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In 2010, we live in a world where Presidents who save the global economy from a Great Depression, who oversee the passing of landmark Health Care, Student Loan Reform, Equal Pay for Equal work legislation, the biggest fiscal stimulus ever, the biggest investments in energy and education ever and soon the biggest revamping of Wall Street since the 1930s are called traitorous sellouts by their own so-called "supporters."

I however am in the Van Jones camp of the progressive spectrum.  I heard him speak at Campus Progress on Wednesday and was reminded about why I am community organizer. "These are the days of hope and heartbreak," he opened his comments.

In response to a young person's question about how to keep hope alive in the face of despair, Van makes the point that being a student of history keeps you from despair and self-pity. I so agree with this contention -- history provides much needed perspective and yet most Americans are functionally illiterate about history. I say this as someone who formerly taught social studies to high school students.

Towards the end of the Q & A session (at the 19:52 point in the video below), he made this point about the President which I also agree with and should be repeated OVER and OVER again by his so-called supporters:

"This president has done more and achieved more in a shorter period of time than any President prior to him.  The problem is that he's done superhuman levels of achievement but the hole is so much bigger than any other President has faced."

What prompted this diary was actually that I read a blog post about the fact of the American withdrawal from Iraq is on track.

In particular, Joel Wing offers this timeline:

U.S. Troop Strength In Iraq 2003-2010
May 2003 150,000 – Invasion force
October 2007 171,000 – Height of Surge
January 2009 142,000 – Beginning Obama administration
February 140,000
March 137,000
May 134,000
June 130,000
September 124,000
October 117,000
November 115,000
December 110,000
February 2010 98,000
April 95,000
May 92,000
June 90,000
July 77,500

So while no one was paying attention, the Obama administration is keeping its promise and more importantly "executing" its plan with no fanfare.  I don't see Huff Post and its ilk writing front page articles about this.  The very people who are quick to say that their role is to "hold the administration's feet to the fire" rarely, if ever, offer any encouragement when they live up to their actual promises.  Diaappointing to say that least and Low Rent at its best.

I'd like to end with a quote by Howard Zinn from an essay called the Optimism of Uncertainty.  His essay relates directly to what I opened talking about regarding the importance of having a historical perspective about social change and justice.  It is a must-read for anyone who considers herself to be a social justice activist or organizer.  My favorite parts of the essay are quoted below:

Consider the remarkable transformation, in just a few decades, in people's consciousness of racism, in the bold presence of women demanding their rightful place, in a growing public awareness that gays are not curiosities but sensate human beings, in the long-term growing skepticism about military intervention despite brief surges of military madness. It is that long-term change that I think we must see if we are not to lose hope. Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act. Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society.

We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

P.S. If you are going to post an obligatory "you are an administration apologist or Obamabot," please just refrain from that today.  Just move along and don't comment at all.  It's OK to do that because I have plenty to criticize about the current administration and offer those constructively while still working for justice as I have for the past 25 years.  Thanks.

Update: Wow top of the rec list.  Who would have thought it?  Thanks to all of you who have recc'd this and also for those who been posting such thoughtful comments.  It's so important to hold on to hope and then to engage in transformative action within our own lives and in our communities.  Thank you.

Update #2: I shared a quote from Haile Selassie with someone in the comment thread.  Commenter understandinglife then suggested that I include it in the body of this diary because it embodies much of what Van talked about in his presentation and what Zinn wrote about in his work:

"Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph." HAILE SELASSIE

Final Update: Thanks to all who have commented on the diary and engaged in dialogue about other issues of concern.  I've got to run now.  Didn't expect to spend so much time on the computer today but I really valued the conversations and tried to interject where I could.  Have a great rest of your night!

Real Final Update: Had to come back to post an article that was e-mailed to me from a friend tonight from Politico. Apparently it's something in the water... Liberals are apparently in "despair" according to the gossip rag -- Liberals Analyze their Obama "Despair"

Originally posted to mka193 on Sat Jul 10, 2010 at 11:19 AM PDT.

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