The Politics of Hope and Fear
Yesterday, one of my students asked why I moved to Scotland. I told her that Scotland holds the promise of positive change for me — America has already gone off the rails, and I don’t know what I can do. Here in Scotland, things aren’t so bad yet. I feel there’s space for me to make a difference here, however small it might be. This is a country where the future might be better than the past.
But during the last few months, there’s been a shift. For the first time in my adult life, I felt I could finally relax — a little bit — about the future of my own country. The campaign of Barack Obama inspired me, and gave me hope for a brighter future. His overwhelming grassroots success allowed me to release the breath I didn’t know I was holding. For the first time in my adult life, I felt that I might be able to return to my own country someday.
That brief moment of untarnished hope has now vanished, replaced again by a cold, watchful fear. As we approached the crucial March 4th primaries in Texas and Ohio, the campaign tactics of Hillary Clinton became ever more cruel, nasty, and divisive. By spreading lies and rumours to discredit Obama in the days before the primary, Clinton has proven that truth means little in her quest for power. By feigning doubt about Obama’s religious beliefs and making him appear “blacker” in a television ad, Clinton has appealed to racism and religious intolerance rather than unity and decency. By ranking his “experience” not only below her own, but below that of their mutual Republican foe, Clinton showed where her true loyalty lies: not to country or party, but to the pursuit of her own power.
The mainstream media has lapped it up, of course. Conflict sells. One candidate represents honour, integrity, and respect. The other represents deception, corruption, and ruthlessness. Like oil and water, they will not mix. Clinton has shown she’s willing to play dirty, and like schoolchildren on the playground, media and Republicans have circled to egg her on. I have no doubt that Obama is strong enough to withstand her attacks — but is America strong enough?
Just as Obama’s message of hope and empowerment has brought out the best in people, often getting involved in the political process for the first time, Clinton’s tactics have brought out the worst. There have been widespread reports of Republicans voting for Clinton, simply to divide the party. There have been allegations of vote fraud in Ohio, where voters have been turned away at the polls after absentee ballots were sent in their names, without their consent. Even if these acts have nothing to do with the official Clinton campaign, they follow its ethos and attitude perfectly. Without any outside help at all, Clinton herself is doing a very good job at dividing the party, and the nation.
And now there are news reports that Hillary Clinton is “hinting” at a shared ticket with Obama. For weeks she’s been attacking him, mocking his approach and his supporters, spreading lies and malicious rumours…. And now she wants to work with him? She knows she can’t get the nomination on her own, so she hopes to simultaneously discredit and take advantage of Obama’s groundswell of support. I fear that most Americans are not sophisticated enough to see what’s happening, with the media distortion and fearmongering and lies. We’ve become a nation that has trouble seeing the truth — and Clinton is taking advantage of our weakness to keep us dependent and fearful, rather than reminding us of our strengths to empower and emancipate us.
This, more than anything else of the past few weeks, has turned my dislike of Hillary Clinton into outright disgust. So I’ve begun to fear for my country again. Hillary Clinton will not go down without a fight, and I fear she’ll take America with her. The cracks that she opens with Obama will be dangerously inviting to those who wish to tear the country apart for their own gain — including, apparently, the Clintons themselves. I’m not sure our weary national flesh, weakened by the continual abuses of the Bush administration, can survive another rape.
I hope the momentum that Obama has built so far will continue to grow, and continue to inspire Americans who will not be fooled — and I hope it will be strong enough to withstand the assault of dirty tricks and treachery on the horizon. This is only the beginning of a very ugly struggle, and I hope my country can make it out the other side in one piece. As the world stands on the brink of looming crises wrought by our arrogant lifestyles and beliefs, the next few months in American politics could be a tipping point in the global struggle for transformation — for good or ill.
Certainly, something has changed in me. After a brief glimpse, dreaming, of the distant morning, I’ve awoken again to face the dark and dangerous night ahead. I hope we can survive until sunrise.