Thursday, November 6, 2008

What I'm still worrying about

I'm still worrying about poor people. Obama, like all politicians these days, talks about "working people", to signal he's concerned about people who aren't rich. But what about the unemployed, especially those who've been to prison, rightly or wrongly?
What about the backlash against gay and lesbian people? I'm troubled by the movement against gay marriage, and the outrageous proposition that passed in Arkansas to deny gay couples the right to adopt or take in foster children.
I'm sure there are other issues as well that we will need to keep on the front burner. There is a danger that Obama's election will lead to complacency among white, well off people, a feeling that race, especially as it intersects with poverty, is now no longer an issue. The successes of the Civil Rights movement, while real and valuable, had the same side effect of allowing some people to think that we no longer need to be vigilant or address racial discrimination and prejudice. I'm afraid that poverty as an issue in particular may suffer collateral damage from this election. I don't mean we shouldn't be celebrating, but that we must be realistic about the potential limitations of an Obama administration as well, and the need to keep advocating.

3 comments:

quit wicked company said...

Neil,
Your points are good ones! I knew that if Obama got elected I would be happy, but I could not have predicted how it would *feel*. This feeling - a very particular kind of hope, love of country, etc for which I do not even have words yet - is brand new to me. There is an element of validation to it that I feel as a social worker, as someone who has understood her life as being about working towards common good. This election - his election - has a direct impact on the cause of the poor and marginalized in that it somehow legitimizes the efforts and stances of those of us who do worry about these issues all the time. There's a kind of collective recognition, I guess, maybe not in his policies but just in the reality of his election, that feels emboldening to me. Am I just desperate to hold onto this high? Probably. But its a really good one!
Beth

Neil Altman's blog said...

From my friend Larry Siegel
RE: Obama's election and Prop 8 in California. This is a most complicated matter; how to retain realism about our history, the depth and consequence of racism but also be open to the change that appears to be genuine and deeper than we could have ever hoped for. Yes of course Obama's profile probably made some whites more "comfortable" but to the extent that "we" would not have voted for a non-mixed man or woman or someone more "radical" is another question which speaks to both our racism, but also our inherent American conservatism. I believe that many whites would not vote for an Al Sharpton while they would vote for Obama and in that is racism but also this adversion to a more "radical/progressive" mentality. I believe that how ever we analyze this election, we cannot lose the forest for the trees - the psychological and racial shift is staggering and it is that momumental shift that we have to enjoy and build on.
As to Prop 8:
1. People still don't understand that one can maintain with vigor their cultural or religious viewpoint but putting that into law is another thing. It is the law that must be a bullwark against cultural, religious attitudes.
2. The whole point of our constitution is to ensure that majority notions do not endanger minority communities.
3. It is precisely the people who make us the most uncomfortable that we should be fighting for their constitutional right to "equal protection." To wit; I detest the speech of racists and American Nazis, skinheads et al, but I must understand the difference between my abhorance of their viewpoint and their right to express it. Those who are uncomfortable with and even abhor gay or lesbian people must understand this analogy.
4. An uncomfortable truth: apparently a large majority of the African-American community(70%+) in California voted "yes" on 8. I feel about that as I do about my fellow Jews who have racist attitudes about Palestinians: we of all people should know better, should understand the stain of bigotry. I am therefore very troubled by the homophobia in the A-Am. community and we should not be adverse to tackling this matter, just as we must tackle it in all communities.

Manasi said...

Neil,
I agree with your comments! this 'Obamania' could itself be symptomatic of the problem of acknowledging reality. I also think there are limits to what Obama administration can really do. The question of race has again become a sore creating isolation, distrust and triggering aggression amongst some section of white people. Poverty as you describe becomes even more problematic and whether Obama can deliver and realistically look at how his aggrandized self image only further creates split-objects and projections of sorts, is yet to be seen.
I am posting a recent blog post that came to via the Lacan Society in London. its an interesting post.
see, http://www.lacan.com/symptom/?page_id=43