Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Meet the new boss.... ?

As historic and momentous last night's Obama victory is, I can't help but have the sinking feeling that it means much more on a symbolic level than in terms of any tangible change. At least, on some very important issues that are never brought up during political campaigns. For starters, rumor has it that Rahm Emanuel, a former IDF volunteer and prominent Jewish congressman, will be Obama's chief of staff. This news doesn't bode well for Palestinian activists and those of us who hoped for a fairer U.S. position on the Middle East. Moreover, Obama has consistently supported the continued disbursement of agricultural subsidies to American agrobusiness, which leads to the flooding of foreign markets with cheap goods and drives local producers out of business, preventing the growth of markets and industries in the developing world. While large transnational corporations benefit from the boom in (what are often misleading and inefficient) biofuels, poor farmers and producers in Africa continue to struggle to find a way to market their products and must contend with rising food prices and the threat of even more widespread famine.
As for the immigration reform that was briefly bandied about at the beginning of this campaign (remember?), it seems to have slipped quietly away, and the status of so many undocumented workers will most likely remain in the same legal limbo.
What about homelessness? While this issue is constantly relevant for Angelenos, the entire country should be ashamed that millions of people are found in this dire situation in the richest nation in the world, a nation supposedly full of hope and opportunity. What has been said about this demographic on the campaign trail?
And while the country rightfully celebrated a historic step for equality, several states took two sad steps back as they approved bans on gay marriage in Arizona, Florida, and, most disappointing of all, California. Clearly the rhetoric touting equality and individual freedom has not taken hold everywhere, and the contingent of people willing to put effort into taking away the rights of others is stronger than expected.
A long, long road still lies ahead if we want to see real and lasting, not only symbolic, change.

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