Celebrating Obama As Head of Empire


The ethical truth that’s so hard for us to face is that we have a black man presiding over a modern empire that we all live inside and benefit from.  The quiet question is what are we celebrating when we celebrate Obama as imperial leader?

A friend sent me that in a text message (don’tcha just love the 21st century, back in the day that would be sent in some sort of parchment letter) and it’s damning question for Americans, particularly Democrats–and even the African American community that gave overwhelming support–just what are we really celebrating?

Well, I think in a nutshell, we’re celebrating hope.

Obama, as most admitted, campaigned on this non-tangible idea of hope.  It was definitely pie-in-the-sky feelings that were invoked as a means of selling his hardcore tangible policies such as health care, drawing down defense spending and the greening of this country, and various tax policies.  And it worked, as Michael Eric Dyson said earlier in the first panel of the 2009 State of the Black Union “They called him Marxist, they called him a terrorist…but daggumit, they callin’ him President now!”

The issue at hand is that whomever was elected President of these United States would be inheriting that which is the American Empire.

Often times, we fail to employ empire-speak.  Empire-speak is the subtleties of jingoism that have crept into the ethos and culture of our everyday lives.  Empire-speak is saying that health care is a privilege and not a God-given human right.  Empire-speak is endorsing the Patriot Act because it keeps us safe from the terrorists.  Empire-speak allows for us to let George Bush and Dick Cheney go unchecked for the last three years and enter and illegal war that we just now received a plan on how to get out of Iraq.  Empire-speak allows for FoxNews to still be on the air; and creates the atmosphere for which people like Don Imus can still be rehired for the same type of job.  Empire-speak allows for the evangelical Christians and the religious right to be pro-life, but not campaign for legislation that maintains a healthy life, and would rather for citizens to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

This is what Obama is inheriting.

In fact the American people elected him, just as they elected George W. Bush in 2004.

So, in the spirit of the State of the Black Union on the last Saturday of Black History Month 2009, what are we really holding Barack Obama accountable for: is it maintaing our current way of life via Empire or are we really asking Obama to perform a change on society?  Let us remember change comes at a price; as the old foreboding phrase goes, “Freedom isn’t really free.”

I’m sure most conservative readers on this blog, yes, hello to you out there, would never connect the dots as I have and would call me a lunatic for doing so, but this is the world as I see it, and many others.  Much of our way of life experienced by ALL Americans those who came by voluntary and involuntary immigration over the years has been at the expense of others in this country and throughout the world.  Let us remember, the US is the same country, who under Bill Clinton sent U.S. Troops to remove and kidnap and democratically elected president in Haiti.  For whatever reason the US thought this was prudent, I have no idea and it doesn’t behoove the president of a small country like Haiti to lie on the U.S. gubbment, so, I’m betting this is real story.  Not to mention Mogadishu in Somalia with the whole Black Hawk Down crap that Clinton got us into as well.

The imperialism power seat that Obama has assumed is what’s allowing him to make the decision to keep 50,000 non-combat troops in Iraq.

If that aint the oxymoron of the century.  How can troops be non-combat?

Regardless of Obama closing Gitmo (still haven’t figured out how the US occupies an island that we do ZERO trade with and they haven’t launched an attack against us–can someone say GrandHu$tle!!!), we still have bought into the empire mindset that the occupation of other lands will prevent us from being attacked by “those who hate America.”

Let me pause here because I’ve yet to here concrete evidence via the media that has linked the Bush administration to preventing another 9/11 type of terrorist attack.  I guess it’s the old 1984 mentality imposed by Big Brother that we have to “get them before we get us.”  Or even better yet the idea put forth in the movie Minority Report which proved the ultimate flaw of the human will; there’s nothing existing that proves that we will ultimately commit any said act.  Intentions are ultimately a figment of our will; the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

That being said, I hope President Obama finds it within his heart to run and anti-Empire administration, and to even do away with the ideal of being a benevolent dictator, but rather an individual who was elected by majority to manage the interests of the American people NOT at the expense and on the backs of those deemed unworthy by the Empire.

Your thoughts and comments are still more than welcomed below.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

11 thoughts on “Celebrating Obama As Head of Empire

  1. Good post. It raises some interesting discussion points. Would democratic socialism render us less empire focused?

    Somewhat OT, I only bring this up because of a recent Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) interview with the authors of the ‘Left Behind’ fiction series about the theological end-times based on the book of Revelation. Authors Tim LaHaye’s (& Jerry Jenkins)fictionalized scripture is wildy successful to the point that it is a ‘new truth for a new age.’

    Because the fictional series has sold 65 million books, and world socialism is to precede the return of Christ, some have concluded that the anti-christ is here. AND the end of the world (as many know it is now)because the anti-christ will emerge when peace reigns world-wide (global socialism).

    Based on this loose biblical premise based on Revelation, IMHO, the religious right spouts this ‘Obama is a socialist’ rhetoric without really having a clue about what socialism means or any serious Bible study to support their own and Tim LeHaye’s interpretation of scripture.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post.

    Keep on keeping it uppity and radically truthful…

  2. The Empire of America, never thought about it like that. I’m still trying to figure out how did a former community organizer from the south side of chicago became a communist? ha ha ha ha.

  3. Uppity, I don’t believe that Black folks recognize President Obama as a leader of the empire. I think that Black folks recognize that we are not fully accepted as part of the empire,and we hardly benefit for the empire, so that empire building stuff have little meaning to us.

    For us the jubilation of the Obama presidency, is because of the journey from the belly of the slave ships to the big chair in white house. It’s a testimony to our tenacity, resiliency and spirituality.

    Now, white folks is all about who can preserve and perpetuate their empire. And for now, Barack is their man.

  4. @imhotep

    I agree with the first part of your statement. I gave the same response to my friend when he sent me that text that blacks don’t necessarily recognize Obama as leader of “the empire.” However, we are in fact Africans living in America–therefore we have access and many are reaping full benefits of living in an empire.

    Perhaps blacks aren’t reaping the full benefits en masse, I’ll admit that, but just ask our black brothers and sisters who didn’t make it to the United States and who’s descendants are still living on the shores of West Africa and in the Caribbean and ask them just what do they have to say about those of us living here as citizens of the Empire of the United States of America.

  5. Uppity, It’s unclear to me the point you’re making regarding our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, and how they view africans living in america. I don’t believe there is a consensus coming from those distant shores. Those of us living on these shores maybe well paid slaves, but slaves none the less.

    I agree that this country as a whole enjoy a standard of living unparrell in the rest of the world, and certainly at the expense of the rest of the world. But we were not a part of that decision making process to go stealing and plundering. And it was not intended for us to part take in the spoils. The only reason that we do better that our brothers and sisters in foreign lands (if we do better)is only because we’re closer to the crumbs.

  6. @imhotep

    Perhaps we’ll have to disagree on this one.

    I’m not gon lie to you and say that my life has been the metaphorical equivalent of “crumbs.” Maybe a TV dinner compared to those that may get the rotisserie chicken compared to some that can afford the steak dinner every night, and most, if not all of my friends would say that their life has been the same as mine.

    Perhaps this’ll drive the point home: Me and my dad had gotten into a convo once a few years ago and he was going on a rant about how bad America was and how judgment was gonna come and it was gonna fall just like Rome etc. etc., and my response was simply, I hope it doesn’t fall while I’m alive. And was somewhat incredulous. So my response was, if America’s so bad, then move.

    My point is we, the descendants of Africans living in America have benefitted, by empire standards, GREATLY as a result of being here on these shores. I may be Pan-Africanist (yeah, I know I don’t much Pan-Africanism in this blog), but I won’t be starting the next back-to Africa movement, and I’m not clamoring to going back to some islands–like Haiti for instance. It’s cushy and comfortable living in this empire compared to other global options.

    I think black Americans would ultimately be deluding themselves if they really think that we haven’t benefitted from the Empire.

  7. Uppity, I respectfully disagree. I don’t think the comparison is between an African here, and an African in another part of the world. To me the question is do you enjoy the same quality of life as an african american as any other american? That is the question.

    Bro are you suggesting a love it or leave it approach? If we’re not grateful for what we have in america to pack up and leave? That must be that lunatic conservatism that you were referring to.

    I’ve had the good fortune to set foot off this continents on several occasions,to different destination. I’ve seen first hand the day to day existence of others. But that’s not the measuring stick I use to decide whether I have it good in America or not.

    To be sure no matter where one decides to reside, there will be some chit to deal with.

  8. This was an interesting article, and had to think about it. You’re right, of course, that Black folks wouldn’t even put things in terms of ‘American Empire’, but you’re correct. We just, for the most part, don’t see it that way. I enjoyed thinking about it though.

  9. @imhotep and rikyrah

    I think because blacks are the descendants of those who were the premier people who suffered the systematic oppression at the hands of the Empire, it would be a hard hermeneutic for us to see us benefitting from the Empire circa 2009.

    This is one of the few posts where I’m not chastising on the sly blacks for not seeing this particular paradigm, so I’m not totally tripping about this one.


    I would put for the “love it or leave it” approach as a hyperbole to drive home my point. Fact of the matter is that we do have some creature comforts both tangible and intangible in this country. For ex: many of us have many material possessions that are mere “tokens” or representative of us being here in the Empire vs. other Caribbean and South American countries that have been impoverished under the American ideal of manifest destiny and carried on through the early 20th century. An intangible creature comfort would be our nation’s ability to transfer power peacefully.

    Just ask nations like Zimbabwe or North Korea.

    I hear ya Imhotep that other countries may have more people that are probably more spiritually together than this nation of fools here in the U.S., but you’re right, many people use a different measuring stick.

  10. Great post Joshua! I appreciate your thoughtfulness concerning this matter.

    I agree most black folks (myself included) voted for President Obama in HOPES that he would put right many of the things that have gone wrong politically and socially the last 28 years.

    I also agree that American blacks do not see themselves as a part of an empire and thus, probably will have issues seeing President Obama as an imperial leader, because after all he’s black! (Righttttt, we should know better than this)

    But anyway….

    What I find interesting however is that in certain parts of your post you seem to want to define American imperialism in the context of domestic social policy. This is interesting to me, especially since the word “empire” is militaristic in nature and origin which means it has more to do with foreign policy than anything else. The end of your post dealt with certain Obama administration foreign policy decisions and I agree with your assertions there.

    However, I feel as though your appealing to the failed domestic policies of the Bush administration was unfair since the American empire has been maintained by at least the last 12 presidents. Could it be you were doing for President Obama what we do to the bible, try to redeem it? If you were, I understand because I feel the need to do the same. And if you were not, then I stand corrected.

    1. @the critical cleric

      Perhaps I was trying to redeem Obama. I hold out hope for him. But I would contend that what we do abroad weighs equally as heavy as the various “tokens” we receive from domestically as residents of the empire.

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