Sunday, November 16, 2008


Bread-line, Kentucky, 1937. Margaret Bourke-White.

Remember Clinton's "I still believe in a place called Hope"?

And Barack Obama's "Audacity of Hope"?

Just what are they talking about? Whose hope? What hope? I have just listened to a remarkable piece on a public radio's Hearing Voices: Prison. Interviews with some very thoughtful convicts in the deplorable American prison system. As Milan Kundera (whose work I think is greatly overrated) said — that only one who had lived in a world deprived of freedom to understand freedom — so too can only those who have been deprived of hope truly understand what hope is. (I don't quite believe this, but there is something right about this notion.)

Christmas dinner, sometime in the 30s.

Hope is what so many have invested in Obama. Millions of Americans have given up on the US political system. Corrupt, dedicated to the wealthy, indifferent to the common people. A combination of bad times and the very worst politicians our nation has seen, genuinely awful people — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales — has robbed and raped us but opened the door to hope.

Breadline during the Depression.

Remember the song that signaled the arrival of FDR? Depression-era music is so dominated by the blues. But then there is "Happy Days Are Here Again". So the Depression is also an era of big band and jazz. Call it a musical debate.

The Republicans have, for at least three decades, worked overtime to criminalize mere bad luck — poverty, being black or now Muslim, unemployed, hungry, drug-addicted. All criminalized in the public consciousness, and often in law, by a massive political movement utterly indifferent to the conditions of the majority. Democrats have spent most of this time meekly going along. Or in the case of Nancy Pelosi, Joseph Lieberman and their ilk, actually endorsing the revolting tactics of the Republicans.

Can Obama change this? Are Rahm Emanuel or Robert Rubin counterpoints, loyal opponents, to an Obama liberalism? Or are they shape of things to come?

"Happy Days Are Here Again". Are they?

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