photos at the original source
By John Steppling
Simulposted with The Greanville Journal
From Sartre’s beautiful introduction to Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth:
“Europeans, you must open this book and enter into it. After a few steps in the darkness you will see strangers gathered around a fire; come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny they will mete out to your trading-centres and to the hired soldiers who defend them. They will see you, perhaps, but they will go on talking among themselves, without even lowering their voices. This indifference strikes home: their fathers, shadowy creatures, your creatures, were but dead souls; you it was who allowed them glimpses of light, to you only did they dare speak, and you did not bother to reply to such zombies. Their sons ignore you; a fire warms them and sheds light around them, and you have not lit it. Now, at a respectful distance, it is you who will feel furtive, nightbound and perished with cold. Turn and turn about; in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombies.”
Now, I quote this because I’ve been pondering my own reactions to the Republican National Convention.
And my growing awareness of the symbolic importance of Barack Obama’s black face.
And white little John McCain and Sarah Palin — the zombies.
Now, I have no illusions, trust me, about what Obama can achieve, but after sitting through chunks of the RNC, I found myself pondering exactly how lost and putrid US society has become. From Reagan to Clinton to Bush to ….McCain? Speeches from the likes of Rudy Guliani, Fred Thompson, and Joe Lieberman — the scum found under rocks. The zombie nation. The white colonial tradition, joined at the hip in our *post colonial* world to rabid Christian fundamentalists and an Israeli murder state. King Leopold is long gone, but Kagame and Musaveni live on, and not so long ago Mobutu and all the rest of the sub-contracted killers for Empire.
Now, again, Obama’s foreign policy seems hardly different, and the choice of Joe Biden is particularly telling in this respect, but when the alternative is pure concentrate of insanity, a pure ignoble force of destruction, then one must pause. Obama is not Colin Powell, nor is he Condi Rice, for they don’t count. They are not black. [As George Carlin reminded us, “They are white people who happen to be black..”] I was made aware of this during the Rev. Wright pseudo scandal when so many white American men I know complained about Obama and his attendance in Wright’s black church. Never a word about Hagee, or even now about the whackjob backwater church of hate that Pitbull Palin attends — no, it was a constant litany of complaint about tenuous linkage to Farrakhan and to Wright’s *anti Americanism*. But see, that isn’t what was really going on, because what was really going on was the terror of having to look in the mirror — to look at white America and its deadness. Black America is still alive…..despite the forces of co-option, and while the likes of George Jackson and James Carr and Huey Newton and MLK are gone, done away with like Lumumba or Malcolm, or other dark skinned movements….from the Sandinistas to such seemingly benign personages as Allende or Mossadegh, there is still a heartbeat of life that you can’t find in McCain’s household or in Palin’s.
Fanon said Europe had had it…was doomed. Well, yes, in the sense he meant, but certainly by any measurement the doom can be seen to have spread and intensified today in the US. Black churches are awash in music and life. And that includes Wright’s. Obama likes The Wire, which is almost enough reason to vote for him. He is dancing along as a puppet, it’s true, and Biden is the gatekeeper for liberal white America in this respect. But still…
Still, the slight, though legitimate connection Obama has to black culture is vitally important. Sarah Palin is the distillation of all that is wrong with America. A mean-spirited half-educated former beauty queen runner up — a snarky loathsome force of reaction, a mendacious bigot and lover of death… running alongside the semi-retarded (and semi senile) son of an Admiral. McCain is perhaps even more stupid than Bush, although such classifications are meaningless when IQ drops below the Mendoza line. Together they form such a vortex of bad faith and anger that nothing I’ve ever seen comes close.
Kenin Malik observed, after 9-11, that the real question is not “why do they hate us, but rather why do we hate ourselves?”
Yes, well, we can start with the genocide of Native Americans, and move on to slavery, and to colonialism and Hiroshima and the endless anti-communist hysteria of the last fifty years that cost millions of lives across the planet. America cannot heal its deep psychic wounds by pretending McCain/Palin is at all in any way different from King Leopold or Lord Kitchener. Will Obama as President begin something of a process of healing? No, I think that’s too much to ask. Look at his advisors, and you see a lot of the same faces of Empire….and his political vision seems as truncated as that of Clinton, and yet, still…..
“The Western tradition is not Western in any essential sense, but only through an accident of geography and history. Indeed, Islamic learning provided an important resource for both the Renaissance and the development of science. The ideas we call ‘Western’ are in fact universal, laying the basis for greater human flourishing. That is why for much of the past century radicals, especially third world radicals, recognised that the problem of imperialism was not that it was a Western ideology, but that it was an obstacle to the pursuit of the progressive ideals that arose out of the Enlightenment.”
The demonizing of Muslims, Serbs, Russians, and domestically of inner city Latino and black teens is all of a piece. Obama might at least stop two of these, and one would hope more. In the end Barry Obama isn’t going to change shit, but at least I won’t have to look at McCain and his brain-dead beer heiress wife, and I won’t have to listen to Sarah Palin at all ….. and maybe just having a black face sitting behind that big ass desk in the oval office will make me feel better. Maybe it has some residual good karma, I don’t know. I do know that in the end my vote is more for myself. I don’t think the great follies of electoral theatre amount to much, and Obama has been as war hungry as anyone ….. but maybe it’s for me. It’s just this bad dream I can’t awake from, the flesh-crawling feelings of unease I get when I see a photo of Sarah Palin, or I have to hear the Republican base mouth what amount to naked racist rhetoric in the guise of virtuous Imperialism. Or see John McCain staring with that empty numb glare of those with terminal emotional disfigurement, loss of affect, sociopaths, those without souls …. the walking dead, the zombies. The US is already largely a nation of zombies …. but maybe having the face of those who had in the not too distant past toiled in plantation fields, or shined shoes, or who were hung from trees…having that face hang in every office building in the country, in every court house and in every embassy around the world….maybe that is enough reason to vote for Obama.
Senior Editor John Steppling currently resides in Lodz, Poland, where he teaches at the Polish Film Institute. The main archive of his articles may be found at VOXPOP, Cyrano’s blog area devoted to theater, cinema and politics, which he co-edited with Guy Zimmerman.