointed over his refusal to support the issue. If like us, you are disgusted by the shredding of Constitutional rights and liberties in the name of “national security” and fear a “V For Vendetta-like” future regime, then your cheers should stick in your throat over Obama’s retaining of Robert Gates as head of the Defense Department. As head of the CIA, Gates backed the invasion of Panama to defend our “interests” against the corrupt thug we had helped elect, oversaw the Iran/Contra affair that included the funneling of arms to Central American death squads who were killing endless peasants and a smattering of American nuns. He played a part in the removal of democratically elected Jean-Bertand Aristide in Haiti, helped prop up the terribly brutal Suharto regime in Indonesia, and ran the very Iraq War that the President is promised to withdraw from.
And regardless of one’s political leanings, our emotional response should be informed by the fact that the billions or even trillions of dollars that will go to the wasteful bank bailouts (one bank used the money to expand and buy another!) and other programs to “save the economy” will be at the expense of our children and grandchildren, who will face absurdly higher taxes, find the dollar worth less, and realize that a large part of America is actually collateral for Chinese and Arab investors who can call in their loans at anytime. Barack may be an “environmentalist” (a term that we have for several reasons never adopted), but protection of wild places, clean air and rivers, open spaces and sustainable human habitat is simply not possible along with the endless population growth and nonstop economic expansion that he condones or supports. Not only livable space and precious wilderness continues to be at risk from this modernist paradigm, but also rural culture, self reliance, regional self sufficiency and national sovereignty.
Regardless of who is ever elected our “leader,” they are restricted in what they can accomplish, can’t buck the special interests that funded their elections, and even if they wanted to they can’t sell notions like healthy population reductions or economic contraction, local production or regional autonomy, the repeal of the outrageous Patriot Act or some of the thousands of stranglehold regulations that rule every aspect of our modern lives. No governmental edict or elected official can make the modernist paradigm tenable or sustainable, neither the unrealistic credit system, our current spending habits or growth patterns. We applaud any bettering of governance or furtherance of liberty that this or any other administration might provide, but real change will require a shift in basic American values and evolution in lifestyles that few are ready to make. It is not Presidents that will deliver us from this destructive artificial morass, but new precedents.
It is time to come back to earth after the election high, back down to the living giving ground where we do the real work of limiting family size and empowering as well as loving our children, growing organic gardens and learning to use biorgionally available plant medicines to heal ourselves and each other, ensuring ecosystem integrity while building old fashioned supportive community, protecting what matters most and slowly altering and deepening the values, priorities and goals of the society that even the most nonconformist of us cannot help but belong to.
(feel free to share this sobering and disquieting wake-up call with others)