The Opposite of Hope Is Apathy, a.k.a. “You can’t win, child. You can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game.”

Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow being tormented by the crows in the movie adaptation of “The Wiz.” (From The New York Times)

One of my favorite musicals (and yes, The Snob likes musicals) is “The Wiz.” And while I adore the Broadway version, my heart is with the very frightening, but wonderfully conceived movie adaptation by Sidney Lumet.

The film is a wondrous dystopia of black American life, shifting from the fields of the old south to the northern migration all in garish, colorful but nightmarish fashion. It feels more like a intoxicated dream of perverse stereotypes, which was odd to find in a film marketed as a family flick.

In it a new song was written for “classic” Michael Jackson, who played the Scarecrow. It is the opposite of my other favorite “Wiz” song, “Brand New Day,” are for me the two best songs that typify the black American experience. “Brand New Day” is a joyous number of brilliant elan, fully of soaring, even orgasmic, release.

It the free the slaves number where the ugly, downtrodden masses turn into beautiful, ideal bodies of tan and brown, dancing about in barely nothing as they exalt in joyous rapture over their release from injustice and oppression.

Jackson’s song is the opposite of that tone, but also fits the black experience: “You Can’t Win.”

The song is a depressing mantra to a peppy beat about the hopelessness in black America where it doesn’t matter what you do because life, poverty, racism and an unfairly rigged system will knock you down. The black crows who torment Jackson’s Scarecrow constantly berate him, tease him for wanting to be educated and tell him that he might as well “smoke that smoke” and “drink yourself a glass of wine” rather than be proactive in his release from mental bondage.

This pessimism is also a part of the black American experience as we’ve become accustom to stops and starts. Slavery ends! But Jim Crow begins. Blacks show courage on the battlefield of WWII Europe! But return home to face more discrimination. Brown versus the Board of Education ends forced desegregation! White fight destroys the infrastructure of cities and a new re-segregation based on where you live begins.

One step forward, two steps back.

There’s always a new litmus test, a new hurdle, a new barrier to break through. Hence the hopelessness.

You can’t win.

Constantly alternating between joy and “what the fuck” can be difficult. It’s only natural that some people would become pessimistic and just sit things out.

Which brings me to the 2008 presidential race.

I know a lot of people are frustrated over Hillary Clinton’s tactics in her effort to grasp the Democratic nomination. And I know they’re irritated with the media’s bipolar nature towards Barack Obama and the reporting of rumors and falsehoods as breaking news. But this was expected. These things aren’t new. These tactics of fear and smear have existed since southerners used “slave power” to manipulate the political power structure in their favor.

People want to move “beyond race,” which is a pretty noble, but daunting task, considering that race has defined our culture for hundreds of years. Things have improved, but not enough so that Barack Obama could make the same argument over Farrakhan than John McCain made over Hagee.

In an ideal world, Clinton and Obama would work together for the sake of getting the White House back from the Republicans. But Clinton wants to win. She’s a political animal. She’s not going to alter her course just because there’s another potential history maker in the room.

I feel other people’s anger but if you’ve studied American politics you have to learn to go with the rational over the emotional. You can’t see your favorite candidate as infallible and you can’t forget that even if they’re trying to change politics they are still a politician. You can’t judge your opponents over emotion either. You can hate someone, but understand that their positions fit your beliefs more than the other.

I want Obama to be the nominee, but I fear that if Clinton finds away to snag it loads of black people will just balk and opt out. This is where I ask people to be rational. Opting out is the equivalent of the “You Can’t Win” song. It is the ultimate, “Aw, fuck it,” where you reject the political process and choose not to be active in promoting your needs and causes. I can not tell you dangerous this attitude is. “Aw, fuck it” got George W. Bush into office. I remember back in 2000 thinking, “Maybe it won’t be too bad, right? How much harm could he do?”

So, I get it. Hillary Clinton will do anything to become president. Anything. She’s very open in her desire to win. Both Clintons are cage fighters. I know that they can be pushy, repellent even. But we can’t allow our visceral reactions to Hillary cloud our judgment on McCain. There is an enormous difference between Hillary and McCain. If you can live with another anti-abortion rights, pro-ultra conservative judge appointing, pro-war, pro-preemptive war Republican who will continue to push the Supreme Court so far right they could make sure you’d never be able to sue any business over anything ever again. If you can live with funds being cut for infrastructure, schools, hospitals and communities to fund the wars. If you’re content with our health care system. Go ahead then. Opt out. Vote for McCain. Vote for Nader or vote for no one.

That’s your right.

But it’s not very rational. That’s very “Aw, fuck it.”

Very, “You can’t win.”

I believe after all the drama is dead and done, Obama will be the nominee. I think Hillary Clinton will accept that and I think things will move on. I don’t know when that will happen. Hopefully not in Denver, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

You can’t make it to the “Brand New Day” portion of “The Wiz” if you can’t fight off the “You Can’t Win” situation, where the game is rigged against you and everyone is throwing mud in your eyes. No one ever got anything done throwing up their hands and quitting. We have to keep marching forward, whether or not Obama is the nominee. If we want to end the war. If want to end conservative rule, we have to march on.

Just because Hillary is selfish, it makes no sense for us to be narrow minded too. We have much more at stake. Hillary loses, she goes home to New York and continues to be an influential and wealthy senator. If McCain wins, we get a man who’s goin
g to continue to drive us into debt with an unjust war and will be an agitator, looking at an unnecessary fight with Iran. A president who has no ties and no reason whatsoever to care about black issues. He’ll be under pressure to appease his constituency which is far more conservative than he is.

He’s already neutered his anti-torture stance by skipping out on the vote to adopt the anti-water boarding, Army field manual guide and affix it to the CIA’s guide for dealing with suspects. Now he’s cuddling up with anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, pro-Apocalypse ministers. Granted, I don’t think McCain is as bad as Bush. The latter has already set the incompetence bar exceedingly high that it would be difficult for any future president to touch it. But McCain does not equal Clinton.

I’d prefer to see all this energy generated by the Obama campaign to be utilized to further modernize the Democratic party, to use our influence to have the needs of our communities met, and continue to develop and support a diverse field of political leaders and politicians so we can continue progress rather than take our traditional two steps back out of disappointment.

Don’t be discouraged. Keep working, keep pushing, keep supporting Obama. But remember we are not only trying to get man into office, we’re also trying to change our country and our role in the world. One man does not trump the world. The movement has to be more than about Obama, but about wanting a better life for all Americans irregardless of class and color. For wanting a different future.

Or at least that’s how I interpret Obama’s message. It doesn’t make sense to drop a message just because our political system sometimes sucks, is exclusionary and discriminates against smaller political parties. We have to keep pushing that message no matter what.

It’s like when John Edwards dropped out and Hillary Clinton jacked his “fighter” message. (The media never seems to point this out, but it was patently obvious to me.) She did that because she knew it was a good message and she would need that message to get blue collar whites to vote for her. Edwards’ “movement” was supported by unions and minorities and had value. After he bowed out those groups were willing to realign with either Barack or Hillary if they met their demands.

And if the Clintons go nuclear and somehow get the nomination, which I still don’t see happening, it’s our job to basically force Hillary Clinton to accept our agenda to get our support. That’s just how it works. That’s how it’s always worked. There may be a better way. If there is I’d like to hear some suggestions. But you can’t change America if you stop fighting for change.

Fight for the dream, not the dreamer.

Politicians are humans. They will falter, they fail. But the fight has to go on.

Although the term has been hijacked by ideologues, demagogues and extremists, the Islamic term “jihad” simply means struggle. Trying to change the political structure, the racial constructs and the gender issues of our country has been effectively the “jihad” of blacks and women since the country was founded. This is a long, treacherous road we have traveled. Now that we’re finally at a moment of ascension we’re fighting over who gets to go first, when the “movement” should go first.

Stay positive. Stay motivated. Make this more about what you want, and less about who you like. Be prepared for trouble. Don’t be surprised by anything and save your outrage for the Republicans.

You can win if you choose to stay in the game.

4 thoughts on “The Opposite of Hope Is Apathy, a.k.a. “You can’t win, child. You can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game.”

  1. Hi Snob! Wow. Lovely analogy. I too love ‘The Wiz’! The soundtrack is on my iPod. “You got to be seen in Green to show that your stuff is laid…”I’ve always felt that the Republicans are a much better organized machine than the Democratic Party. They know how to put personal feelings aside for the greater good. McCain and Bush don’t like each other, and he already has his endorsement. And you can’t tell me that Mitt Romney wasn’t forced to drop out due to pressure by his GOP peers. But I think I understand why many Obamacrats/Democrats feel the way they do. The way I see it is this: McCain is not that bad of a Republican. He has always erred on the side of liberalness and although I agree with your examples, he still isn’t a crazy, leftist, Rush Limbaugh kind of Republican. And if we don’t get it together soon, that is going to hurt Dems in the end. And the fact of the matter is Hillary IS a die hard liberal Dem (there’s nothing wrong with that) but she has been so focused on her quest for world dominance she has off put a lot of people in the process. Even if you don’t agree with Barack Obama’s platform or policies, you have to admire the guy for being able to appeal to people across the board. He transcends race, gender, age, religion…and that is what we need to win in the Democratic Party. I hate to boil this down to likeability, but in the end, that might be all that we have. And she ain’t the most popular kid in the school. She’s actually more like the kid likely to have her head dunked in the toilet…

  2. I’m a big Wiz fan too (who isn’t?). I also love the analogy.Thanks for this post–I really, really needed it. Seriously. Did you write this for me??? (Joking.)I’m a little bummed out at the extent to which HC is indeed the “political animal” she is–and the thought that she can get away with her baseless claims and slimy-assed tactics really bugs me (I found a breakdown of her “35 years of experience”–smirk (tho’, yes, it can also be argued that Obama should have been stronger on several points to counter her and check her to keep her from running amuck with that)). What also bugs me quite a bit is that we have all these American voters who NOW claim to be all about the issues–all of a sudden–and they’re willing to put her in office but they haven’t really done their research. Many want her in simply because she’s a woman (which I’m hearing more and more of) despite the extent to which Obama has been deemed “the most electable” in a competition with McCain? This is just me, but the selling point for w/r/t Obama is that I see him being more of a “nation-builder” than Clinton. I love that about him. But, I guess I should prepare myself for the *possibility* that our baby-steps toward a United Earth Government (and eventually a United Federation of Planets) will have to be delayed.Back from that Zone Out…With regard to the above, one additional thing I haven’t been able to wrap my brain around yet is–where were all of these issue-driven voters with the last two presidential elections??? For all of those who claim to be voting based on the “issues,” it shouldn’t matter that one candidate is a woman and the other is African-American–at least to hear them tell it.And the media–is driving. me. nuts.Just having a hard time with *all* of the inconsistencies… I know better than to let “emotions get in the way,” so to speak, but GAWD I don’t like her. I just really, really don’t like her. I think she’s dishonest and disingenuous. I said I wouldn’t vote if she finagled the nomination, but I’ll take that back and just go Nader instead–anybody except McCain.Thanks for the pep talk.BTW–Speaking of McCain, another thing that really blows my mind is–how the hell did we end up with McCain being THE candidate for the Republicans–almost, totally, uncontested??? Looks like the GOP was asleep at the wheel.

  3. let’s talk about how much i love this post. you have been added to my google reader, in case you didn’t know. for the past few days i’ve been thinking if hillary gets this nomination it’s bush-kerry ’08. like, she has shown her ass during this primary season. from race baiting to race pandering, from attacking our candidate personally because she knows she can’t compare to his senate record, to preying on america’s fear about domestic safety. i’m just not feeling her. or her “politics as usual” tactics. i mean, i have no political experience outside of being freshman class president in high school and i could see that invading iraq was stupid. can i really afford to place her in a position where i have to rely on her judgement when threatened by war? but what you just told me is i can’t stay home in november. dang… something else to think about! far as the neccesity of supporters gettin’ on their grind: there was a recent interview w/michelle where katie couric asked her if she thought about barack’s “messianiac” following.she said of course, they talk about it all the time. but my favorite quote was when she was like: “Change isn’t emotion. It’s real work and organization and strategy … You pull people in with inspiration, but then you gotta roll up your sleeves and you gotta make sacrifices and you gotta have structure…” (that’s why i love her) i hope everyone else gets the memo.and tamra, i wondered the same thing!! i feel like some kind of deal was made in ’04. like mccain you sit this one out, let g-dub have it, we’ll take care of you in ’08 (if you live that long).

  4. I’m glad everyone enjoyed “The Wiz.” It popped into my head when I was reading Jack n’ Jill Politics this morning and everyone was all salty because Hillary doesn’t care about us. Or anyone else who isn’t her.I just didn’t want people to forget that try as she might, this isn’t about her. It’s about getting shit done. The country is a mess. We need to get to fixin’. Keep your eyes on the prize.That said ….grown: On the Dem side, picking a candidate did boil down to likability. She and Barack have virtually identically voting records in the senate. They also both have very similar policy platforms. That’s the only reason most Democratic voters have tolerated this foolishness. Most people liked the both of them (well … some of them used to). So really, the only way Hillary could show that she and Barack were different was to go negative. It was either that or get smoked out of town by the charming, bright newcomer. Of course it hasn’t HELPED, mind you. But she’s trying.tamara: There, there, Tamara. None of them have “experience.” All three of them are senators and the senate is about negotiating, not running anything. One is running on the fact he was a POW over 40 years ago. Another is running because she’s a former first lady. At least Barack is more traditional in the sense that he is running because this was the perfect time for him to run and get elected. He’d gotten a lot of attention quickly. He was popular and becoming a big fund-raiser in the party. Smart guy. Polished speaker. Youthful vigor, could help grow the party and he had the likability factor.The experience argument is a bogus argument. George H.W. Bush was one of our most “experienced” presidents. He was a war hero. He served as the head of the CIA. And he was vice president under the Reagan Administration.And he got beat by the governor of Arkansas after one term, accused of being “out of touch” with the people.And mind you, he’d just won a war in the Middle East in less than a month.And despite all Hillary’s caterwauling, Bill didn’t have any “experience” either, but save the sex drama, he was a successful two-term president.So it’s just a bogus argument. I’m more concerned with a president having some damn common sense and won’t pick Dick Cheney as a running.fantastically understood me: Hillary’s vote for the Iraq War was all about CYA. She was too worried about the war coming back to haunt her if Saddam actually did have something or if the war had been successful. No one knew until a crisis hit that Georgie was more Commander-in-Chimp than Commander-in-Chief.I thought her rational was bogus too. She just should have dealt with sooner like most of the other Democratic senators did when they realized Iraq was going to the crapper. But she (and I’m just guessing here) felt she couldn’t admit that she was wrong because she is a woman and she didn’t want to be called weak on anything.Of course, by being “tougher” she really didn’t help her cause either, because it just made her seem insane. Her campaign is suffering from a severe case of bipolar disorder because they wrote up this whole game plan based on her being the savior of the party. The avenger freeing us from Bush. The only problem was Bush wasn’t running and Dick Cheney knew he couldn’t get elected on his own 7 years ago. Hillary thought she would get the nomination on goodwill and last name value alone. I stand my belief that the reason why her interaction with Barack has been so illogical is because she never, ever thought her opponent was going to be …A) CharismaticB) A black manShe had a bigger name than anyone, Dem or Republican, running and she had both the money and the Democratic political machine in her favor. For her, it’s like the nomination is that cake that got left out in the rain in the song McArthur Park.It just took her so long to come up with that plan to run for president against some no-name white guy, and to not even be able to use it? To have to go negative on the black guy when you know it will totally fuck up your relationship with your most reliable constituency?No one thought she would go there, but oh, she went there. That is where she lives right now.Really shows how bad she wants it.She won’t get it. But it really, really does show that. everyone: McCain is really frickin’ old. And I think the Bushes really wanted Romney (Jeb was pro-Romney and one of Jeb’s sons was working on Romney’s campaign.) But after Romney flied-n-died, they chose John McCain because he promised to keep the war going. For Bush, that is all this is about. He would endorse anyone who would be willing to keep the war going and not have this war go down in the history books as a loser.BTW: Didn’t Bush look stupid last week when even his ass started attacking Barack? I’m like, dude, don’t you have country to run? And who are you to be giving ANYBODY advice? I’m like Conrad Black, tell me something that Bush said and I will believe the opposite.

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