Monday, February 04, 2008

Michael Chabon on His Support for Obama

From the Washington Post, an essay by author Michael Chabon (Yiddish Policemen's Union):
In a better world, if there were such a thing (and so far there never has been), we would not need a president like Obama as badly as we do. If there were less at stake, if our democracy had not been permitted, indeed encouraged, to sink to its present degraded and embattled condition not only by the present administration but by a fair number of those people now seeking to head up the next one, perhaps then we could afford to waste our votes on the candidate who knows best how to jigger, to manipulate and to conform to the vapid specifications of the debased electoral process it has been our unhappy fate to construct for ourselves.

Because ultimately, that is the point of Obama's candidacy -- of the hope, enthusiasm and sense of purpose it inspires, yes, but more crucially, of the very doubts and reservations expressed by those who pronounce, whether in tones of regret, certainty or skepticism, that America is not ready for Obama, or that Obama is not ready for the job, or that nobody of any worth or decency -- supposing there even to be such a person left on the American political scene -- can be expected to survive for a moment with his idealism and principle intact.

The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.

[...]

But the most pitiable fear of all is the fear of disappointment, of having our hearts broken and our hopes dashed by this radiant, humane politician who seems not just with his words but with every step he takes, simply by the fact of his running at all, to promise so much for our country, for our future and for the eventual state of our national soul. I say "pitiable" because this fear of disappointment, which I hear underlying so many of the doubts that people express to me, is ultimately a fear of finding out the truth about ourselves and the extent of the mess that we have gotten ourselves into. If we do fight for Obama, work for him, believe in him, vote for him, and the man goes down to defeat by the big-money machines and the merchants of fear, then what hope will we have left to hold on to?

Thus in the name of preserving hope do we disdain it. That is how a phobocracy maintains its grip on power.

To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world.


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