Tag Archives: Obama

Bilhá Calderón: Obama, McCain and the second presidential debate

Last night, when I prepared (braced myself) for the Second Obama- McCain debate, I didn’t think I’d find it highly educational, but it was.

A good 30 minutes before the debate took place, American networks were going wild on the things that would be key to Obama and McCain’s arguments to gain points with the voters. Being economy the most important and urging matter, the specialists discussed what the answers of both presidential candidates could be. The unanimous opinion was that the key goal was to answer the leadership question accurately. convincing the public that they are able to lead the American people through the economic crisis and reassure them that they will not lose their homes or their jobs this fall. Also, it was important for both candidates to improve their image and a few mistakes they had made in the past. Senator McCain was expected to show a little more respect for Senator Obama, since he hadn’t been able to even look at him last time they held a debate in which he also couldn’t hold back from quiet a few attacks on Obama’s inexperience, background and character. Barack Obama, on the other hand, was expected to show more strength and confidence; his major goal would be to look trustworthy.

In the end, at a time of profound lack of trust from voters, it would be the candidate that managed to link its discourse to the people’s lives and the difficult time they are going through what would make this debate a game-changer. A political debate tends to question question voters, but they don’t necessarily change their mind unless what they hear has a direct impact on their lives. To win or lose this debate depended on being able to show and explain to people what is happening in USA and bring a reasonable solution to the table. That, and only that would define a connection between the candidates and the public, and therefore their potential votes.

And that’s exactly what happened. According to American journals and annalists, the debate showed the acute difference between both candidate’s projects to improve the economy, which was the most relevant subject of the evening. A great part of the debate went by arguing over hich one of them would be tougher at cutting taxes and explaining how. As the evening went by, Senator McCain seemed to have more reasons to attack Obama performance in Congress, but very few explanations for the people he was talking to. The gap between powerful corporations and a strong State grew bigger, so when it was time to elaborate on health care Senator Obama shined for being able to explain why medical services and prevention were the people’s rights as opposed to McCain’s refundable tax credit that would go to private health care companies, who until now are known for cheating their clients. And that right there made the connection with the public.

There is one more debate to come, and only one month before election day. If you ask me, I think we will be looking at a month of mouthfuls of Sarah Palin’s conservative babble, perhaps some more adds warning people of Obama’s desire to raise taxes because he is secretly Bin Laden’s best buddy. Other than a dirty campaign, I don’t see how Senator McCain can manage to convince people that his capitalist-in-denial plan can possibly be a good idea for crisis struck America.Obama, McCain, debate, USA,

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Roger Cohen: Real Wars and the U.S. Culture

The culture-war surge in the U.S election campaign has come at the expense of meaningful debate about the real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s dangerous because they stand at critical junctures.

We’ve had Sarah Palin at the Republican National Convention setting a new low for foreign policy with her attempt to mock Barack Obama’s approach to international terrorists: “He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”

I’m sorry, Ms. Palin, but out there in Alaska, between moose shoots, did you hear about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, renditions, waterboarding, Guantánamo and the rest?

John McCain knows what happens when those rights disappear. He described his Vietnamese nightmare the next night: “They worked me over harder than they ever had before. For a long time. And they broke me.”

A man remembers getting broken: that’s why McCain fought the use of torture by the Bush administration. His condoning of those words from his vice-presidential candidate is appalling. Foreign policy be damned if you can score a God-fearing-macho-versus-liberal-constitutionalist point.

But the bloody wars, seven years after 9/11, have not paused for this sterile U.S. cultural battle. With some 180,000 troops in the two theaters, U.S. reserve capacity is stretched to the limit — something Iran knows when it keeps the centrifuges turning and Russia knows when it grabs Georgia.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban-led insurgency is growing in reach and effectiveness. There’s talk of a mini-surge in U.S. troops there — now about 34,000 — to counter the threat, but little serious reflection on what precise end perhaps 12,000 additional forces would serve. Until that’s clarified, I’m against the mini-surge.

France, which just mini-surged in Afghanistan, is now embroiled in an agonizing debate over the slaying of 10 soldiers, mostly paratroopers, east of Kabul on Aug. 18. At least one had his throat slit. Photos in Paris Match of Taliban forces with uniforms of the Frenchmen have enflamed the national mood.

Hervé Morin, the Defense Minister, has called for “national unity” in fighting a threat “from the Middle Ages.” But polls suggest a majority of the French favor withdrawal. A furor is building over suggestions the paratroopers were abandoned.

These French rumblings are a reminder that the NATO coalition in Afghanistan is fragile and that sending more forces is no remedy in itself.

Obama has been right to say Iraq exacted a price on the Afghan campaign — something McCain airily denies. But his calls to send “at least two additional combat brigades” to Afghanistan and his promise in Denver to “finish the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan” are rash.

After 30 years of war, the Afghan struggle won’t be finished for another 30. It’s a weak country, sandwiched between Iran and Pakistan, two far stronger ones that do not wish it well. The Afghan-Pakistani border cannot be sealed, although it can be better policed; the jihadi traffic across it will continue.

None of this means the United States is condemned to having tens of thousands of troops there for decades — although I’d say that’s more likely than victory in four years.

On the day the French were attacked, a large American military base — Camp Salerno in eastern Khost province — came under sustained Taliban assault. I spoke to a U.S. official who’s just ended an 18-month assignment in Khost.

He sees the exclusive focus on more troops as wrong-headed. The priority must be “an Afghan surge.” Get the Afghan national army to 120,000 troops as a priority, from about half that level today. If more U.S. troops do go, training Afghans should be their first task. Only Afghans can win this.

Pour money into Afghan army salaries (now about $100 a month). Keep buying loyalty with US cash in the provinces, where it counts. Make a big push on human capital — “engineering minds is becoming far more important these days than engineering more roads.” If the best brains leave, the country’s lost.

Rethink policy toward schools. Getting madrassahs registered with the government — and so gaining some control over curricula — is smarter than stigmatizing them and pushing students over the border into Waziri zealotry. Get serious about the national reconciliation program, designed to bring ex-Taliban moderates into politics. Focus on Pakistan.

Absent such cornerstones of a strategy — and absent realistic expectations — surging in Afghanistan is a mistake.

As for Iraq, gains are real but fragile. I don’t see how Obama’s “responsible” withdrawal squares with his 16-month time frame for it. If we don’t want Sunni Iraq to remarry Al Qaeda — and that’s a paramount strategic aim — we’re going to have to play buffer against the dominant Shia for several years. That won’t require the current 146,000 troops, but will require many tens of thousands through the next presidency.

Two intractable wars should preclude the culture war McCain has just so shamelessly embraced. He loves the word “fight.” So fight on the issues — and let the people decide.

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DAVID ALANDETE: El Partido Republicano enseña su rostro más radical

En las primarias fueron contrincantes. Pero los tres principales competidores contra John McCain por la nominación del Partido Republicano se unieron el miércoles en un duro ataque contra lo que bautizaron como “la prensa liberal”, contra la izquierda, contra Washington y contra el candidato demócrata a la presidencia de EE UU, Barack Obama.

Olvidados los tiempos del conservadurismo compasivo, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Huckabee y Mitt Romney imprimieron un tono radical a la Convención de Saint Paul y acusaron al senador por Illinois de falta de firmeza ante el terrorismo islamista y de atesorar menos experiencia ejecutiva que cualquiera de los dos miembros de la candidatura republicana.

“Los demócratas han renunciado a ganar la guerra de Irak y han renunciado a América”, dijo el ex alcalde de Nueva York Rudolph Giuliani. En una severa crítica al Partido Demócrata, dijo que en su Convención, en Denver, “raramente mencionaron los ataques del 11 de septiembre de 2001. Viven un estado de negación respecto a la mayor amenaza que vive nuestro país”.

El ex gobernador de Arkansas Mike Huckabee acusó a Obama de ser el candidato que pondrá a Estados Unidos “en riesgo en un mundo peligroso”. Mitt Romney, por su parte, aportó puntos del ideario neoconservador al asegurar que los republicanos son los únicos que creen “en la distinción entre el bien y el mal”, mientras Obama “duda y se doblega” ante el terrorismo.

Giuliani defendió a McCain como “un soldado de a pie en la revolución conservadora de Reagan”. De hecho, los tres ex candidatos le atribuyeron a McCain el rol de defensor del legado del célebre presidente republicano de los años ochenta. “El camino adecuado es el que lideró Ronald Reagan hace 30 años y que ahora recorrerán John McCain y Sarah Palin”, dijo Romney, que fue gobernador de Massachusetts entre 2003 y 2007.

En su intervención, este político mormón unió directamente la presidencia de George W. Bush a la candidatura de McCain. “Bush definió a los Estados que patrocinan el terrorismo como lo que son: un eje del mal”, afirmó, en una defensa de la tradición neoconservadora de los años más recientes del Partido Republicano. “El islamismo radical y violento es el demonio, y debemos vencerlo”.

“Queremos pasar de un Washington liberal a un Washington conservador”, dijo Romney, en tono desafiante. “Los liberales cambiarían la sociedad de las oportunidades por la dependencia de la caridad del Gobierno”, dijo, detallando a continuación un ideario económico netamente republicano: “El camino adecuado consiste en reducir el gasto del Gobierno, en bajar los impuestos, en exterminar las grandes regulaciones y los mandatos, detener las tasas a las empresas y enfrentarse al apetito de tiranosaurio de los sindicatos”.

Tanto Romney como Giuliani acusaron a los demócratas de la crisis energética que vive EE UU. Ambos defendieron la propuesta de McCain de abrir las costas estadounidenses a más perforaciones petrolíferas. “Es el Congreso liberal el que nos hace más dependientes de los tiranos de Oriente Próximo”, dijo el ex gobernador de Massachusetts.

Los discursos de los tres ex candidatos fueron, también, una defensa de la experiencia política de Sarah Palin y un encendido ataque personal contra Obama y su compañero de candidatura, Joe Biden. ” tiene ya más experiencia en un puesto ejecutivo que toda la candidatura demócrata”, dijo el ex alcalde de Nueva York. “Ha sido alcaldesa, y sabéis cómo me gusta este trabajo. Lo siento, Barack, si [el puesto de alcaldesa] no es lo suficientemente glamuroso”, dijo.

Los tres antiguos adversarios se sometieron obedientemente a la disciplina de partido en sus comparecencias. Sólo uno, el ex gobernador de Arkansas y ministro baptista Mike Huckabee, reconoció entre risas que, al principio, hubiera querido ser él quien leyera el discurso de aceptación de la candidatura el jueves por la noche. Pero el Huckabee del miércoles fue un ariete más en la táctica de acoso y derribo diseñada por el estratega electoral Steve Schmidt, amigo personal de Karl Rove y arquitecto de la campaña de McCain. “Sarah Palin obtuvo más votos como alcaldesa de Wasilla, Alaska, que Joe Biden en su candidatura a la presidencia”, dijo.

Fue Huckabee quien más se cebó con “los medios elitistas” por subrayar diversas polémicas en las que Palin se ha visto envuelta recientemente. La prensa, dijo, “ha hecho algo que parecía imposible de conseguir: unir al Partido Republicano y a todos los estadounidenses en apoyo del senador McCain y la gobernadora Palin”.


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Barack Obama: Speech Transcript

Transcript of Senator Obama’s Nomination Acceptance speech

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy.

Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States.

What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part — through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign — to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America.

I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together — unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction — towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas.

I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners — an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters.

I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts — that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity.

Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African-Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.”

We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action, that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap.

On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation — that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain.

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice.

Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country — a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Rev. Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems — two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Rev. Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?

And I confess that if all that I knew of Rev. Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and YouTube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor.

He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine, who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth — by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, “Dreams From My Father,” I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note — hope! — I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones.

“Those stories — of survival, and freedom, and hope — became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world.

“Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish — and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety — the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger.

Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear.

The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Rev. Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children.

Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions — the good and the bad — of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork.

We can dismiss Rev. Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Rev. Wright made in his offending sermons about America — to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through — a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.

And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country.

But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination — where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments — meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations.

That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families — a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened.

And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods — parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement — all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Rev. Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted.

What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it — those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination.

That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations — those young men and, increasingly, young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways.

For the men and women of Rev. Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years.

That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Rev. Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.

That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change.

But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race.

Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.

They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.

So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.

Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze — a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.

And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns — this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life.

But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs — to the larger aspirations of all Americans, the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family.

And it means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American — and yes, conservative — notion of self-help found frequent expression in Rev. Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Rev. Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country — a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black, Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old — is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past.

But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope — the audacity to hope — for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed.

Not just with words, but with deeds — by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.

It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle — as we did in the O.J. trial — or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina — or as fodder for the nightly news.

We can play Rev. Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.

This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st Century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care, who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.

This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.

We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for president if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected.

And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation — the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today — a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was 9 years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents, too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time.

And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”


“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

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Michael Moore: Open Letter to Caroline Kennedy

Dear Caroline,

We’ve never met, so I hope you don’t find this letter too presumptuous or inappropriate. As its contents involve the public’s business, I am sending this to you via the public on the Internet. I knew your brother John. He was a great guy, and I know he would’ve had a ball during this thrilling and historic election year. We all miss him dearly.

Barack Obama selected you to head up his search for a vice presidential candidate. It appears we may be just days (hours?) away from learning who that choice will be.

The media is reporting that Senator Obama has narrowed his alternatives to three men: Joe Biden, Evan Bayh and Tim Kaine. They’re all decent fellows, but they are far from the core of what the Obama campaign has been about: Change. Real change. Out with the old. And don’t invade countries that pose no threat to us.

Senators Biden and Bayh voted for that invasion and that war, the war Barack ran against, the war Barack reminded us was the big difference between him and Senator Clinton because she voted for the war and he spoke out against it while running for Senate (a brave and bold thing to do back in 2002).

For Obama to place either of these senators on the ticket would be a huge blow to the millions that chose him in the primaries over Hillary. He will undercut one of the strongest advantages he has over the Hundred-Year War senator, Mr. McCain. By anointing a VP who did what McCain did in throwing us into this war, Mr. Obama will lose the moral high ground in the debates.

As for Governor Kaine of Virginia, his big problem is, well, Obama’s big problem — who is he? The toughest thing Barack has had to overcome — and it will continue to be his biggest obstacle — is that too many of the voters simply don’t know him well enough to vote for him. The fact that Obama is new to the scene is both one of his most attractive qualities AND his biggest drawback. Too many Americans, who on the surface seem to like Barack Obama, just don’t feel comfortable voting for someone who hasn’t been on the national scene very long. It’s a comfort level thing, and it may be just what keeps Obama from winning in November (“I’d rather vote for the devil I know than the devil I don’t know”).

What Obama needs is a vice presidential candidate who is NOT a professional politician, but someone who is well-known and beloved by people across the political spectrum; someone who, like Obama, spoke out against the war; someone who has a good and generous heart, who will be cheered by the rest of the world; someone whom we’ve known and loved and admired all our lives and who has dedicated her life to public service and to the greater good for all.

That person, Caroline, is you.

I cannot think of a more winning ticket than one that reads: “OBAMA-KENNEDY.”

Caroline, I know that nominating yourself is the furthest idea from your mind and not consistent with who you are, but there would be some poetic justice to such an action. Just think, eight years after the last head of a vice presidential search team looked far and wide for a VP — and then picked himself (a move topped only by his hubris to then lead the country to near ruin while in office) — along comes Caroline Kennedy to return the favor with far different results, a vice president who helps restore America to its goodness and greatness.

Caroline, you are one of the most beloved and respected women in this country, and you have been so admired throughout your life. You chose a life outside of politics, to work for charities and schools, to write and lecture, to raise a wonderful family. But you did not choose to lead a private life. You have traveled the world and met with its leaders, giving you much experience on the world stage, a stage you have been on since you were a little girl.

The nation has, remarkably (considering our fascination with celebrity), left you alone and let you live your life in peace. (It’s like, long ago, we all collectively agreed that, with her father tragically gone, a man who died because he wanted to serve his country, we would look out for her, we would wish for her to be happy and well, and we would have her back. But we would let her be.)

Now, I am breaking this unwritten code and asking you to come forward and help us in our hour of need. So many families are hurting, losing their homes, going bankrupt with health care bills, seeing their public schools in shambles and living with this war without end. This is a historic year for women, from Hillary’s candidacy to the numerous women running for the House and Senate. This is the year that a woman should be on the Democratic ticket. This is the year that both names on that ticket should be people OUTSIDE the party machine. This is the year millions of independents and, yes, millions of Republicans are looking for something new and fresh and bold (and you are the Kennedy Republicans would vote for!).

This is the moment, Caroline. Seize it! And Barack, if you’re reading this, you probably know that she is far too humble and decent to nominate herself. So step up and surprise us again. Step up and be different than every politician we have witnessed in our lifetime. Keep the passion burning amongst the young people and others who have been energized by your unexpected, unpredicted, against-all-odds candidacy that has ignited and inspired a nation. Do it for all those reasons. Make Caroline Kennedy your VP. “Obama-Kennedy.” Wow, does that sound so cool.

Caroline, thanks for letting me intrude on your life. How wonderful it will be to have a vice president who will respect the Constitution, who will support (instead of control) her president, who will never let her staff out a CIA agent, and who will never tell her country that she is “currently residing in an undisclosed location.”

Say it one more time: “OBAMA-KENNEDY.” A move like that might send a message to the country that the Democrats would actually like to win an election for once.

Michael Moore

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Chris Floyd: Italia lidera la revancha fascista en las democracias occidentales

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

El primer artículo firmado que publiqué en un periódico tuvo que ver con el ascenso de partidos políticos en Italia que orgullosamente proclamaban su descendencia de los fascistas de Benito Mussolini. Fue hace casi 30 años, cuando los recuerdos de la era fascista en Italia y Alemania estaban todavía relativamente frescos: no había que ser muy viejo – apenas de mediana edad – para recordar haber crecido bajo esos regímenes o haber sido afectado por su sombra de una u otra manera. Y, desde luego, los regímenes en España y Portugal sólo habían terminado unos pocos años antes de que apareciera el artículo. De modo que el surgimiento de partidos importantes abiertamente neo-fascistas en Italia – la cuna del movimiento – fue un verdadero choque en esos días.

Ya no choca, claro está. Durante los últimos 14 años, la política italiana ha sido dominada por un bloque alineado con los fascistas, dirigido por un malafamado oligarca, Silvio Berlusconi. Una breve descripción del dudoso neo-Duce que escribí hace cinco años para Bergen Record – en ocasión de la visita de Berlusconi al rancho Crawford de su buen amigo, el malafamado oligarca George W. Bush – sigue valiendo hoy en día:

Berlusconi es el hombre más rico de Italia, un magnate de los medios que ahora controla un 90% de los medios audiovisuales de la nación y gran parte de los medios impresos – periódicos, revistas, y libros – así como al principal equipo deportivo de Italia, la mayor firma de servicios financieros y una vasta cartera de otros fondos financieros. Su primer período en el poder terminó en un revoltijo de procesos por corrupción; el segundo ha sido marcado por una torpe manipulación de los medios y un chocante uso de su mayoría parlamentaria para amañar leyes que lo eximen a él y a sus compinches de procesamientos actuales y de futuras investigaciones.

Gobierna Italia mediante una coalición derechista que incluye a un partido que se proclama “sucesor” de la siniestra facción del dictador fascista Benito Mussolini. Ha renegado rotundamente de sus anteriores promesas de desprenderse de sus propiedades en los medios, mientras conduce una implacable campaña orientada a debilitar la autoridad del sistema judicial de Italia, un baluarte del sistema democrático nacional en permanente turbulencia. Ha despedido a periodistas de la red estatal de televisión de Italia por criticar a su gobierno – un acto de libre expresión que Berlusconi calificó de “criminal.”

Berlusconi fue expulsado de su puesto en 2006, pero volvió al poder este año encabezando su coalición de línea más dura hasta la fecha. Y hogaño – en nuestro mundo post-11-S, cuando los gobiernos occidentales han adoptado como nunca antes la agresión, el autoritarismo y la adoración del poder brutal – no es necesario que los camisas negras de Berlusconi garrapiñen sus tendencias fascistas. Sin embargo, aunque hemos aprendido a esperar lo peor de nuestras democracias degeneradas (y pocas veces nos desilusionan), sigue siendo una especie de choque cuando se ve que Italia resucita una de las políticas más brutales del fascismo, la satanización oficial de todo un grupo étnico – de uno de los objetivos históricos más afectados: los gitanos. Seamus Milne informa en el Guardian:

En el corazón de Europa, la policía ha comenzado a tomar huellas digitales de niños por su raza – con apenas un murmullo de protesta de gobiernos europeos. La semana pasada, el nuevo gobierno derechista de Silvio Berlusconi anunció planes para realizar un registro nacional de todos los gitanos – gente roma y sinti – estimados en unos 150.000 – sean nacidos en Italia o inmigrantes. El ministro del Interior y luminaria central de la xenófoba Liga Norte, Roberto Maroni, insistió en que la toma de huellas digitales de todos los roma, incluyendo a niños, era necesaria para “impedir el pordioseo” y, si era necesaria, apartar a los niños de sus padres.

La campaña étnica de toma de huellas digitales forma parte de una medida de fuerza contra los tres millones y medio de inmigrantes de Italia, en su mayoría legales, realizada en una atmósfera de retórica cada vez más histérica sobre crimen y seguridad. Pero los vituperados roma, cuyas familias han estado, en algunos casos, en Italia desde la Edad Media, sufren la peor parte. El objetivo es clausurar 700 campos de okupas roma y obligar a sus habitantes a abandonar las ciudades o el país. Durante la misma semana en la que Maroni defendió sus planes de registro racial en el parlamento, la máxima corte de apelaciones de Italia dictaminó que era aceptable que se discriminara a los roma sobre la base de que “todos los gitanos son ladrones,” no debido a su “naturaleza gitana.”

Redadas oficiales y cierres forzados de campamentos de los roma han sido salpicados de ataques por grupos de energúmenos vigilantes. En mayo, rumores del secuestro de una bebé por una mujer gitana en Nápoles provocó una orgía de violencia racista contra campamentos de los roma por matones que enarbolaban barras de hierro, incendiaron caravanas y expulsaron a gitanos de sus chabolas en docenas de ataques, orquestados por la mafia local, la Camorra. ¿La reacción del gobierno de Berlusconi a los ataques incendiarios y la limpieza étnica? “Es lo que pasa cuando los gitanos roban bebés,” se desentendió Maroni; mientras su colega en el gabinete y líder de la Liga Norte, Umberto Bossi, declaraba: “La gente hace lo que la clase política no puede hacer.”

Hay que recordar que esto sucede en un Estado que bajo la dictadura fascista de Benito Mussolini jugó un rol obsecuente en el Holocausto, en el que se calcula que murió un millón de gitanos como seres “subhumanos” junto al genocidio nazi cometido contra los judíos. Las primeras expulsiones de gitanos por Mussolini ya tuvieron lugar en 1926. Ahora los herederos políticos del dictador, la pos-fascista Alianza Nacional, son miembros de la coalición de gobierno de Berlusconi. En caso de que alguien no se haya dado cuenta, cuando Gianni Alemanno, de la Alianza, fue elegido alcalde de Roma en abril, sus partidarios hicieron el saludo fascista gritando “Duce” (equivalente al “Führer” alemán) y Berlusconi se entusiasmó: “Somos la nueva Falange” (El partido fascista español del general Franco).

Como señala Milne, esta revancha fascista no ha provocado la menor protesta de los dirigentes del “mundo libre.” Por cierto, la semana pasada saludaron con los brazos abiertos el retorno de Berlusconi al círculo dorado de los supremos del G-8. Bush fue el más entusiasta de todos, saludando a su viejo amigo y socio en crímenes de guerra con gritos exaltados de “¡Amigo!” (Bueno, en todo caso es una palabra extranjera, no del todo italiana), para luego compadecerse por sus continuos procesamientos penales (de los que, una vez más, trata de librarse utilizando poderes estatales). “Leí que los tribunales lo están persiguiendo de nuevo,” dijo el violador de leyes estadounidense al sórdido mercader italiano. “Es increíble. Nunca he visto nada parecido. Lo persiguen constantemente.” (Sólo se puede esperar que implacables fiscales también “persigan constantemente” a Bush en los años por venir.)


Pero Milne hace otra observación. El ascenso del neofascismo en Italia, y en otros sitios, tiene que ver con el colapso – o más bien la capitulación – de los partidos de centroizquierda ante las perniciosas doctrinas de la derecha. Por doquier, esos partidos – los demócratas en EE.UU., los laboristas en el Reino Unido, diversos socialdemócratas en toda Europa – se han convertido en deslucidas copias de partidos conservadores, adoptando políticas que han degradado la sociedad, destruido comunidades, reforzado la injusticia, recompensado la codicia, envenenado la tierra, apoyado el militarismo y la agresión, infligido vastos sufrimientos a naciones en desarrollo (a través de la camisa de fuerza de las “reformas de mercado,” es decir el bienestar de cómplices de las corporaciones), subvertido la democracia, disminuido la libertad y aniquilado la noción misma del bien común.

[Sin embargo, somos demasiado benévolos al calificar este proceso de “capitulación.” Como ha señalado muchas veces Arthur Silber, los demócratas – y el nuevo laborismo y otros cobardes partidos de centroizquierda – han apoyado la agenda derechista de la dominación elitista, del militarismo y del desdén por el bien común porque están de acuerdo con ella. Toda personalidad con puntos de vista auténticamente “progresistas” ha sido segregada y discriminada por la maquinaria del gran dinero que dirige a los partidos. Gente semejante constituye siempre una minoría entre las facciones egoístas que compiten por dominar los asuntos de una nación. Pero solía haber una minoría más sustancial de personas semejantes en la política de EE.UU., con suficiente influencia como para afectar a veces la política nacional e incluso lograr algunos éxitos. Pero esa variedad ha sido casi totalmente expurgada, como lo hemos visto en el último Congreso demócrata – el Congreso más criticado e impopular de la historia de EE.UU.]

Volviendo a Milne:

… el mismo fenómeno puede ser visto en diversos grados por toda Europa, donde están en marcha partidos racistas e islamófobos: por ejemplo el Partido del Pueblo Suizo de extrema derecha, que logró el martes recolectar suficientes firmas para imponer un referendo sobre la prohibición de minaretes en todo el país. En Gran Bretaña, como subrayó la cinta sobre la islamofobia de Peter Oborne en Channel 4, una mendaz campaña mediática y política ha alimentado la hostilidad y la violencia antimusulmana desde los atentados de 2005 en Londres – igual como la hostilidad contra los solicitantes de asilo fue provocada en los años noventa. La degeneración social y democrática a la que ha llegado Italia puede ocurrir en cualquier sitio en el clima existente.

Italia suministra otra lección para Gran Bretaña y el resto de Europa. La victoria electoral de Berlusconi en abril se basó en el colapso de la confianza en el gobierno de centroizquierda de Romano Prodi, que se aferró a un limitado programa neoliberal y fracasó miserablemente en el cumplimiento de sus promesas a sus propios electores. Mientras tanto, políticos de centroizquierda como Walter Veltroni, el ex alcalde de Roma, hicieron el juego a la agenda xenófoba de los partidos derechistas en lugar de enfrentarla – destruyendo campamentos gitanos y afirmando de modo absurdo el año pasado que un 75% de todos los crímenes eran cometidos por rumanos (confundidos a menudo con los roma en Italia).

Lo que realmente se requería, como en el caso de otros países que tienen inmigración en gran escala, era acción pública para suministrar viviendas y puestos de trabajo decentes, medidas enérgicas contra la explotación de trabajadores inmigrantes y apoyo al desarrollo de los vecinos de Europa. Ahora se ha perdido esa oportunidad, ya que Italia sufre un espasmo aciago y retrógrado. La persecución de los gitanos es una vergüenza para Italia – y una advertencia para todos nosotros.

En la actual campaña presidencial de EE.UU., podemos ver que esta dinámica de colaboración de centroizquierda con la derecha – que ha estado teniendo lugar durante casi un cuarto de siglo en ese país – se desarrolla de nuevo. La “oleada” de Barack Obama hacia la derecha – como lo muestra su voto a favor de la tiránica medida de la FISA [Ley de Vigilancia de Inteligencia Extranjera] – es sólo otra repetición de este proceso. De la misma manera, su apoyo a la Guerra contra el Terror; es verdad, quiere hacerla de un modo “mas eficiente,” y tal vez agregar unos pocos objetivos más – en Pakistán, digamos – pero quiere realizarla. No oculta que quiere continuar ese proyecto militarista, que ya ha matado a cientos de miles de personas inocentes, llevado a la bancarrota el tesoro nacional, y ahora – con el aumento del precio del petróleo debido a la Guerra contra el Terror – estrangulado toda la economía nacional. Todo esto – especialmente el continuo embrutecimiento y vulgarización de la idiosincrasia nacional – es precisamente lo que se requiere para alimentar el neofascismo.

Y ya se está atiborrando en su patria ancestral. Haciendo redadas de niños gitanos, tomando sus huellas digitales, expulsándolos de sus casas, aplaudiendo pogromos – como dijera Faulkner: el pasado nunca se muere; ni siquiera es pasado.


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A la hora del café, ya nadie pide un expreso en la mesa 17. Ilan Stavans sale del taxi con aspecto de guiri, camisa en tonos verdes y maletón de los que hay que facturar sí o sí. Viene de Barcelona; antes, de Chile y antes de eso, de Massachusetts. Pasa por Madrid fugazmente antes de volar otra vez hacia Tel Aviv. Sólo las gafas denotan su naturaleza profesoral. Aterriza en el céntrico Café Gijón de Madrid, un lugar de reminiscencias literarias donde el camarero de turno se inquieta por el abultado equipaje y la estrecha comanda. Ilan Stavans pide una gaseosa y le traen un agua mineral con gas. El avión y los aeropuertos le han deshidratado. La funcionaria de la Embajada americana que nos ha puesto a tiro a este lingüista titular de la pionera cátedra de Spanglish de la Universidad de Massachusetts ha pedido una tónica. Cuenta que al día siguiente Ilan Stavans concederá dos entrevistas a Radio Sefarad de Madrid; una en español sobre temas culturales; otra en inglés, sobre asuntos varios.

Stavans (México, 1961) trabaja ahora en la literatura judía de la diáspora, pero también es escritor, crítico cultural, lingüista (ya está dicho) y especialista en Spanglish, que es la faceta que más impresiona aquí y la que mayor desprecio le ha reportado. La traducción al spanglish de Don Quijote de la Mancha, “of which nombre no quiero remembrearme”, es para muchos puristas un sacrilegio o, peor todavía, una auténtica chorrada. “To come to España y hablar de spanglish es ser Quixote”, confiesa. “People in la Península just don’t get it, no les entra en la head que en los Unaited Estados la civilización latina is a new way de ser hispano. Ser atacado is an inspiration”.

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J. Jesús Esquivel:Obama, primer candidato afroamericano a la presidencia de EU

Washington, 3 de junio (apro).- En un hecho que quedara plasmado en los libros de historia de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, se convirtió no sólo en el candidato presidencial del Partido Demócrata, sino en el primer afroamericano con posibilidad de ocupar el Poder Ejecutivo en la Casa Blanca.

“Esta noche marcamos el final de un viaje histórico y el inicio de otro… Puedo decir esta noche que seré el candidato demócrata a la presidencia de Estados Unidos”, declaró Obama ante unas 20 mil personas que acudieron al centro Excel de Saint Paul, Minnessota, para acompañar al candidato que marcó un nuevo capítulo en la reciente historia mundial.

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Emilio Menéndez Del Valle :Casi todos hablan con Dios en Estados Unidos

En la política del gran país norteamericano, el fundamentalismo religioso tiene una influencia sin parangón en cualquier otra nación avanzada. La religión vuelve a ocupar un gran papel en la campaña electoral

De una u otra manera, la religión ha impregnado el tejido social norteamericano desde que los peregrinos puritanos llegaron al país. Si bien el lema Confiamos en Dios que figura en la moneda norteamericana fue inspirado por el presidente Lincoln en la segunda mitad del siglo XIX, 30 años antes Alexis de Tocqueville ya se manifestaba asombrado por la “intensa religiosidad que todo lo invade” en aquellas tierras. Y la modernidad ha conocido desde el formidable discurso del presidente Kennedy en 1960 sobre la separación de poderes entre Iglesia y Estado hasta el relato de Kevin Phillips en su libro American Democracy, que describe a George W. Bush como “fundador del primer partido religioso norteamericano”. En realidad, Bush ha creado una presidencia basada en la fe.

John Kennedy tenía base suficiente para mostrarse tajante en este asunto, pues los Padres Fundadores habían establecido una clara línea divisoria entre Estado e iglesias, pero, aunque en teoría dicho principio ha sido aceptado por todos, es motivo de controversia. Como recuerda John Gray, si bien constitucionalmente están separados (además ni la religión ni Dios figuran en la Constitución), el fundamentalismo religioso tiene una influencia normativa en la política sin parangón en cualquier otro país avanzado. En la campaña electoral de estos meses la religión, en lugar de desvanecerse o retirarse al ámbito privado, ha ocupado el núcleo de la política.

Uno de los más relevantes fundadores de la República, Thomas Jefferson -cuyo activismo político no consistía en potenciar a Dios sino en negar la autoridad del rey de Inglaterra, y que cuando defendía los derechos inalienables del naciente pueblo republicano lo hacía al margen de cualquier creencia religiosa-, se habría quedado atónito ante la invasión de la política por la religión durante las últimas décadas. Es cierto que la Constitución, precisamente por exigir la separación, ha protegido a las iglesias de cualquier acto invasivo del Estado, pero hay que recordar que la idea de libertad individual no nació de la religión sino precisamente de la lucha contra ella. De ahí que convenga resaltar que cuando los cristianos fundamentalistas norteamericanos se sirven de la teocracia bíblica como de un manual de política contemporánea, atentan contra la libertad y los principios democráticos.

Llama la atención en Europa que sólo el 26% de los norteamericanos piense que sus dirigentes políticos expresan en demasía sus creencias religiosas personales o que tres de cada cuatro estimen que el presidente ha de tener fuertes sentimientos religiosos. En definitiva, la mayoría de los ciudadanos exige la presencia de la religión en la política. Parece que ello ha llevado al candidato republicano McCain, anglicano que siempre ha pensado que la religión es asunto privado, a sacar partido de la circunstancia. En línea similar se ha movido Obama y, por supuesto, Clinton.

No obstante, los liberales en sentido yanqui han comenzado a trillar ese campo como reacción a la ofensiva de la derecha. En 1960, el mismo año del discurso de Kennedy, ya el predicador fanático Billy Graham -del que Bush se dice seguidor- se dirigía por correo a dos millones de familias adoctrinándoles para que en sus eventos dominicales indicaran a los cristianos la dirección de su voto.

Más que nunca, en esta larga campaña electoral -y aunque Dios no debería ser ni demócrata ni republicano- todos los candidatos conectan con él. Las citas textuales así lo ilustran. El presidente Bush tiene especial protagonismo y relación con la divinidad a propósito de Irak. Está claro que desde el principio persiguió disfrazar de fe religiosa la invasión de Irak. Con soltura, en octubre de 2005 dijo que Dios le había pedido acabar con la tiranía en Irak. Con idéntico desparpajo, dos meses después, declaró a Fox News: “De alguna manera, Dios dirige las decisiones políticas adoptadas en la Casa Blanca”. En un chiste memorable publicado en The New York Times, un consejero dice a Bush: “Señor presidente, cuando Dios le pidió que invadiera Irak, ¿le dio alguna idea sobre cómo salir de allí?”.

Todo esto puede parecer incomprensible a muchos europeos, pero no a muchos norteamericanos, incluida la mayoría de las iglesias evangélicas (un cuarto del electorado) que siguen al partido republicano, que han seguido a Bush y que manifiestan: “Nuestro presidente es un auténtico hermano en Cristo y puesto que ha llegado a la conclusión de que la voluntad de Dios es que nuestra nación esté en guerra con Irak, con gusto cumpliremos”.

El actual presidente ha querido resaltar esa relación especial: “El rezo y la religión me sostienen. No veo cómo se puede ser presidente sin una relación con Dios”. O también: “Estados Unidos promueve el papel de la fe en la plaza pública”. Y la comunidad evangélica tiene un notable activismo político: “Dios está a favor de la guerra”, citando Éxodo 15-3, o “Yavé es un fuerte guerrero”. “La invasión americana de Irak creará nuevas y excitantes posibilidades de convertir a los musulmanes”, dijo impertérrito Marvin Olasky, entonces consejero de Bush para “una política basada en la fe”.

Y a todo esto, ¿qué es de los demócratas? En 2004, John Kerry optó por decir que había sido monaguillo -“la verdad es que la fe afecta a todo lo que hago”, decía mientras visitaba iglesias y citaba la Biblia-. Un asesor llegó a decir que “el senador Kerry se siente cada vez más cómodo hablando públicamente de Dios y su fe”.

De Hillary, sus biógrafos decían en 2007 que es la demócrata más religiosa desde Carter, pero que no va con la religión por delante. Sin embargo, tal como está el patio, en un reciente debate con Obama sobre Fe y valores, manifestó que desde niña sentía “la presencia de Dios en su vida”.

Ya en 2007, Obama decidió que no tenía más remedio que entrar en el juego. Manifestó entonces que “la derecha religiosa ha secuestrado la fe y dividido al país”. Añadió, empero, que la religión tiene un papel que cumplir en la política, aunque -intentando fundir religión y progre-sismo- elogió a los creyentes que “usan su influencia para unir a los americanos contra la pobreza, el sida y la violencia en Darfur”.

En los últimos meses se está iniciando en la derecha religiosa evangélica una significativa movida que reflejan oportunamente las encuestas. Según las mismas, una parte muy importante -aunque todavía no mayoritaria- de los electores evangélicos está evolucionando de forma radical. Una de ellas asegura que un tercio de los evangélicos opina ahora que el activismo político es dañino. Los directores de dicho sondeo interpretan que los encuestados han comenzado a percatarse de que la fusión de Bush y Jesucristo “perjudica a la cristiandad”. Otra encuesta concluye que el 75% de los jóvenes no religiosos y la mitad de los que van a misa manifiestan que las iglesias cristianas están hoy en día “demasiado implicadas en la política”. Además, el 20% de los evangélicos sondeados piensa que haber asumido el programa político conservador “ha contribuido a destruir la imagen de Jesucristo”.

Hablando de jóvenes y de Jesús, Relevant, una revista dedicada a los evangélicos menores de 25 años, preguntó en febrero a su audiencia por quién votaría Jesús en los comicios de noviembre. La mayoría respondió que por Obama. Y añadió que estaba en contra de la guerra de Irak.

Aún más sintomático: otra encuesta de marzo descubre un creciente interés del mundo evangélico por los temas sociales y concluye (otras fuentes son menos contundentes) que hoy en día el tema de mayor relevancia moral no es el aborto, sino la desigualdad socioeconómica entre Estados Unidos y Europa, de un lado, y el mundo subdesarrollado, de otro. Tal vez Obama se apoya en todo esto cuando elogia a los creyentes que usan su influencia para unir a los americanos contra la pobreza.

En cualquier caso, ¿será verdad que Europa y Estados Unidos comparten valores comunes? ¿Es creíble este contradictorio conglomerado de impresiones, valores y creencias? En EE UU lo es y desde luego muchos parecen hablar con Dios. En Europa somos más humildes y ni siquiera lo intentamos. Muchos vivimos como Edward, ese personaje de Ian McEwan en Chesil Beach que manifestaba estar agradecido de vivir en una época (la Inglaterra de McMillan en los años sesenta, los Estados Unidos de Kennedy) en que la religión se había vuelto, en general, irrelevante.

Emilio Menéndez del Valle es embajador de España y eurodiputado socialista.


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Sarah Churchwell: The big issue in America is not race, it’s class

They’re calling it bold, audacious and risky, a political milestone and the most important speech on American race relations since Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed that his children might be judged by the contents of their character, rather than the colour of their skin. But according to the pundits, the power of Barack Obama’s epochal “race address” will be gauged by “white males, especially working-class males”.

“Will it win over the blue-collar white males who have been trending toward his opponent, or drive them away?” wondered Newsweek. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quoted “a top pol” who felt that the controversy over Reverend Wright’s sermon had transformed Obama “in the minds of some working-class and crossover white voters from ‘a Harvard law graduate into a South Side Black Panther'”. It sounds like the set-up to a joke, but it’s all too serious. Question: what is the difference between a Harvard Law grad and a South Side militant? Answer: class.

Everywhere Obama is praised for “telling the truth about race” – but the success of his “race speech” is incessantly measured along class lines, because Obama actually charted a course through the crisscrossing lines of race and class, a complex social web that he described with great delicacy, but never came out and named.

What was most remarkable about this speech to my mind was not that Obama confronted race “head-on” (although that has certainly become uncommon in recent years) but that he repeatedly, and correctly, called race “a distraction,” on both sides of the colour line, from class issues: “Just as black anger often proved counter-productive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favour the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognising they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide.”

In one sense, Obama’s point couldn’t be clearer: race is a distraction from class-based inequities. And if we dismiss working-class resentment as camouflaged racism, we will continue to be distracted by the spectre of race. So why has no one noticed that the much-vaunted “race speech” is also a class speech? The answer to that is very complicated, but its roots may be traced in large part to what Obama referred to as the nation’s “original sin” of slavery. In order to tell the truth about race in America, we need to tell the truth about slavery: which is that slavery was not racially motivated – it was economically motivated, and justified by means of race.

Race was invented in order to rationalise slavery: if black people are inferior, they deserve enslavement (or so went the logic). Racism is an effect of slavery, not the other way around. Once slavery was abolished, not only did racism not disappear, neither did the economic system it upheld. Slavery was simply replaced by a new feudal system known as sharecropping, which Jim Crow helped sustain. The legacy of slavery comes from the sustained political, legal and economic effort to link permanently an entire group of people to poverty – and to mystify that systematic disenfranchisement by making up something called race, which could serve as a distraction.

Black people in America remain, to a large extent, an underclass. But they are not co-extensive with the underclass. There are rich, powerful black people (take a bow, Condoleezza). And we have a significant white underclass, too, one which has been given different names, in different colours – white trash, rednecks, blue-collar. What they all share is the experience of economic deprivation, which is why 10 years ago Toni Morrison could call Bill Clinton “the first black president,” because, she said, he showed all the signs: “single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas”. The only sign he doesn’t show is colour: because race in America is overwhelmingly defined by economic conditions.

To be absolutely clear: I am not saying that race per se doesn’t exist, or isn’t a problem in America. On the contrary. But we will never solve the problem of race in America until we do exactly what Obama suggests: see it for the distraction it is. It was invented to deflect attention away from economic, legal and political inequalities. And the longer that the Democrats ponder the complexities of identity politics, the more distracted they will become from the issues that are actually driving voters – including their utter disillusionment with the current administration and its catastrophic policies.

Democrats need to keep their eyes on the prize – beating McCain in November. The irony is that Obama’s speech urging us not to be distracted by race has so far had quite the opposite effect. Obama now needs to confront with equal candour the lesson we were taught by that “first black president”: it’s the economy, stupid.

* The Independent
* http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/sarah-churchwell-the-big-issue-in-america-is-not-race-its-class-800223.html
* Sarah Churchwell is a senior lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of East Anglia

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