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President Obama and the Future of Activism

President Obama and the Future of Activism

Today, Barack Obama takes the presidential oath of office, and with him we hope to see a huge change from the dangerous and incompetent years of George W. Bush. And while many people have great faith for this new administration, we must remember that Obama is still a politician, will still face enormous political and economic pressures from right-wingers, and is facing some of the worst national and international crises that the United States has ever faced.

But the answer to this is not to sit back and trust in Barack Obama to save us. The answer is to turn on the pressure from day one.

Optimistic activists believe that Obama is on their side. They believe that he wants to roll back the destruction from the Bush era, he wants to reform the country, and make it more democratic, free, and secure. But even optimists must accept the fact that Obama will face intense pressure from powerful people, organizations and movements that oppose those exact same goals. So optimistic activists should agree that we need to mobilize to make our demands known, so that Barack Obama has a visible, massive, popular mandate to give him the political will to take on these fights.

More cynical activists see Barack Obama as a politician who is both skilled and intelligent, but who does not represent that sweeping change that we all have been hoping for. These activists should agree that this means that we need to put popular pressure on Obama the politician to keep his promises, and force him to do the right thing.

We have already seen one example of people successfully pressuring Obama. On January 11, Obama began to back away from the promise to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, claiming that it was “difficult” and would “take some time”. Writers, activists, civil rights groups, and human rights organizations were outraged, and made their outrage known immediately. And on January 13, just two days later, the Obama transition team switched course, and announced that the president-elect would sign an executive order to close Guantánamo on his very first day in office.

Why did Obama change his tune? Because of popular pressure. Whether you believe in the goodness of Barack Obama or not, you have to see the importance of getting loud and staying loud in the name of justice.

If that doesn’t sway you, then please read these two examples, here and here, of similar situations from America’s past. Both are examples of former president Franklin Roosevelt refusing to take action (for better or for worse) until he was faced with enough political pressure to do so. The winning quote:

“In one situation, a group came to [President Roosevelt] urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: ‘I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.’”

It should be mentioned, of course, that the world we seek, where justice and freedom rule the land, is not solely a matter for governments and presidents. Many of our battles must be fought on local soil, against local politicians and corporations, against bigots and corruption. And some of goals are not achieved through conflict, but by helping our fellow man and working to build new institutions and more just, sustainable communities. Right now, without petitioning the new US president, you can work to feed hungry people in your hometown. Right now, you could be pushing your city government to spend more money on housing for the homeless. Right now, you could be fighting for livable wages for workers in sweatshops around the world. Right now, you could be pushing for products, practices, and policies that don’t degrade our environment. Right now, you could be standing up against sexism, racism, and homophobia in your family, school, or workplace.

And right now, you could be getting ready to push this president, push this nation, and push this world in new directions that are better for all people.

Activism is not a sprint; it’s a marathon run. We need people with strength, intelligence, passion, and endurance. Slapping an Obama bumper sticker on your car was just the first step of a long, long race, and we hope you’ll join us to the very end.

Party at the finish line, people.

11 Responses to “President Obama and the Future of Activism”

  1. not4man2rule says:

    How long will it take for people to see that it doesn’t belong to us to rule ourselves? Every form of government has been tried and has failed. Can’t even cure the common cold! Obama is just another man to continue our pain.
    From mankind’s beginning we have dominated ourselves to our own injury. Over what? Power, property, money, oil! It all stems from greed! Many people want to do something to make a change for the good. But they don’t have the power! How many people have died for country, for a belief in what they were convinced was the right thing to do, for their “God”? Religion has had their hands stained with blood for centuries. Our World Wars have had the blessings of Popes and Deacons. Religious leaders blessing one side while other religious leaders blessing the other side. They’re all blood guilty! Allah approves of suicide bombers, while the U.S. believes they have “God” on their side. How arrogant man is to think that The True God approves of any of it let alone bless any of it!
    Soon, the United Nations will destroy all of religion. They have meddled in politics for too long and the governments are sick of it! The UN has the power to do it and what is more, the people will be behind them 100%. We are all sick of the wars fought “in the name of God”. United Nations – Get on with it already!

  2. Misanthropy says:

    nice speech get this guy a mic and a stage :D

  3. loveisliberation says:

    What we need is a equilibrium between right and left. When the 60’s and 70’s hit, morals and ethical veiws all changed. Thus the right and left view were even more commercialized and brought to attention since there “debut” in the 1800’s with the Civil War and Slavery. Obama cannot possibly do anything without permission from the public, and most of all, the House and all the other “right people for the job” So if we want to do anything, contact congressmen, governors, and write letters, protest, stand up for yourselves and by the way, do NOT sit back and let a poly-tick solve anything for you.

    Love by all means will cure Hate.

    Peace, Love, and Prayers

  4. rittmeister says:

    3RD paragraph, 2ND sentence - “make it more democractic, free and secure.”

    This world is UPSIDE DOWN and BENT.

  5. Lord Of Sea Bass says:

    “Allah approves of suicide bombers, while the U.S. believes they have “God” on their side.”

    No where in Islam does it say that suicide bombing is right, it says that killing is bad. George Bush went to war because he thought God told him to. Just because he said that doesnt mean God told him to do it, whether you believe in a god or not, I doubt God would aprove of teh Iraq war.

    Religions are the man made rules that form a shell around the beliefs and faiths. Religion is what sets other people apart. Brian “Head” Welch, a Christian and ex-member of Korn, wrote the song Die Religon Die about that very same thing, that religion sparates us. He wrote that song when he went to one church that told people to pray in one way, while another church didnt allow that sort of praying. So he though that is was stupid to have all these man made rules. Those are alost the man made rules that caused dispuites in the past. However, religion isnt the only thing to cause wars. There have been, oil, money, land or even for the sake of showing who’s “boss”. Alot of laws have been based on the laws of some faiths.

    Personally, I think whether a polititian is religious or not shouldnt matter. Just because someone believes in a greater being shouldnt mean they shouldnt be allowed to be involved in politics. Alot of inspirational people had faith, such as Martin Luther King Jr. In a free country, or free world, people should be able to practice any belief, be that Buhdist, Muslim, Sihk, Chritian, Jew, Jedi, or atheist.

  6. AndrewDeTomas says:

    Hey man the republicans aren’t the only ones who’ve messed up the democrats have to. Dude both sides are wrong. both are to busy worrying about how things are gunna work out for them and not the people. That’s why I say Fuck the Government because they aren’t thinking about THE PEOPLE.

  7. Dukka says:

    Ahhh hate to spoil ur day but the destruction continues even with the current administration. Idiots put too much faith in people running the government. They shit on a toilet just like you and me.

  8. Ante Delic says:

    Im from Croatia.
    And we in Croatia would really like to see RATM playing here.
    We contacted Lupa promtotions..organisation that brings bands in Croatia. They brought Metallica, U2, Rammstain, Iron Maiden…

    So please think about it.

  9. Where are you now? says:

    Where is the political hate speech albums you guys? Guantanamo is still open. There’s still a war in Iraq. Our beloved leader doesnt take questions from the media anymore. Or did you blow your load on the last president?

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About The Axis

Axis of Justice is a non-profit organization formed by Tom Morello and Serj Tankian. Its purpose is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice.

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