Recently published at AWID.org
Ithaca New York
September 5, 2012
Wishing that Michelle gave another kind of speech at the Convention is not to say that I expected one, or thought that a different kind of talk was even possible in the present political climate. So, I am not saying she should have spoken differently, or could have spoken truth to power, but given that I am not constrained as she is I can have another voice. So, “would” and “could” and “should” are not even part of my critique of her, but they are part of what the rest of us need to do. What I offer is a bit of dialogue for the day after….
There is little room for complexity, or nuance, or honesty; or the poor, or homeless, or feminism, or socialism, or single payer health plans in convention speeches. Silence usually wins out over directness. The middle class, who actually has always been a working class as well, and which is shrinking in droves, shoves out everyone else. One in five children in this country is hungry and yet fantasy familialism dominates. Misogyny parades as ignorance and nary a mention that “rape is simply rape”, no adjectives allowed.
Michelle looked gorgeous. She spoke gloriously. She perfectly rallied the convention on behalf of her husband and the president, Barack Obama. She reminded everyone that she and Barack’s beginnings were humble. That her parents sacrificed for her and her brother and of course their success is totally in view. The theme of American exceptionalism was repeatedly intoned as the promise of opportunity and success. She assured us that Barack and she started out differently than who they have become and are humbled by this.
Although they were poor, and now rich, this “dream life” is truly under assault for too many Americans. The American Dream has never included enough people to begin with but today this is more and more the case, and quite impossible if one thinks about the planet as a whole. The U.S. needs a new dream not just different players in the old one. There are not enough jobs that pay a living wage for people anywhere/everywhere, let alone in the U.S. New opportunities will have to be invented if Michelle’s life is to have possibility or probability. Foxconn, the giant company producing Apple products in China has just ordered one million robots for their factories there. Even Chinese labor has become too expensive for the rapacious one percent.
I wonder if the millions of people who are out of work, or who are underemployed, or who are working several part-time jobs really buy the whole exceptionalism theme these days. Or, are these people not even listening to the politicians these days? And for most of the women who head single parent households on one income does Michelle’s “mom-in-chief” really compute? Most mothers love their children as much as Michelle loves hers even though most of them cannot afford private schools, and nannies, and a domestic support network.
I would feel more trusting if Michelle told us that her husband believes that a woman has the right to choose a safe, legal abortion rather than the more elusive bodily rights. Is being Barack’s wife and “mom-in-chief” the best you got? This is a bit too close to Ann Romney for my liking.
So, although Michelle is smart, and beautiful and totally formidable she is constrained by her duty. I am not, so I will wish and dream and push for: a single payer non-profit health care system for us all; a challenge to misogyny and racism and patriarchy in all its anti-woman forms; query and indict the ethics of capitalist greed; turn our attention to remedy global warming and climate change; end the Afghan war and not start another one in Iran or Pakistan; resolve the Palestinian crisis, and demand social justice for the billions of people across this globe.
Remember I said at the start that I am not saying that Michelle could, or would or should have said this. But we should and must.