Mahatma Gandhi is said to have invented nonviolence but he called it Truth-Force or Satyagraha, which is in part a genuine attempt to befriend your enemies. The crowds cheered Gandhi and Obama for overlapping reasons. Nonviolence wasn’t thought up as a clever tactic, but coming out of genuine respect for all life.
Gandhi didn’t want to ever physically strike, or kill anyone, or even subject someone else to ridicule or scorn. Boycott and sit-down strikes developed out of trial and error, in pushing for what he wanted without hurting anyone.
Obama has a tendency to respond to those who push the hardest, something non-Gandhi-like. After he won the Democratic Presidential nomination, he was lobbied by Hillary Clinton (his chief Democratic primaries rival) to become Secretary of State.
Before Hillary began pushing, Obama’s transitions-team was lobbied by establishment interests to pick Richard Holbrook, a skilled diplomat with much experience, but Obama’s transition-team found Holbrook, too conservative. So Hillary was urged by establishment insiders to lobby for the job and, I guess, Obama was touched that Hillary, instead of being mad at him anymore, was pushing for the job. And picking her gave the immediate image of a unity cabinet. His earlier choice was former Hispanic diplomat, and now Governor Bill Richardson wasn’t the type to beg, push and shove. Richardson was, earlier, a former rival to Obama, who had along with Obama opposed aid to the death-squad government in Columbia, and was always against the blockade of Cuba, and like Obama was against invading Iraq from the start.
Normally foreign policy insiders would be shocked if someone, with no foreign policy experience, such as Hillary, were offered such a job. Others, including myself, had liked particularly her domestic agenda. But since they felt they knew her personally they weren’t lobbying against her. Hillary supported aid to Columbia, and opposed human-rights earmarks in future trade laws, unlike Obama.
But Satyagraha, presents an opportunity; you don’t have to hate Hillary to vigorously oppose her, when we think she is the wrong person for this job.
Hillary never lectured on foreign policy, rarely been overseas, only nominally ever had to follow orders as part of a law-firm, has no diplomatic or even negotiator experience, is giving up a good future as a Senator. One could oppose her getting an opportunity to make a fool of herself, at the same time risking messing up our future. One could appreciate the way, she, as a radical law student, worked for fair trials. Then later gave up a lucrative law career, to become a child-advocate. Libertarians in particular don’t like her interventionist statements. Labor should be upset, that she might not vigorously implement any future human rights earmarks in our trade laws. The peace movement doesn’t like that she voted to call an Iranian group a terrorist organization that some feared could be used by President Bush as an excuse to invade Iran. Those who would oppose her being confirmed by the Senate next year are a potentially powerful force, if we can get over the idea that we have to think she is a bad person, in order to lobby the Senate not to confirm her next February.
Condoleezza Rice humbled herself with proud foreign rulers. Madeline Albright went so far as to wear a head-scarf in Moslem lands. Hillary’s demeanor by itself might disrupt Obama’s Middle East policy.
Hillary would help herself and the country (since the establishment thinks Richardson is too progressive) to suggest a real diplomat, Richard Holbrook to be Secretary of State, and go back to the Senate. Establishment interests would be more than happy to go along. And for Bill Richardson to continue to be Governor instead of messing up his future just to help make the beginnings of the Obama administration look like a love-fest
As Obama seeks common ground, one side making very specific requests and the other just side just cheering, or a few bitching with only vague requests, doesn’t make Obama’s job easier. But during the last debate between McCain and Obama there was a lively exchange over Human Right’s earmarks in future trade laws and aid to Columbia that no one commented on, so not paying close attention dosen’t help Obama. There are some well off progressives that helped Obama get started, and should stay involved. Let’s all struggle to support Obama’s vision to bring us all together by vigorously opposing his tendency to over-compromise. Otherwise we will learn what a great man Obama was after he is no longer President, like we did with Jimmy Carter. Too bad Jimmy Carter’s supporters, when he was President, didn’t vigorously oppose Carter’s desire not to confront people, or speak out about those who were sabotaging his policies. Carter, for instance, never raved out about finding out the real details of the October Surprise. Too bad others more quickly didn’t loudly speak out instead. Obama, likewise might seek unity instead of raving out when people do him wrong. By becoming Secretary of State Hillary is giving up being any such role.
Cheering Obama doesn’t make it easy for him to support what you do. A few radicals just condemning Obama, doesn’t give him anything specific to respond to. Let’s support changing the image of where the common ground is by very specifically pushing for what we want.
Let’s try to understand why Satyagraha can be a truly powerful force, and why it doesn’t stand for a naive or passive outlook on the world.
Richard Kane is retired. His parents were peace-integration activists. He attended peace rallies, (and at first vigils) since childhood. Working for peace during the Korean War made people assume you were an Isolationist. During the Cuban Missile crisis peace activists were accused of being a coward. During Vietnam, that you were considered very liberal or radical. During Iraq, people wondered if you were left-oriented or a libertarian.