No Unrest (Yet) for Restless U.S.

My radical idealism would normally lead me to argue the other side of this debate, but I firmly believe that no rebellion, at least in the outward sense of the word, will occur under an Obama administration, which is all but guaranteed to extend another four years.

I could go into my thinking around the election in 2012, but I will save that for another forum. Suffice it to say Obama is more marketable to a diverse audience (i.e. the American people) than any of the Republican candidates, and because he lacks either the courage or the willingness to stand up to the power structure, the only pressure he truly has to worry about is from below.

Yet the people are largely silent. This I attribute to the mind-numbing, complacency-inducing “electronic devices” (i.e. cell phones, computers, video games, iPods, television) Aldous Huxley warned us about decades ago. Then there’s ongoing social stratification, which leads the most oppressed elements (i.e. people of color, particularly poor people of color) in our society to defend rather than oppose Obama and the status quo. Moreover, having a black face on the American government gives whites an excuse to give up the fight for social justice. The thinking goes like this: There is a black man in the White House; therefore, racism is dying, if not dead already. Despite what the mainstream media would have us believe, Obama has been far more of an obstacle to progressivism and radicalism than he has ever been to conservatism or chauvinism. He is the main reason why the streets are silent in my opinion.

Now some may be upset that I choose to call “rebellion” what others would call “rioting,” but I am merely placing the same phenomenon in a political context. The term “rioting” implies randomness or craziness, and I am not so arrogant as to call those who are merely responding to the oppression of the state “crazy” or “random” in their actions — violent as their responses may sometimes be. The violence of the police that set the Tottenham “riots” off in the first place was not so widely condemned, even though it cost the life of an unarmed man. Martin Luther King himself, even as a strictly nonviolent actor, recognized the circumstances that led to the violence in black ghettos during his time. In his final book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, he condemned the tactics but not the spirit of those who participated. To an abused and/or neglected human being, violence is a cry for help.

I’m sure many will argue, and rightfully so, that the American people need help more than ever. I could cite numerous statistics on poverty, inequality of income, joblessness (which personally has affected me a great deal), illegitimacy, ill health, police brutality (much of it occurring right here in D.C.) and even hopelessness, but it wouldn’t help my argument to do so, and it also misses the point entirely. Terrible social, economic, and political conditions only signify the likelihood of some form of resistance — not necessarily violent resistance or open rebellion, violent or otherwise. At the risk of sounding naïve, I am hopeful that the American people have learned enough from the past and from their brethren across the Atlantic and in other places that rebellion, particularly of the violent, unplanned, and sporadic sort, will not create a better society. Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was about inner revolution — revolution that cannot be witnessed, monitored, or suppressed. True outer revolution presupposes true inner revolution, and I believe that the American people still have a long way to go — but because most of us have learned to reject violence and acts of vandalism as useful tactics for constructive change, we have decided to hold out for something better. We have decided to hold out for a force more powerful than that which guides a typical rebellion or riot.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Matthew Johnson

Matthew Johnson is a blogger, educator, activist, and public intellectual. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Maryland and is currently pursuing a Master's in Social Work from Howard University. He resides in Washington, D.C. More of his work can be found at http://brerrabbitredux.wordpress.com

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