Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Presidential Role Models

It’s impossible for a chicken to produce a duck egg. It can only produce according to what that particular system was constructed to produce. The system in this country cannot produce freedom for the Afro-American. It is impossible for this system, this economic system, this political system, this social system, this system period. ...And if ever a chicken did produce a duck egg, you would say it was certainly a revolutionary chicken.
~Malcolm X

“What can a cloth suit tell me about the wealth of a soul?
~ Randell Robinson

This presidential election of 2008, still being decided, has often been spoken of in terms of history. Even more so, it has been constantly spoken of, by virtually all the candidates as a watershed for "change". In actuality, barring a miracle, the only historical change that there may be...maybe... someone other than a white male elected President of the United States this year. This change, important yet ultimately superficial, in these days of greatly diminished expectations, is cause for rapturous awe, and a strange mix of delirious optimism and great anxiety. We have given up on a fair system. We have long given up on even a slightly less bloodthirsty imperialism (which we are actually supposed to be proud of!) All we have to hope for is a symbolic victory, one that gaurantees no substantive change in policy in terms of what really matters.

I will not downplay the power of the symbolism. The United States, with something other than a white male as president, will look a lot different. It will even feel a lot different. Alas, I fear it won't actually be much different. We will have a duck as president. Perhaps a female duck, or a black duck, but a duck just the same. This system can only produce one species. Only if we change the internal workings of the system or the interaction with the environment can we force a mutation. We are told to wish dream of...this significant change. For in 2008, the greatest expectation is a role model that will inspire the next generation to actually accomplish the substantive change that is needed now and has been needed for many past generations. This is what diminished expecations give you...dreams deferred. No thank you. I won't believe in presidential role models until there is some substantive reason for believing.