The song “Better Man” by Pearl Jam, about one woman’s inability to find a man who is not abusive, seems fitting in light of what is now the two choices for the next president–the hyper-masculine bully who would like to keep beating up the rest of the world, or the “better man” that, while not perfect in terms of his de-militarization stance, at least isn’t itching to expand the “war on terror” to Iran.
While as voters we will not be able to choose a candidate that does not at least partially endorse the abusive stance (and Hillary wouldn’t have given us this option either), we can at least try to choose the ‘better man.’ Now, I would have preferred the option of choosing a better woman such as Cynthia McKinney, but, like the song suggests, we can’t always get a ‘best’ option, only a better one.
Given the choices left, which would be better:
- A leader who argues for diplomacy or one who joked about renaming the Beach Boys’ song “Barbara Ann” to “Bomb Iran”
- A leader who supports a woman’s right to choose or one who is in favor of forced pregnancy
- A leader who criticizes the ultra-conservative supreme court justices or one who wants to appoint judges that “will Strictly Interpret the Law and not Legislate from the Bench” (i.e. nightmares like Roberts and Alito)
- A leader who shouts “We’re Americans and we’ll never surrender” or one who says “We are choosing hope over fear…unity over divisiveness.” (Who in Pearl Jam terms is the “better man”-the one who uses coercion and threats, or the one who suggests instilling fear is a problematic move that leads to divisiveness?)
- A leader who does not support worker’s rights but jives for corporatism or one who says we need “labor laws more conducive to allowing workers who want to get organized to organize – we’ve had one of the most anti-labor administrations in a very long time” (thanks to brownfemipower for this Obama quote)
Are such choices linked to the wider issues of Republican verses Democrat? Well, there are plenty of hyper-masculine abusers on the Democrat side as well. If we really wanted “better people” as leaders we would need to look beyond this one-party system posing as a two-party system and endorse leaders who are not corporatists, militarists, or panderers to AIPAC.
While for many who lean left voting for Obama will be a no-brainer, I think we need to assess how limited our choices really are. Obama is ‘better’ than McBush, but he, like all politicians, is at the mercy of Bilderberg, AIPAC, bio-pharm, etc. But, while (some of us) are awake to the groundbreaking facts of a woman and a bi-racial black man making it this far in the race, too many of us are asleep to the bigger corruption that plagues our nation (and the globe). We, like the woman in the “Better Man” song, practice our indignant speeches once in awhile but ultimately seem to be “rolling over” rather than inciting real change. However, also like the woman in the song, our abuser is formidable and uses all types of tactics to ‘keep us in line.’ Yet, as the Pearl Jam song warns, pretending to sleep is not a good option if you want to end the abuse:
Waitin’, watchin’ the clock
It’s four o’clock, it’s got to stop
Tell him, take no more
She practices her speech, as he opens the door
She rolls over
Pretends to sleep as he looks her over
She lies and says she’s in love with him
Can’t find a better man
She dreams in color, she dreams in red
Can’t find a better man, can’t find a better man
As citizens, we have been forced asleep by the propaganda machine. We may practice our free speech, until that is, ‘he’ opens the door and looks into our phone records, internet correspondence, and voting records. Many of us know that our civil liberties have been stripped via the Patriot Act, but we have to ‘lie’ and say we are in love with our country or risk being labeled terrorist traitors. We may have a dream U.S. in our minds, but the true version is a torture red, bleeding the globe dry in the name of corporate power. We, like the woman in the song, seem unable to find ‘a better man’ (or woman) to wake us from this nightmare.
The intimate partner violence the song documents may seem far different than the violence our imperialist leaders want to inflict on the world, but it is so only in degree. The power over ideology that rules our world promotes violence not only at the interpersonal level, but also at the societal lever, the inter-country level. How is a bully of a partner that different from a bullying nation? In both cases, the abuse is about control. As the power and control wheel indicates, abusive and violent behavior follows a number of key patterns:
- Emotional Abuse
- Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming
- Using Children
- Economic Abuse
- Male Privilege
- Coercion and Threats
Let’s consider how McCain uses these tactics:
- Intimidation – he often assumes a very intimidating demeanor and is very keen on displaying the weapon power of the U.S. – i.e. “be a good little nation or I am going to beat you with my weapons”
- Emotional Abuse – he is very into name-calling and blaming the leaders of other countries, as well as his political opponents
- Isolation – he would like to isolate other countries by refusing to negotiate with them and rejects diplomacy
- Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming – he makes light of the abuse the occupation of Iraq has caused, denies the abuses the U.S. enacts, and blames ‘the terrorists’
- Using Children – he, like the Bush demon, suggests that we as a nation would be in danger if we don’t ‘continue the course’ – that, in effect, we put the future of the country (and our children) at risk if we don’t subscribe to his hawkish tendencies
- Economic Abuse – he plans to continue the ‘free market’ policies that prevent people from earning a living wage by allowing the economy to be controlled by private corporate interests – it’s the keep the people poor and they won’t resist our plans to rule the world stance, in other words, same shit, different leader
- Male Privilege – he treats the rest of the world as if it should be the servant to the US, as if his country’s word is law, as if he is should be ‘master of the castle’
Coercion and Threats – he is as fond of using coercion and threats as the war-mongers in the current administration – he may have better grammar than Bush, but his speech is no less riddled with the ‘you’re either with us or your against us’ type of rhetoric
Now, while Obama is not as progressive as I would like, at least he supports a woman’s right to own and control her own body, at least he refused to call Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, at least he is not as pro-imperialist as many others on the hill.
In light of the fact that the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) just held its annual three-day policy conference where politicians have to cater to AIPACs rules in order to be viable candidates, we need to consider what the Fanonite calls McCain’s “Drumbeats of war” comments verses Obama’s seeming commitment to a solution that considers Palestine as well as Israel. MJ Rosenberg at TPMCafe reports that “Obama won AIPAC over without dropping his commitment to the two-state solution or engaging in the Palestinian bashing that is normal in that venue.” While those of us who question the U.S. collusion with a stance that is pro-Likud party (a stance AIPAC supports), at least his speech to AIPAC back in March suggested he supports solutions that would be good for Israeli’s AND Palestinians. Regarding this, Obama is the “better candidate” to Hillary who spoke just after him and assured the AIPAC crew that “he will be a good friend to Israel.” Given her past actions, it seems her idea of “being a good friend to Israel” is quite different to Obama’s. While Hillary was a ‘good friend’ to certain pro-Israeli interests that funded her campaign in a big way, perhaps Obama envisions a different type of friendship-one less about Straussian Likud power and one more about the Israeli and Palestinian people.
He may not be Kucinich or McKinney, he may not be progressive with a capital P, and, he will inevitably have to play the corrupt game of U.S. politics if he wants a chance to lead this sad little country that thinks it should rule the world, but, for now, my feeling is this: Obama is certainly the ‘better man’ in contrast to McCain, the bullying man.