We Tried to Warn Obama
Rabbi Michael Lerner emails to call out the president, in the cause of tikkun olam
The Emails of Zion is a collection of messages from Jewish parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and others who are eager—often way too eager—to inform their children about issues of pressing concern to the Jewish community. Some of these emails may sound crazy, paranoid, ethnocentric, and/or racist, while others are disturbingly sane. These are the voices of our elders, lightly edited and presented for the convenience of their progeny, who are often too busy to write back.
Forward emails from your elders to firstname.lastname@example.org.
———- Forwarded message ———-
FROM: [A relative]
Subject: RE: We tried to warn Obama…but he wouldn’t listen
Date: January 20, 2010 7:05:03 AM EST
To: [Rabbi Michael Lerner]
Cc: [Tablet Magazine]
Obama prays on a Moslem prayer rug five times a day facing Mecca. He is often joined in holy prayer by Emmanuel Rahm and David Axelrod, Pritzker and Soros. He answers to the call of the Muahdin from Saudi Arabia. He obviously wasn’t praying hard enough yesterday. The Republican won the Massachusetts senate seat.
Why do I think that I will be removed from any future Tikkun emails?
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Rabbi Michael Lerner
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 2:32 AM
To: [Distribution list]
Subject: We tried to warn Obama… but he wouldn’t listen. The result can be seen in Massachusetts’ Senate election
We Tried to Warn Obama… But He Wouldn’t Listen
By Rabbi Michael Lerner January 19, 2010
The defeat of the Democrats choice to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate is being treated as though there is a decided shift of mass opinion to the Right in the U.S. But it is the Obama Administration, not the people who supported him in 2008, which moved to the Right—in the name of being pragmatists or realists—in the process emptying their own agenda in regard to health care, environment, human rights, social and economic justice, and global peace of the critical elements that made those programs sound hopeful, and leaving many of their supporters feeling confused, disillusioned, and unable to rally around the politics that seemed so very far from “the change you can believe in” that we had been promised.
Thousands of us saw this coming, and tried to warn Obama, but he wouldn’t listen.
On April 29, 2009, Tikkun and our education arm the Network of Spiritual Progressives bought the entire back page of a special supplement published in the Washington Post on the occasion of the 100th day of Obama’s presidency. We warned him that his presidency was in grave danger. Our point was simple and direct: “Your success depends on helping people believe that they can count on each other, that they are not alone in a ruthless world in which people are out for themselves, and there is a possibility of building a society based on kindness, generosity, and caring for each other. Unless your programs actually allow people to feel in their own lives that they are part of build a new society based on love and generosity of spirit, they will soon fall back into the older paranoid view-that we are all competing with each other and have to look our first for number one. And that will likely them right back into the hands of the most conservative forces in this society. It’s that simple….”
Our add went on to tell President Obama that his supporters were beginning to feel mobilized because they cannot explain to themselves and others:
* Why you are bailing out the bankers and the Wall Street crowd rather than prioritizing the needs of people who have lost their jobs and homes
* Why you are not backing single payer (Medicare for Everyone) health reform but are instead preserving the interests of the health care profiteers and insurance companies that make our health care system so costly
* Why you are escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, when you must know that these are no win situations, and when you have even agreed with Rabbi Michael Lerner that the best way to achieve “homeland security” is not by attempting to dominate others around the world in an insane “war on terrorism,” but instead by a Strategy of Generosity manifested in the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ proposal for a Global Marshal Plan introduced into the Congress by Congressman Keith Ellison
* Why you have failed to bring into your Administration more leaders of the peace, social justice, labor and environmental movements that gave you the critical support you needed to win the Democratic nomination for President.
Our conclusion: “If the people who made your presidency possible stop feeling excited about your present direction, the populist energies that could be mobilized for fundamental change will instead by mobilized by the Right for reactionary goals, and you may find yourself without the base of support you need even for your scaled down goals.” And now our worst fears and prophetic predictions are coming true. If you were one of the many members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives or subscribers to Tikkun who donated to make the ad we published possible, I want to thank you for your ability to see what was ahead—and your willingness to back your wisdom with the money we needed to publish that ad!
Obama could have spoken the truth, told what he saw happening in Washington rather than trying to be a clever inside manipulator—a game that he was destined to lose. Any legislative victory won by compromising away the heart of what you are fighting for isn’t worth much, and in any event, even good legislation can quickly be dismantled by the next president if you haven’t won over the minds and hearts of the American people—and to do that you need to speak the truth and tell people what we are up against in the system of global capital and its ethos of materialism, selfisness, and looking-out-for-number-one, and what it would take to dismantle it and replace that system with a more humane and caring, environmentally sane and ethically and spiritually coherent society. And Obama could have constantly reminded his supporters that the 2008 election had shown that their yearning for a world of peace and justice, of love and caring and community and real solidarity and democracy, were not the private dreams of an isolated minority but the real needs of the American majority. By making us visible to each other, he would have empowered people to fight for programs that manifested their highest values (if and only if his programs did in fact manifest those values, which unfortunately they often did not).
Now it’s up to us, the tens of millions of Americans who really showed in 2008 the powerful commitment we have to building a world of love, kindness, generosity, environmental sanity and caring for others….
Please don’t let your disappointment at Obama lead you or your friends into political passivity … because the alternative if you do that is Sarah Palin and The Tea Party extremists and the haters and fundamentalists, all of whom are now momentarily dressing themselves in the language of populism, but all of whom will actually only give even more power to the elites of wealth and power.
That’s why it is so important for you to become part of our efforts to reconstitute the movement of hope—and we can do that with your help. We need your ideas and involvement—and so we’ve created two conferences, a one day event on the Monday of President’s Day weekend, February 15, at the McLaren Hall on the campus of the University of San Francisco on Fulton St. near Clayton; and a longer event June 11-14 at the Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The conferences are co-sponsored by The Nation Magazine, Yes Magazine, Democracy Now, Op-ed News, Peace Action, 350.org, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and speakers will include Chris Hedges, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Congressman Keith Ellison, Riane Eisler, Rev. Brian McLaren, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Peter Gabel, Rev. James Winkler, Rev. Conrad Braaten, Robert Thurman, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rev. Gralan Hagler, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Jonathan Granoff, Marianne Williamson, Paul Wapner, John Dear SJ, John Nichols, Svi Shapiro, Bob McChesney, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and many more.
Please register for one of these conferences now at www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php?story=2010conferences (to plan effectively, we need to know very soon if you’ll be coming!) If you cannot come, please donate to make it possible for us to afford to create these events (the amount we are charging will not even come close to covering our expenses: donate on-line at www.tikkun.org or by sending a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave,#1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704).
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