Τρίτη, 20 Μαΐου 2008

Barack Obama’s "Change"

γράφει η Sincerae Smith
When Christos extended an invitation to me to write on his blog about Barack Obama I was flattered, excited, and a tad reluctant. My reluctance was mainly due to me not being much of a political person. I will discuss politics in a limited manner, but usually my opinions are defined as being too naive for a tough world. I am too much the aesthete, intellectual, and devout Christian to have sophisticated views on how my country should be run. Well to some Barack Obama’s views and his slogan involving the word “Change””may appear naive too, but they are not after 8 years of being governed by one of the most corrupt regimes in American history. I think Barack Obama is a realist, populist (in a positive sense) and a true patriot who knows that it is time for change if this country is to survive.

Before I began writing this, a comment made by an American author who writes on US foreign policy and a quote from the only book in The Bible to not mention God came to mind. First, the author is Chalmers Johnson who wrote the trilogy Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.

Johnson said in an interview about 3 years ago, that the government needed to be honest with the American people that the country is facing economic and social collapse in the very near future. Being an avid reader of history with an analytical mind, I had already noticed the signs when Johnson made his comment. In the last year our economy has rapidly eroded with increasing inflation in food and fuel prices. Americans are losing jobs. The dollar, the top currency for decades, cannot compete very well with the Euro. Americans who subscribed to the American dream of owning a home as a privilege of citizenship have lost their homes. Prices have gone up, but wages have stagnated. The country is mired in two wars that I have predicted we will be in for the next two centuries. This year it looks as if the collapse of America may be in full swing. Second, my other reflection that came to mind is in the biblical book of Esther. Queen Esther’s cousin Mordecai told her that because they and their people lived in perilous times it may be that God had chosen her to be a queen married to a pagan king for such a time as this.”

I believe that Barack Obama arrived on the scene like the biblical Esther for “a time as this” in this nation’s and this world’s history. He may fail to be elected at the next president of the United States of America and if he is elected his policies may fail, but I think at this point he has great promise and we all have very little to lose.

I have long said that America probably would not be destroyed from without, but from within because of so many monumental problems that many citizens and many of our governmental officials refuse to face up to as existent. For eight years this country has been governed by a president and his clique who is almost like no other in our history. These are people who glorify war, hegemony, their group’s interests, the rich, and seduced many people into being dupes to get them in office. They created a climate of fear and secrecy. For eight years we have had what amounted to nationalism than patriotism. It has been a troublesome and tragic time in our history under the leadership of George W. Bush. Americans have yet to face up to the fact that many of our leaders may be war criminals if it is ever confirmed that the war in Iraq was deliberately entered into solely by governmental use of misinformation and propaganda.

So what does Barack Obama have to offer with America at a crossroads? What exactly does he mean by “Change”? With Barack Obama, change will mean that American policy both domestic and foreign will be reformed. His focus will not be on pouring billions of dollars into projects like the War on Terror but giving back to the American people by restructuring our economy, educational and governmental system. It will truly be government of the people, by the people, for the people as President Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address in 1863. Barack Obama’s policies will be more inward looking with issues here at home placed under the magnifying glass rather than so much intense interference abroad.

Beginning at home, all Americans will be given a fair opportunity to receive health care through a universal plan that will include insurance companies, employers, and the government working together to insure that everyone can afford health insurance. Whereas President Bush opposed a national health care plan for the nation’s children, Obama will make such a plan the law. At this point in time, Americans pay more on hospitalization and medicine than any other nation on earth. This is troubling to me because if we can wage wars that disrupt and destroy lives, why is it so difficult for this nation to invest in health care for all of its’ citizens? A few years ago I saw an Italian physician on television who was involved in Doctors without Borders, and he said that one of humanity’s basic human rights is affordable health care. I agreed with him then and now.

More change will come in the form of Barack Obama offering tax breaks to working and middle class American families. The legacy of the Bush years of offering tax breaks to the wealthy was killing the middle class. The middle class was burdened with the highest taxes which was unfair and to me irrational. Americans whether wealthy, middle class, or poor are drowning in debt. America’s economy functions on the accumulation of debt. With Obama credit card and mortgage companies will be penalized for dishonest and predatory lending practices. The public will also be informed about which companies to stay away from.

For some years now we have been warned that there will not be any funds left for the government to pay social security to America’s elderly after the current generation of senior citizens has passed on. Barack Obama has plans for programs that will allow America’s seniors to receive enough funds to live on through the government increasing social security savings and businesses offering retirement programs authorized by the government.

During the eight year Bush administration many government contracts went to big corporations that were sometimes aligned with people like Vice President Dick Cheney. This was the case with some of the oil and natural gas companies which met with the vice president to influence energy policies. Under Obama, this will not happen because transparency in how the government spends tax dollars will be revealed through a national database similar to Google where citizens can see how their tax dollars were spent. No longer will the government be influenced by pressure put on by special interest groups that come to Washington to push their agendas.

Obama says that even at this point he has ignored the requests of various groups to place their hold on him. The days of what I see as a form of bribery and certainly corruption will be a shoved aside relic of the Bush years.

Other domestic programs will discourage businesses from moving abroad for cheap labor and bigger tax cuts. More jobs need to be created in America, not shipped abroad. Obama wants to see an economy which encourages more trade than total consumerism which we exist under now. If an American looks at the products he or she purchases, it immediately becomes evident that almost nothing is made in America anymore.

Only 77% of young Americans graduate from high school. Though the Bush administration tried to reform the educational system through the “No Child Left Behind” program, the program has become a nightmare of rigorous testing for students and teachers being penalized for student failure. The program has had fair to poor results. America has showered money on its schools in the last eight years with amazing technology and better text books. Still the high school dropout rate is the highest of the developed nations. After high school, the students who excel and are accepted into a college or university are faced with exorbitant tuition fees. Most graduate with debt in the tens of thousands of dollars. If an American goes to medical school, debt can reach over $100,000! Barack Obama has a plan so higher education can be affordable for all who are equipped to attend an institution of higher learning.

To be a farmer has become such an expensive endeavor that the occupation is in danger of going extinction here in the US. Higher costs in fuel, fertilizer, equipment, and seeds have crippled the industry. Erratic weather patterns have also added to the problems of the American farmer and driving up food prices. Obama plans to do all that he can to make farming an affordable occupation especially through tax cuts. He will also set up a program that will encourage American youth to once again consider farming as a livelihood.

Even though gasoline costs here in the US is almost half of what it is in parts of Europe , weekly escalating prices have become a great burden on most Americans. Most of us have other financial obligations and need to own a car just to get to and from work. With the price of a barrel of oil now over $120 and a weak dollar, Americans are hurting in ways financially that many could not have dreamed of eight years ago. Instead of trying to bribe or coerce oil producing nations into supplying America with cheap oil, Barack Obama is adamant that this country look for alternative fuels for cost and environmental purposes. With the environment, he is not in denial like the Bush administration has been about global warming. Obama takes the issue seriously and will work here at home and abroad with governments to reverse the effects of climate change.

America has some of the slowest internet of any country on the planet. High speed internet is very costly. I pay a little over $60 a month just to have wireless broadband for my laptop. Under Obama, the plan is for more Americans to have faster internet that is affordable. People in rural communities who cannot get broadband will get access.

Barack Obama is very concerned about the plight of women. He wants to change the situation here at home where women continue to be paid lesser wages than men and do not get enough paid leave of absence from their jobs after giving birth. He will have the government fund afterschool programs for children nationwide so parents do not have to wonder where their children are. Even though I feel that abortion is wrong, and I ponder whether there are any long term health consequences of girls and women who get them, I am not greatly troubled that Barack Obama is pro-choice. Pro-choice means that he believes the final decision should be a personal decision whether to terminate a pregnancy. Domestic violence against women is an ongoing problem here at home, so Obama will appoint a special advisor to keep him informed about issues nation wide.

Other domestic issues that Barack Obama wants to focus on are guaranteed civil rights for all US citizens so that irregularities of wages, discriminatory job hiring, problems in the criminal justice system, the rise in hate crimes, etc. can be combated.

America now is the home of possibly over 12 million illegal aliens who mainly come here from Central and South America. However, we do have people residing here from Europe and others places who continue to reside here even though their visas have expired. Some illegal aliens have come here with their families. Others have started families while in the states. If you are born in America and your parents are not, you still get automatic citizenship. Therefore, portions of these types of families are legal citizens and others are not. Barack Obama does not want to split up families, but he wants the immigration system to be reformed. People whose visas have expired and who do not have families here will have to go back to their countries. Companies who knowingly hire illegal aliens will be fined. American workers have to come first.

I am sure that the rest of the world is waiting with bated breath to see what Barack Obama has to offer as far as change in America’s foreign policy is concerned. Nearly eight years of the Bush administration has left us with a tarnished reputation on the world stage. We have not exactly become an international pariah, but people have certainly lost what confidence they had in us. Some with include many Iraqis say that the Iraq would become more stable if only American troops were withdrawn. Even though I was against the war from the outset just as Obama was who voted against it, I realize that the occupation cannot end on the day a new president takes office next January. I think the occupation is wrong, but the Iraqis cannot be left to fend for themselves in a country that is debilitated and destroyed. They are America’s responsibility since we wrecked their country. Obama knows this too. He has promised that if he is elected, American forces will leave Iraq in 16 months from the day he takes office. He expects that in the interim before the withdrawal for Iraq’s leader to grow up,”stop the bickering, and become stewards of the country they head.

There are 2 million Iraqi refugees in countries neighboring Iraq. Iraqi refugees are especially concentrated in Syria and Jordan which are two small and poor to provide for their needs. Though given housing, often these refugees cannot get legal status to get jobs. Also jobs are scarce even for these country’s citizens. Some of these proud people who were highly educated have been reduced to prostitution or selling their daughters into the sex industry catering often to rich customers from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. It is a very sad story. Because they have a common language and culture, Iraqi refugees become embedded in the areas where they live and are difficult to track down and identify as being in need of aid by aid agencies. Barack Obama will organize a program to locate and help Iraqi refugees in countries neighboring Iraq .

Veterans from wars can sometimes become disposable people in the way the government often neglects their needs. More veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have come back home from the frontlines with chronic mental illness than did veterans of the Vietnam War. Ten percent of Vietnam veterans were tormented by mental illness. Twenty-nine percent of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come back broken by mental illness. Many come from poor backgrounds and end up as basically cannon fodder, sent repeatedly for long tours of duty because there have never been enough military personnel to successfully pull off a project as ambitious as the War on Terror. Now we are seeing the fruits of mismanagement and poor planning. One of my brother’s childhood playmates joined the army after he lost his job and was divorced marriage. I think it was the character Yevgraf in the movie Doctor Zhivago who said that happy men do not join the army. Now my brother’s playmate may be ruined for life. While in Iraq, the helicopter he was on was shot down. Everyone on broad except him was killed. Shortly after he recovered from his wounds, he was sent back to combat. On this second tour, he mentally broke down.

Today he is sent from one hospital for veterans to another. Sometime he is allowed home to be with his parents. Many Americans have learned that war is not something to be played with and entered into lightly and swiftly the way our leaders did. Barack Obama has stressed the mistakes made and how he wants to bring American soldiers out of the morass they have been put in. He will make sure that American veterans with mental illnesses will have access to adequate psychiatric services so the continuing problem of veterans committing suicide or wandering off into the desert and anonymity of homelessness will be brought to a minimum.

American policy has been to not have dialogue with our deepest enemies or those we just do not like. This began before George W. Bush. He was not an inventor of this type of policy, but he and his advisors certainly augmented it. The world has reached such a juncture in levels and number of crises that not trying to establish dialogue with people we do not agree with is no longer feasible. Like Obama says the approach of not having dialogue shows arrogance. He wants America to truly be a moral force and a force for good morale in the world. The way to do this is to draw international support.

Americans tend to have an individualist outlook on life, an every man or woman for his or her self attitude. The Bush regime took this behavior to the extreme, and now in his final months as president he is trying to do damage control after telling the world you are either for us or against us and insulting close allies in the early years of the “War on Terror”. Look at the results. George Bush has the poorest rating of any American president since the polling systems were put into place. He and his clique singlehandedly brought America down in the eyes of the world. Now, Barack Obama wants to show what enlighten leadership and cooperation can do. This is not showing weakness or appeasement. It is showing that he is not in denial that this world is in peril. Nations are going to have to work together at the table if we and the planet are to survive.

This is only a brief summary of Barack Obama’s agenda for “change”. There is more. Barack Obama is a highly principled individual. America has been run by mostly older white gentleman since its’founding. Barack Obama is what we call in the states mixed or bi-racial. He is the son of a full blooded African father from Kenya and a white mother from America. I feel that he is a mixture of the best of both worlds. His mother taught him early to have compassion for people and their plight. She educated him about the importance of public service. He obviously listened to her well, because previous to him to becoming a household name nationally and internationally he had been a public servant in Chicago helping the poor and needy and giving attention to women’s issues. He was looking out for the most vulnerable then; he wants to continue to want to do this on a much larger stage.

America has been investing in militarism here and abroad for well over a century. It is time with so much neglected here stateside that the country is invested in. We have in many ways lost abroad and are on the verge of losing so much more here. Barack Obama has a sound, sober, idealism which is also realism about what will happen if America remains on the course it has been on. Now is the time for all Americans to reflect inward about the destiny of this land which has been a leader in the world for a century. We are losing the American Dream; losing America; losing our way. Barack Obama is the right person for president for “such a time as this”. We need change.

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