I know I’ve taken to ragging on Obama kind of a lot lately. But it’s only because I care.
Plus, when he does stuff that’s really awesome, it feels so much more earned. And real.
So it is my pleasure to thank President Obama for:
- Reversing Bush-era federal policy of seeking to arrest patients using medical marijuana where it is legal at the state level. While this isn’t necessarily revolutionary, it definitely signals a refreshing change in tone from standard operating procedure ‘War on Drugs’ horseshit (that nebulous, unpopular, never-ending conflict that has brought about the overwhelming incarceration rates rather than rehabilitation for low-income people and people of color).
- While technically a legislative-branch development, President Obama has spoken out in favor of this, so I’ll give it to him this time. Melissa Bean withdrew her amendment to the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency legislation (which I really ought to learn more about), which would have rendered states unable to regulate financial activities more strictly than the federal standards. Thankfully, with this amendment gone (for now), states will be able to make some greater headway in their struggles to reform finance.
- Some pretty sweet education legislation, which would cut out the banks as middlemen in the federal pell grant system (meaning more money for pell grants and low-income students and no money for bankers- I know, crazy fucking idea) is going to be pushed through using reconciliation, making it easier to pass without worrying about a filibuster (though why we still treat the Republicans as a credible filibuster-threat, given that they literally cannot fucking stop legislation on their own, is beyond me). While there seems to be a case of the “WTF?”s going around the blogosphere as to why nobody treats this as a realistic option for a public-option-y health care, I’m going to momentarily suspend my incredulity and just accept that it is cool for us to spend more money on sending low-income folks to college. Thanks Obama (and Tom Harkin)!
As I wrote these I realized that they had a lot to do with other people and legislators, but still, they are part of the ‘Change’ agenda and came in one way or another from some initating by the big man himself. Plus, when the rhetoric matches up with the action I feel it’s important to highlight that. So, bold move Obama. Keep it up.
What’s good yall? I went to an absolutely amazing talk yesterday for the Geographies of Displacement Symposium with Losang Rabgey, the director of a Tibetan development NGO and model school. I sometimes have the tendency to get down, frustrated, and cynical about prospects for social, economic and environmental change and find myself in need of a pick-me-up or hopeful story, and Machik fit the bill completely. Even more though, it had some valuable and provocative lessons to take home as I continue to think about my best, most appropriate role as an activist.
There was so much going on in her talk (and she is an extremely gifted speaker) that I can’t hope to bring out everything from the story she told, so I’ll try and hit the basics. She started off by laying the groundwork and background information, describing the Chinese occupation, conditions on the ground, internal displacement (cultural alienation, a turn to self-destructive behavior and poverty, and a growing urban migration pattern), and the state of the diaspora. As she described it, while the earlier generation was made up of exiles who had been raised in Tibet, the new generation has become a full-fledged diaspora with a globalized, pluralized, pan-Tibetan identity, for the most part uninterested in return but still very invested in the homeland’s welfare. Much of this new generation, if not in the diaspora, was brought up in a Chinese assimilationist context, in which Tibetans were encouraged to join the mainstream culture and abandon the Tibetan ‘traditional’ culture. But according to Rabgey this had the opposite effect, fostering cultural resistance and an enhanced Tibetan identity. Many advocates for Tibetan development and autonomy come out of this Chinese-educated group, and they’ve started online communities to connect and discuss freedom, leadership, and autonomy, and have started advocating for Tibetan schools for Tibetans living in core China (like Beijing.)
What’s good yall? I went to a really great panel talk this weekend (thanks to Sophie and Kai for facilitating it) with three Oberlin alums who either stuck around or eventually came back to Lorain to pursue social justice work. I know it’s not the most popular idea- many of us are anxious to get out to a ‘real city,’ or to leave the Midwest altogether- but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately from a progressive and climate perspective and this panel came at exactly the right time for me. I think for me and for activists in general it can be really helpful to take a step back, think about what we want to accomplish and how we want to live, and deliberately imagine how we can most effectively achieve those goals. The panelists talked pretty fast so I’m not really going to attempt any kind of statement by statement narrative, I’ll just drop the main points.
The three panelists were Miguel Curl, Coordinator of GEARUP mentoring program at Southview High School in Lorain, Daniel Ortiz, Regional Organizer with Moveon’s Green Jobs campaign, and Heather West, now working with the Poverty Initiative of Union Theological Seminary I believe in New York, though she has spent a number of years in Lorain.