Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama's Campaign and The Real Meaning of The Che Guevara Flag

Some of the things you learn about the people who attach themselves to political campaigns are more revealing and interesting than the candidates, what they say and how the media covers them. Last week's Che Guevara flag eruption was a case in point.

Usually, I don’t have the time and energy but I got involved in a comment trail about it on a post at Solomonia a few days ago. When I do get sucked into these things its always because something grabs my attention about one of the responders and I sense that I might learn something about some larger issue.

For those of you who don't know the background, that post had to do with the backwash from a Fox video report in which a Cuban flag adorned with a picture of Che Guevara was shown hanging prominently in an Obama campaign office in Houston.

Somewhat after the dust settled on the Solomonia post and its comments the Obama campaign posted this on its web site:

"This is a volunteer office that is not in any way controlled by the Obama campaign. We were disappointed to see this picture because it is both offensive to many Cuban-Americans -- and because it does not reflect Senator Obama’s views. Barack Obama has been very clear in putting forward a Cuba policy that is based on one principle: freedom for the Cuban people."

But one of Obama’s supporters (no doubt another volunteer) had already joined in the fray at Solomonia. The very first comment on the thread (how did she find it so quickly?) was from an ardent but only marginally coherent Obama supporter writing under the name of Susan (LAST NAME OMITTED AS A COURTESY). I have no idea who she is but it reads like undergraduate stuff; you can actually read it out loud and hear where “Omygawd”, “like” and “duh” fit in. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were one of the legions of “young people” who have decided that we need change and Obama is the guy to bring it on. She wrote (Parenthesis added by me):

“... (Oh my gawd,) This is because this is an office (that is, like) paid for by supporters. It is (sooo totally) not an official headquarter office Also, Che Guevara is viewed as an icon for (y’know) Socialist ideology that opposes the oppression of colonialism and capitalism (WhatEver!). This flag represents a symbol of change against the oppression these systems create. (Yo,) It does not say Obama is going to (like) turn the USA into a communist country. (duh!).”

A bit of a donnybrook ensued. I couldn’t help joining in. For a while I felt a little ashamed- I mean, this Susan was obviously very easy prey and there was already the beginning of a pack after her when I arrived on the scene. As things devolved, though, it turns out that I discovered another piece of the puzzle about how well meaning people who consider themselves liberal wind up getting themselves and everyone around them into very awkward positions. My last comment on this post was pretty long and although I suggest that you read the whole thread, I know that there is only so much time to read things and I am glad you are here reading here- so, to make things easier, I am reprinting that last comment of mine here with a few minor edits (I never polish comments as much as I should):

Susan, you are clearly out of your depth in trying to think about these things. I’d like to help out but hardly know where to start. You really write as if there is a progressive leftist shouting into one ear and a confused liberal simpering into the other and you, poor Susan, are trying to put both of their thoughts (loose choice of words) into the computer. Only once in a while does the real Susan get a word in edgewise. If you would just stop contradicting yourself from one sentence to the next you might sound as though you actually had a mind of your own.
I mean, look, here’s an excerpt- read it as you would a play and you’ll see what I mean-

I am not saying I find Guevara's tactics to be logical or practiceable (sic). Quite the contrary.

What I am defending is the reality that Guevara fought for. Oppression is far from dead.

His approach is dead wrong. Socialism is dead wrong. Communism is dead wrong.

I don't know what is right. ? I am obviously not a good candidate to run a country or reform the world.

I do believe that there are very real deficiencies to colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, etc.

I believe that Castro's dictatorship (not communism) is far worse than the issues here in the US.

However, I have a problem with the fact that anyone who doesn't fit into a white, middle class image is profiled and often underprivileged for their skin color or their class or their accent. They lack resources and opportunity that so easily come to anyone that is white.

This is why I support Obama because I believe that he pushes for a better, diverse US that "maybe" will unite us as a country and quit segregating us based on our skin color.

I believe the world hates us because we are racist and ethnocentric (me being a part of the problem with all of you.) I think there is a big possibility of Obama changing this image in the right way (consciousness raising rather than through a violent revolution.)

WHEW, it must be exhausting to be you!

Given your inability to keep from contradicting yourself in successive sentences, this might be asking a lot but I think you need to take a deep breath and think about why you are running from pillar to post about this. I think you are wild with enthusiasm for Obama. Like the confused liberal, leftist, progressive participants in presidential lemming runs of the past (McCarthy, McGovern, Carter, Dean), you are getting hyped up over an almost unknown candidate for purely emotional reasons. You cathect your angst and anomie into the campaign and, if you are ever challenged, you try to justify it with a grab bag of ideas and concepts that pop into your mind. You might want to check with all of the voices in your head, including your own, about why. Let’s look at your only line in the little play above:

“I don't know what is right. ? I am obviously not a good candidate to run a country or reform the world.”

That forlorn little question mark says it all. I’ll say this for you; you are honest up to a point. But then you get back on the flip flop of voices. Here’s the best example:

“I believe the world hates us because we are racist and ethnocentric (me being a part of the problem with all of you.) I think there is a big possibility of Obama changing this image in the right way (consciousness raising rather than through a violent revolution.)”

Earth to Susan! Aside from the fact that this is the least racist, least ethnocentric, most open country on earth, and ignoring the inconvenient fact that a very large number of those people who you say hate us so much (especially those “pobres de la tierra” you referenced in your first comment) want to come here to live, there is another big problem with your premise. Let me ask you, what, precisely, is it about Obama that makes you so sure that electing him president will immediately change our image in the world? He hasn’t really talked much about his ideas and beliefs. He certainly had not been specific until that point, about his policy goals. So, what do you have to base your single minded loyalty and dedication upon?

I am wondering, if you told your other voices to shut up for a moment, whether you would not just find that you just want Obama because you think it would be (totally) cool to have a black president. Well, you see, Susan, I think having a black president would be cool too but I don’t think that using that as our preeminent criterion is a good way to approach selecting the person who will be the most powerful human being on earth. Besides, wanting him to be president because he is black is just as racist as not wanting him to be president because he is black.

So, you see, this is what this discussion is about. What we are doing is evaluating the man, his organization and the kinds of workers and enthusiasm he attracts. It may be that the Che flag is an artifact of a peripheral group of “unsupervised” yahoos, but his response to it matters, as does the flack that “followers” like you throw up. So, when you equivocate on whether is it all right to use a communist thug as an iconic symbol of “change” and opposition (sounds a little like “resistance” to me) while enjoying the protection of this great country, you are giving every appearance of using code words that communists, confused lefty liberals like yourself and socialists will respond to while still trying to maintain “plausible deniability”. It is way too great a stretch. You become a kind of cartoon image of yourself. You complain that we are stereotyping you- but we don’t have to stereotype you- you have done a very good job of that yourself.

Consider, please, that you are not just, as you say, “not a good candidate to run a country or reform the world.”, You may not be a good candidate to vote for someone to run a country; let alone reform the world. You really haven’t done a particularly good job of even writing about it.

Yes, well, looking back on it, I am tempted to feel a little bad about that last paragraph, that I may have put that more unkindly than I needed to. But then I think about the fact that so much of Obama’s momentum is coming from the notion that we need change above all other things, change divorced from discussion of the consequences or means. Not that I think that Obama is anything remotely like the kind of murdering thug that Che was or Castro is, its clear he is not anything of the kind. On the contrary, he seems like a nice, upstanding person. That makes him and his followers all the more dangerous.

Stateist Communism is a monstrosity. But the creeping socialism (and the accompanying moral relativism and multiculturalism) of the liberal left is cruel and disillusioning in its own way. It robs people of their self-esteem and self-reliance, it stultifies enterprise and ambition, and, worst of all, it is the single fastest way to weaken and demoralize our resistance to Caliphate Islamism.

The quixotic, demented, anti-logical dueling contradictions I identified in Susan’s rant, combined with that craving for change is the very kind abandonment of reason brought Che and Castro to power in Cuba, Hitler in Germany and Lenin in Russia. The swelling ranks of impressionable young people and immature older people who, like this hapless Susan, seem capable of believing the most outrageous calumny about their own country while, at the same time, remaining blind to far more egregious short comings on the part of almost any other country (other than Israel, of course) is ominous in its own right.

It is unsettling that the Obama campaign, notably through his wife Michelle Obama, is pandering to and encouraging the ecstatic urge for change in a recent speech (HT Sister Toldjah) Mrs. Obama said in a recent speech at UCLA, “Barack is the only man who can “heal” this nation and “fix our souls””

My reading of history tells me that when a government undertakes to “fix” peoples souls, as nice as that sounds, it will ultimately mean that if you don’t care to have your soul fixed in that particular way, they are going to wind up doing something very unpleasant (maybe even fatal)to your property, your freedoms and, your life.

As Jeff Jacoby wrote in the Boston Globe:

With Che at his side, Castro toppled Fulgencio Batista in January 1959. "As soon as they had seized power," notes "The Black Book of Communism," a magisterial survey of communist crime in the 20th century, "they began to conduct mass executions inside the two main prisons, La Cabana and Santa Clara." As chief prosecutor of the new regime, Che oversaw the bloodbath, ordering hundreds of executions in the first months of 1959. Those he killed, "The Black Book" records, included "former comrades-in-arms who refused to abandon their democratic beliefs."

Like totalitarians of every stripe, Che didn't scruple at the death of innocents. "Quit the dallying!" he ordered Jose Vilasuso, a conscientious government lawyer who was seeking evidence against several prisoners. "Your job is a very simple one. Judicial evidence is an archaic and secondary bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! We execute from evolutionary conviction."

Che fixed their souls all right- by setting them free from their bodies. This is the thanks that naïve change-seekers can expect from true revolutionaries like Che to whom they find themselves romantically drawn. Let me be clear, I think that Barack and Michelle Obama are more like Susan than they are like Fidel and Che. They are essentially good people who are either too emotionally involved in their desire to advance their joint career through the false promise of socialism or so convinced that they have "a mission" that they find it possible to ignore the moral and intellectual bankruptcy and cultural danger of their ideology.

And then there are the nameless, faceless campaign functionaries, flaks and Public Relations experts- let’s look in detail at what they published as the Obama campaign’s official statement on the Che flags. It has become axiomatic in political campaigns that it is a big mistake, especially in primary elections, to give too accurate a picture of who you are and what you believe in. This statement is a masterpiece of obfuscation and hypocrisy.

The first thing I notice is that it never actually mentions the name "Che Guevara". This is a sure sign that there is something indirect and manipulative going on. We are in for a "Marketing Momnet".

It begins with a reasonably forthright first sentence: “This is a volunteer office that is not in any way controlled by the Obama campaign” a valid disclaimer. Any organization that is growing and changing as rapidly as the Obama campaign has got to have a few loose cannons. There is no way that the core leadership can keep a watch on everything.

The next sentence is not so direct. It is a loosely joined succession of phrases. These phrases, owing to the looseness of the connections, clack and bump against each other leaving us to wonder wha the real bond is between them. I am going to have to take it one fragment at a time.

The first phrase is “We were disappointed to see this picture” My initial reaction is that I find it shocking that all they can muster is “disappointment”. Knowing who Che Guevara was, what he stood for and the bloody murder he committed, if I were Barack Obama I might have felt something more like outrage or horror- but that is just me. How disappointed are they? What kind of disappointment is it?

The next two phrases are even more shocking. “…because it is both offensive to many Cuban-Americans-- and Americans of all backgrounds” So, we see where the word “disappointment “ comes from, it has nothing to do with being repelled by Che’s bloody record or dismayed by his totalitarian association. No, it is nothing so moral and judgmental. They are disappointed because it offensive to Cuban-Americans and others.

Incredibly, they are far more concerned about the “offence” caused than they are about the meaning of the flag as a symbol. Unspoken here, but clearly identifiable are two senses in which the Obama campaign apparently considers giving offense more notable and worse than the moral implications of his presence in the volunteer office. First, of all it giving offense to identifiable voting blocs (Cuban-Americans vote!) is politically counter-productive. When, as the Obama campaign seems to, you believe (we know Mrs. Obama does) that you have the power to “heal” and “save”, engaging in honest and direct debate that might drive votes away is a sin against your sacred (however mistaken) mission.

The other reason “the offense” is a greater concern for them than the substance of the matter is that in the multicultural, morally relative world of the left and the Democrats it is a greater sin to be “insensitive” to the feelings of revolutionaries and malcontents than it is to ignore and enable injustice and even murder.

They go on to say that it the flag does not reflect Obama's views and that "Barack Obama has been very clear in putting forward a Cuba policy that is based on one principle: freedom for the Cuban people" It's funny how bland and non-committal that “freedom for the Cuban people” sounds. What does that mean exactly? To me, it has the same ring of ominous irony of, say, calling a repressive Communist totalitarian state “The People’s Republic of Whateverstan”.

It doesn’t specify what kind of freedom they’re talking about. Presumably, they are trying to be sufficiently general to avoid offending anyone else. Incredibly, this champion of change for America, this campaign that wishes to sell us on wholesale change for America (the nation that needs change the least of all the countries of the world) comes up short on suggesting any particular change for Cuba (an internationally acknowledged economic and social basket case). Cuba needs more of what we have here – in a hurry. Democracy and free markets would be a huge improvement for that country. Does the Obama campaign suggest any thing like that? No, he certainly would not want to offend the people who put him into this fix with that banner of Che, and they are not so much in favor of democracy or free markets. The whole thing is weasely, multicultural, morally relativistic and marketing oriented- not at all statesmanlike.

Edmund Burke warned us about this three hundred years ago. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” From this one instance, it looks to me that Obama is very much in favor of doing nothing about evil. He can’t bring himself to call it “evil”. As I said above he seems like a very nice and pleasant man. If all the evil in the world were done only by evil people, though, things would be a lot less complicated than they are.

The real danger that the tone and direction of the Obama candidacy brings home to me is that once “Change” becomes the ultimate goal, the strongest, most ruthless candidate of change will often look like the best one and the well-intentioned, emotionally labile dummies of the liberal left (as the example of Susan shows) will be powerless to see what he is up to- let alone stop him. That blood thirsty criminal is not Barack Obama but he might well be hanging a Che Guevara flag up in a "volunteer" office somewhere and waiting for his chance. So, Mr Obama's people have not really addressed the key flag issue at all. They have only given us a flaccid denial of approval- not a categorical condemnation and that makes the Che flag a rather large red flag for me.

I seem to feel that hot breath on the back of my neck again…


Anonymous said...

Yaacov, everytime i come here, I catch something new and profound. To be honest, I didn't even think of the comment by Obama regarding Che being offensive to Cuban-Americans as being other than what it was.

But you are exactly right (and one of the reasons I find myself drawn here again and again) the Che/Cuban flag is offensive for his crimes and they were many, and bloody!

Thanks my friend. I'm so glad you write this blog. The ideas are always stupendous and the presentation equally so.

Nancy Coppock said...

I couldn't agree more concerning the newspeak disclaimer from the Obama campaign. It was written so carefully so as not to separate itself from the historically blind campaign supporters wearing those Che t-shirts.
I admire the idealism of these young skulls full of mush, but am appalled by their Jr. League (please pardon the analogy) attitude of our nation. The United States was not established to do "good" for the World. It was established under a set constitution to allow its citizens to pursue their own dream without threat of government restriction or whim. Charity, or doing good, is what people choose to do with their own money. The Jr. League votes on the decision of what to do for their charitable act for the community.
In recognition of the line between church and state, I do not want my soul "fixed" by a political messiah, that is the role of my God and Savior. I am astounded by the willingness of the Left to apply spiritual necessities to the state. It's the Jr. League-ification of government. The next shoe to fall is totalitarianism which brings job loss (see my story at this site), threat of mental health incarceration (because anyone that disagrees is obviously insane) and ultimately, as Che and Fidel demonstrated, death to those that disagree.
I would counter the "change" mantra with the question, "How about actually following the Constitution?" That would be a welcome change!

Jeremayakovka said...

The honesty of the Pro-Obama commenters is useful. It is misguided, but not mean-spirited.

This is why I support Obama because I believe that he pushes for a better, diverse US that "maybe" will unite us as a country and quit segregating us based on our skin color.

You're correct, YBM, to point out that we're already diverse and tolerant. And there's an important case to press about the costs and benefits of our "diversity," and about what standards, within this diversity, must be kept uniform (i.e., not "diverse") to maintain a robust nation.

Leftists should be called out immediately for statements like the following:

I believe the world hates us because we are racist and ethnocentric (me being a part of the problem with all of you.) I think there is a big possibility of Obama changing this image in the right way (consciousness raising rather than through a violent revolution.)

Short-sighted and self-loathing, but again, he's being honest and deserves an honest reply. To wit: saying that Obama's promise is to change America's image is alarming. Image -- or rather, impressions and the attitudes they foster -- is important, but it is only a means to an end. For Obamophiles to fix on that betrays their sentiment that the purpose of international affairs and foreign policy is for us all, a la Rodney King, to "just get along."

(Pardon me if this repeats some of the points of your post, YBM. Stimulating post. We have a long, long way to going engaging and persuading ... anybody ... during this election.)

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/20/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

gxm said...

I would never vote for Obama for one simple reason. He is a FOGS. That’s not a racial epithet. It’s my little acronym for Friend of George Soros.

“Let me be clear, I think that Barack and Michelle Obama are more like Susan than they are like Fidel and Che.”

Don’t be so sure. Anyone who hangs out with Soros and his minions will never get my vote. These “citizens of the world” will do whatever it takes to undermine the security and sovereignty of the United States. They do not believe in classical constitutional democratic republican government. They have totalitarian leanings and suffer from the philosopher king syndrome. Unfortunately our Marxist government school system is turning out more and more each year. The irony is that Soros came from the same part of the world as two of the staunchest supporters of U. S. security and military predominance the two quintessential cold warriors John von Neumann and Edward Teller. They are probably turning over in their graves. I wish to God that we had a few Neumanns and Tellers today!