Before I continue, no matter your political affiliations, might I recommend that you read Dreams From My Father to gain a deeper insight on Obama the man, not the politician. Page after page, I am left in awe of his story, and in a weird way, I have found many similarities to my own struggles, both with politics, but more importantly simply becoming a man. Yes! I am comparing myself to the president of the United States; my ego knows no bounds.
There are many directions this post could take, but I for now, I simply wanted to write about the idea of selling-out. Last night, as I was reading about Obama’s days as a community organizer in Chicago, with goosebumps on my skin, flipping the pages filled with admiration and respect for him, I stopped and said to my wife, “I feel so sorry for him. He is too smart to be the president of the USA. He is too wise, too kind, too reflective to be a politician. He must be a mess sitting in the White House. Either he has sold out his entire set of values and now deals with the nagging guilt of turning his back on everything he believes in, in order to bow down to his Goldman Sachs sugar daddies, or worse, he sits in the most powerful office in the world impotent and powerless to do the things has worked for his entire life. Either way he would serve the world much better back in Chicago!”
Then I heard Ari’s voice in my head. Speaking about me, “I feel so sorry for him. He is too smart to be the teacher at a private school in Asia. He is too wise, too kind, too reflective to be a teacher working a corporate school. He must be a mess sitting in his huge house. Either he has sold out his entire set of values and now deals with the nagging guilt of turning his back on everything he believes in, in order to bow down to his corporate sugar daddies, or, worse he sits in the state of the art school impotent and powerless to do the things has worked for his entire life. Either way he would serve the world much better back in the Bronx or Africa!”
"It is hard to know who is selling out and who is doing their best, if that person is not you."Who am I to sit and judge this man, when I have no idea what stirs his heart? It was much easier to call him a corporate hack, before I read this book, but now that I have, it is much more difficult to understand what he is doing and why.
I know I have justified my move from working on the ground for social justice to a more comfortable situation. We can all justify everything we do and feel fine about it, only to turn around and berate others for doing the exact same thing. It takes an open, critical and objective mind to see yourself in others and others in you.
Perhaps Obama is waiting for his second term to return to his roots. Perhaps he thought that he could do more while compromising with the obstructionist Republicans. Perhaps I feel that by educating wealthy Asians, I can create a more just and sustainable world. Which one sounds more absurd? You tell me.
The truth is that revolution, while a handy T-shirt slogan, takes a lot of guts and sacrifice. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and cheer and jeer as politicians come up short and disappoint us for not being as revolutionary as we want them to be. But the truth is that the system we want to topple, reform and change is massive.
I am not sure if writing these little posts and teaching kids about the ills of the market economy, while I myself participate in it whole heartedly, is the way toward this change, but it is the path I have chosen. Who am I to say that Obama has sold out?
All I know for now, is that the man who wrote, Dreams From My Father, has to still be alive somewhere in the White House. You cannot outgrow that kind of passion. He is very different from the man giving the State of Union speeched and sending more troops to Afghanistan, of that there is no doubt, but something about him has to be the same. I have to believe this to be true, because I know that the pieces of me--the ones that commuted into the Bronx or lived in Africa for two years--are still stirring in me.
More thoughts to come I am sure. But in the meantime, what do you think? How do you deal with the feeling of selling-out?