When Barack Obama became the President of the United States on January 20, 2009, millions of Americans, particularly those who take showy pride in thinking of themselves as liberals, were moved to rejoice. They all greeted the news that Mr. Obama had been sworn in as President with the sort of unrestrained fervor that usually is reserved for the coming of a messiah. Their self-satisfied joy resulted from a widespread, but mistaken, belief that Mr. Obama was going to bring "change" to America.
The truth, however, was considerably less joyful. Barack Obama actually represented nothing more than a triumph of skillful marketing. He was an old product, offered for sale in a new package. Although his broad oratory was pleasing to the soft ears of liberals, it was riddled with empty promises, and after assuming power he quickly gave undeniable signs that his policies as President would differ only slightly from those of the past. From the start of his administration, his decisions and his actions clearly ran along familiar lines, leaving no doubt that general conditions would not be changed. Corporate greed would continue to be fostered, and needless wars would continue to be waged.
At the time of the Presidential election that was held in November, 2008, it seemed that many Americans were unhappy with their lot, and desperately wanted to be "hopeful" regarding the future course of their country. Their shallow desire for hope soon took on an unreasoning life of its own, eagerly attaching itself to the slippery figure of Barack Obama, a black man with a shrewd ability to make himself palatable to the white public, as he proved by cleverly toning down, or playing up, his blackness whenever it suited his purposes. Unfortunately, the hope that Mr. Obama provided to the people of the United States was never anything other than false hope, based entirely on childish sentiments and deceitful proclamations.
By foolishly looking to Barack Obama for hope in November, 2008, rather than looking hard and honestly at themselves, Americans chose the easy way out. They embraced false hope as a lazy means, both cheap and expedient, of avoiding the harsh necessity of having to acknowledge their own failings as citizens. After Barack Obama became President, he quickly showed himself to be, among other things, a practiced liar, a slick master of liberal hypocrisy, a knowing accomplice to the evildoing of corporate bankers on Wall Street, a shameless violator of human rights, and an unrepentant warmonger. Instead of change, it mostly was more of the same.
It is behind time for Americans to abandon their faulty tradition of wishful thinking. The raw character of Barack Obama is neither honorable nor straightforward, as can be readily discerned, if one is willing to look closely at him. America will never be changed by mindless expressions of hope, false or otherwise. Only a firm, collective rejection of capitalism and militarism, combined with the deliberate acceptance of a rational outlook and a refusal to compromise on matters of principle, could ever bring about the degree of profound change that currently is required in America. In the long term, having false hope can be worse than having no hope at all.
American voters have never been known for displaying either wisdom or foresight, but how could they ever have believed that the vital interests of the United States, and the common good of the world, would be best served by putting a smooth-spoken celebrity into the White House? Did they imagine that serious change, far-reaching change, could be brought about so readily or so agreeably? The lesson for Americans is abundantly evident, but also uncomfortable: true change can be achieved only when people stop deluding themselves.