by Richard Falk
We are pleased to crosspost the following excerpt by JWE Board Member and International Jurist Richard Falk.
I was especially struck by some words following the habitual long litany of presidential achievements, which was for much different reasons also selected by Democratic Party fund raising machine that is never idle. Here is their version of the passage, conveyed the next morning as a private message from the President himself to me:
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of America, Richard. I mean it. We’re a nation with a strong soul, a strong backbone, and a strong people. We just have to remember this and remember who we are. There is nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together.
I listened to these words, presumably inserted for their inspirational impact on a gullible citizenry, with stunned disbelief. I long wondered how such inauthentic sentiments could have slipped by the entourage of previously reliable self-censoring staffers who apparently fine tune every prepared word that emanates from the White House. I was further perplexed and disturbed despite understanding better the mercenary intentions underlying this supposedly uplifting coda when I came to realize that this follow up was one more appeal in an endless succession of daily pleas from Democratic leaders for money to support the Democratic Party, including the listing of proposed pledge amounts that we sheep might contribute.
These most offending words drawn from a long presidential address still came as a surprise, overriding in effect many genuine domestic achievements of the Biden presidency. Maybe the funding prominence is a prelude to the 2024 campaign for a second term, and should be interpreted as nothing other than a rallying cry that deliberately suppresses the grim realities facing America offering in their stead more ‘bread and circuses,’ in effect, a promise that Nero will keep fiddling.
If I had been a person of color, an indigenous survivor, or just poor, I might have wondered whether this inappropriately optimistic message could be more purposely rephrased: “I’ve never been more pessimistic about the future of America. We’re a nation tainted by a weak soul, a racist, patrioteering backbone, and seemingly forever love affairs with guns, war, and militarism. We could do far better for ourselves and others around the world, if we try finally to acknowledge the sins of the past and failures of the present. In the spirit of long overdue and solemn remembrance, I call upon all citizens to take steps to soften these national memories of who we were by transferring some future expenditures from future annual military budgets to a reparations trust fund for the benefit of past and present victims of slavery, ethnic cleansing, and official forms of racism directed at native Americans and African Americans. Is we as a nation want to be serious about overcoming this tainted past of our country we must also become more positively engaged in the wider planetary struggles for justice and species survival. It would be an embrace of futility and folly to pretend that we can currently meet these challenges by acting collectively when we cannot even cooperate at home on behalf of national public wellbeing, much less internationally, for the global common good. If I were to indulge in the luxury of speaking honestly to the leaders of this country, I would have to admit that seem currently able to act together only when it comes to waging war or preparing for war with real or imagined adversaries.”
The full text of “Demonic Optimism: Biden’s State of the Union Address” is available on Richard Falk’s blog “Global Justice in the 21st Century.”