By Alemayehu G. Mariam
It is refreshing act of moral self-affirmation for me to support a man who lives out his principles.
Before explaining why I am supporting Bernie Sanders, I have some other serious explaining to do to my readers.
My readers are well aware of my gung-ho support for Barack Obama before and after he was elected president.
Much to my own embarrassment and chagrin, I had to eat crow for supporting Barack Obama.
I believed Obama when he declared in Ghana in July 2009: “Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
I was ecstatic when Obama told Africa’s young people, “You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people.”
When the young people heard his message and came out to protest stolen elections and human rights violations, they were shot down like wild animals in the streets by Africa’s strongmen.
Obama was silent as the grave (no pun intended) during his entire presidency in the face of crimes against humanity committed by Africa’s strongmen, except for those who were on Obama’s blacklist like the senile Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. Obama’s attitude during his president has been, “I see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” about evil in Africa.
I did not know that when Obama said, “History is on the side of these brave (young) Africans”, he meant it literally. History is with Africa’s young people, but he is not.
What about being on the “right side of history”?
Obama stood on the side of Africa’s strongmen, whom he said were on the “wrong side of history”.
I completely misunderstood Obama when he said, “Make no mistake.”
I made a gargantuan mistake and believed Barack Obama!
George W. Bush (43) said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Not with me! Barack Obama fooled me again and again and again.
Shame on me? Or is it shame on Obama? I have never been able to figure that one out.
I guess I was living in “Denial-istan” when I went hook, line and sinker for Obama’s fairy tales about the “right side of history.”
Five years almost to the month in 2014, Barack Obama invited Africa’s worst dictators and thugtators to the White House, wined and dined them and rewarded them by announcing he has “major new business deals” for them.
What about human rights in Africa? Human what!?
That’s exactly what Obama asked.
Watching Barack Obama hobnobbing with Africa’s bloodthirsty dictators and thugtators was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.
I have never felt more betrayed in my life. I realized only too late that I had been “took, hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray and run amok” by Barack Obama.
I had to swallow my pride, keep a stiff upper lip and make a public confession in my commentary, “Shame on me for Being Proud of Barack Obama”.
To add insult to injury, Obama went to Ethiopia in July 2015, exactly 6 years to the month after his Ghana visit, and declared:
I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues. We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected. It has been relatively recently in which the constitution that was formed and the elections put forward a democratically elected government.”
The “government” Obama said was democratically elected won the “election” in May 2015 by 100 percent (one hundred). Obama became the laughing stock of the New York Times, the Washington Post and other media institutions.
I was not laughing at a hypocrite who was also a smooth, bare-faced liar! What can I say. I have been had, took, hoodwinked…
Why am I talking about Obama in a commentary declaring support for Bernie Sanders?
Well, I want my readers to know that though I have been “took and bamboozled,” I have learned some important lessons over the past few years which now inform my political judgement.
One of those lessons is not to judge a politician by his/her verbal declaration of lofty principles. How principles are part of the personal, social, professional, political and spiritual life of a politician (or any person for that matter) should be the objective bases for determining a politician’s fitness for office.
The second lesson has to do with trust. Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify”. I say verify and trust.
I have decided to support Bernie Sanders because he is a man who lives out his principles in his words and deeds; and having verified his decades-long record, I can trust him to say what he means and means what he says.
Bernie Sanders is the real WYSWYG, that is, what you see is what you get. He will tell you the truth even if you can’t handle it. He will politely affirm to agree to disagree on issues but will also remind you that “there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and in fact to the world that maybe we do not disagree on and maybe work to resolve them…”
Bernie Sanders has the guts to tell the fat cat billionaires and multimillionaires that “There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.”
I don’t agree with Bernie Sanders on everything.
But I agree with him on a whole lot of things, things that matter to me and the average American: War must be the “absolute last resort”; big money in politics must be regulated (that is, billionaires should not be allowed to buy and sell elections); the big banks must be broken up just like Teddy Roosevelt broke up the trusts and monopolies between 1901-09; the obscene and immoral income inequality in America must be fixed. “There is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest childhood poverty rate of any developed country on earth.” (Could Bernie be the Teddy R. of our time?)
I agree with Bernie that affordable health care must be available to every American; college education should be made affordable to every young American who desires it, better yet, it should be made freely available to any qualified student. We must take care of our elderly in the twilight of their lives by protecting social security and Medicare. We must support our veterans to reintegrate into civilian society and provide them adequate and timely health care. We must invest in our crumbling infrastructure, lead the world in fighting climate change, decriminalize drugs and rehabilitate those whose lives have been destroyed by drug abuse, dismantle the prison industrial complex and incarcerate serious and violent offenders while allowing nonviolent offenders a chance to reintegrate in society. We must protect American workers from predatory trade agreements that cost jobs in the U.S. We must hold accountable the bad apples in police departments who abuse and misuse their power and violate the public trust and oath to serve and protect. I could go on and on.
There are those who try to demonize Sanders for his ideas and vision of a more fair and just America. They seek to vilify him for standing with the poor and powerless. They say his plan to help the working poor is too expensive. His plan to provide subsidized or free college education and provide relief to students carrying crushing student loans is impractical. (But it is practical to give trillions of dollars to Wall Street econo-criminals who tanked the economy in 2008!) They say he is unelectable, a radical, a socialist, blah, blah…
Of course, tarring and feathering anyone who challenges the establishment is nothing new. They said the same things about Barack Obama in ’07-’08 only to find out that he is the best friend Wall Street ever had. I dismiss all that as simple politics of personal destruction.
Bernie Sanders is neither an angel nor a demon. He would not be constitutionally eligible to become president of the United States if he were either. He is merely a man with all the flaws, failings and weaknesses of his fellow citizens. Sanders recently told Liberty University students, “I am far, far from being a perfect human being but I am motivated by a vision which exists in all religions… and that vision is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you. That is the Golden Rule.” I live by the Golden Rule, at least try my damnest every day!
The one unique thing about Bernie Sanders is that he tells it like it is. He stands his ground and won’t back down. Bernie Sanders is the kind of guy I can personally identify with.
I have always been inspired by Churchill’s exhortation: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Bernie Sanders will never give in or kneel before the billionaire fat cats and beg for their support. He wants the support of ordinary Americans who “want to take back their country” from the scheming members of the billionaires’ club. A hostile takeover of the billionaire’s club by the American people? Sounds almost Jeffersonian!
What is Bernie’s record?
He has a solid record on civil and human rights. In 1962, Sanders was arrested protesting segregation in public schools in Chicago. He protested the Reagan government’s policy of sending arms to Central America to stoke the raging civil wars and conflicts. He is opposed to warehousing citizens in prison for long periods for nonviolent offenses and the prison industrial complex. He has locked horns with the International Monetary Fund and the other international poverty pimps for their role in maintaining dictatorial regimes in the developing countries. He has opposed both Iraq wars. He has embraced immigrants as an important element of American society. He does not believe in building wall that separate people. He believes in tearing down walls of racism, sexism and sectarianism to bring human beings together.
Heartbroken by the poverty and malaise in Europe following WW I, Shaw in Act I of his play “Back To Methuselah”, posed the question to end all questions: “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” (lines sometimes incorrectly attributed to Robert F. Kennedy).
In the face of a 21st century American malaise, Bernie Sanders dreams of things that never were; and says, ‘Why not?’
But why am I really, really supporting Bernie Sanders?
Well, I will let Bernie tell you why I am supporting him in his 1988 CSPAN interview. The interview was done a couple of weeks before the 1988 Iowa caucuses.
Interviewer: You are a mayor of Burlington, VT. From the perspective of that job, what kind of a person would you like to see become President of the United States?
Bernie Sanders: Well, I would like to see somebody who has the guts to begin to stand up for the people who own this country, recognize in our nation today there is an extreme disparity between the rich and the poor. The elections are bought and sold and controlled by people who have huge sums of money. My first concern is to have a president who has the courage to look reality in the face and say we need some radical changes in this country so that every American can have the opportunity to have a decent standard of living and live a decent life. Talking about presidential politics I always have a little bit of a problem because I am not a Democrat and I am not a Republican. In Burlington, Vermont, I think we have the only three party system in the United States of America. My dream would be we have a strong third party movement in the United States composed of working people and minorities and women’s groups and all of the people who are presently disenfranchised. That does not exist right now… I would like to see someone who speaks for the underdog, for the people who don’t have decent health care benefits, somebody who understands in America today 50 percent of the people don’t even vote anymore and the vast majority of that 50 percent are poor people and working people who have given up on the system. So essentially I would like to see a candidate who has the guts and vision that America could be a land for all people not just a land controlled by the super-rich.
Join me in helping Bernie Sanders become the next President of the United states.
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(To be continued…)