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07 November 2008

Nader, Obama, Uncle Toms, the Democrats, the War, and Reality vs. Postmodern Personas

In response to this clip --



-- Truthdig posted the following:

Not entirely sure how to unpack what exactly is going on in this startling exchange between Fox News’ Shepard Smith and third-party avenger Ralph Nader, but here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.

It’s from election night, and an indignant (!) Smith appears to be attempting to school Nader (?!) on the unseemliness of invoking racially charged literary allusions when referring to America’s first black president-elect—especially, Smith suggests, when Nader is about to fade into obscurity.


Nader, meanwhile, maintains that it was perfectly valid for him to question, as he had earlier, whether Obama will be “Uncle Sam for the people of his country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.” Just as Nader is about to further elaborate, Smith makes it clear that he has entered a nuance-free zone, and thus Nader’s final attempt to explain his statement is cut short.


Nader thinks Smith is a bully. Smith thinks Nader is kaput. We think it’s weird to bring race into a discussion about politicians capitulating to big corporations (and people’s potential reactions to the term Uncle Tom in particular may make it difficult to take in the bigger argument here). After all, history would suggest that elected officials from a wide array of backgrounds are perfectly capable of that sort of thing.

I think Malcolm X would have understood and appreciated Nader’s use of the term to describe a possible future for Obama:
Just as the slavemaster of that day used Tom, the house Negro, to keep the field Negroes in check, the same old slavemaster today has Negroes who are nothing but modern Uncle Toms, 20th century Uncle Toms, to keep you and me in check, keep us under control, keep us passive and peaceful and nonviolent. That’s Tom making you nonviolent. It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called novocaine, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and ‘cause you’ve got all of that novocaine in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw, and you don’t know what’s happening. ‘Cause someone has taught you to suffer—peacefully.
...

The slavemaster took Tom and dressed him well, and fed him well, and even gave him a little education—a little education; gave him a long coat and a top hat and made all the other slaves look up to him. Then he used Tom to control them. The same strategy that was used in those days is used today, by the same white man. He takes a Negro, a so-called Negro, and make [sic] him prominent, build [sic] him up, publicize [sic] him, make [sic] him a celebrity. And then he becomes a spokesman for Negroes—and a Negro leader.

I would like to just mention just one other thing else quickly, and that is the method that the white man uses, how the white man uses these “big guns,” or Negro leaders, against the black revolution. They are not a part of the black revolution. They’re used against the black revolution.—Malcolm X, Message To The Grass Roots, November 10, 1963.
That’s for all of you, whatever your age, who seem to have forgotten what was actually happening in the ‘sixties in black America, what Obama has specifically claimed to have “transcended,” and finally how postmodern identity politics have replaced any realistic sense of struggle in this country.

Isn’t it interesting how applicable Malcolm X’s picture is to Obama? Nader knows that, if Obama’s followers don’t. Malcolm X has been accused of being a racist toward whites; he’s yet to be accused of being a racist toward blacks.

We are all slaves to this fiction of Obama’s progressiveness. It’s wish-projection, and Obama was nice enough to let us know that he knows that he is a screen upon which people project their hopes.

Do something a little more worthwhile than bashing Nader: join http://november5.org.

Furthermore, what’s amazing to me is that Nader’s accurate use of “Uncle Tom” causes more outrage than Obama’s lightning-quick appointment of Rahm Emanuel as CoS. Of Emanuel’s many sins, including running conservative Democrats against progressives (the change we need?), consider that he, along with the rest of the Democratic Party leadership, purposely refused to cut off funding for the Iraq war in order to use discontent with “Bush’s War” to take over. Which they have, and the body count for that was, what, again? I mean, y’all are oh-so-moral anti-war types, right?

Evidence. Key point here:
The secret for the Democrats, says Emanuel, is to remain the party of reform and change. The country is angry, and it will only get more so as the problems in Iraq deepen. Don’t look to Emanuel’s Democrats for solutions on Iraq. It’s Bush’s war, and as it splinters the structure of GOP power, the Democrats are waiting to pick up the pieces.
More evidence here and here. And I’m sure you can find more on your own, if you care to look.

Gee, I don’t know, refusing to defund the war in order to gain power seems rather worse to me than using “Uncle Tom” accurately. I really couldn’t care less about Nader the person—as little as I care about Obama, Bush, you name it. Politics is not about marketed personas, not for adults. It’s about power, and we all need to organize to force the change we need, not sit back and wait for Handsome Daddy Leader (Bush, Obama, whomever) to Make It All Better.

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