"let's not get organized by barack obama"

You may recall that last week I was interviewed by "The Daily Show" and a few other media outlets, asking the bizarre question, "Now that Obama has been elected, will you move back to the US?" The question itself was so off-target and puzzling to me that I had some trouble articulating an answer. I figured they wanted something beyond, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Some attempts at an answer from both me and Allan are in comments here, with more here, including links to other people's answers.

Here's another answer, which arrived by email, from my friend Tom Kertes. I met Kertes (he goes by his last name) through the War Resisters Support Campaign, and we discovered we had both been interviewed on the same radio show. He's a labour organizer, a peace and human rights activist, an educator, and an all-around great person. He emigrated to Canada with his partner, moving to Toronto from Seattle.

Kertes gave me permission to post his recent email here.
The week of the US election a reporter from the Seattle PI and a researcher from the Daily Show called to find out if Americans who recently moved to Canada were planning on moving back. They wanted to know if the word "change" on a campaign sign was a enough to bring me back. Below is the Seattle PI article. I don't know what the Daily Show will be doing... but it sure would be fun to mocked (a little, hopefully) on the show.

Note: The reporter got some of the facts wrong. I live in Toronto, not Vancouver. Also I am not a Canadian Citizen. And I left the US largely because of its stance on human rights, including gay and lesbian rights, torture and poverty, not only gay rights as the article states.

They wanted to know if the word "change" on a campaign sign was enough to bring me back. I wish I'd thought of that!

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer story is here. Take a peek, but even better, read this essay by Tom Kertes.
Barack Obama and I share one thing in common. I am a community organizer. And so was Barack Obama. From this, I imagine, we've witnessed many of the same injustices, heard similar stories of people being beaten down and being taken advantage of, and have studied the same strategies and tactics for how to build power for the powerless.

Given this, why did Barack Obama stop community organizing? Does he believe that in the past eight years power has dramatically shifted from the once powerless in order to bring about the radical changes required to put the stories he'd heard of poverty and hunger to rest? Did he think it was finally time for the community to take over, ready to exercise its power gained through decades of effective organizing, leadership development and development of community-based institutions focused on human rights, social justice and economic fairness? Or, it is that Barack Obama never was a community organizer, but rather an organizer of the Democratic Party, building a base for himself within his party by going out to the community in order build a winning narrative that starts with "when I was with the common folk" and ends with "and now that I am President."?

I can't know Barack Obama's motives, but I can watch what he does. First, I can see that he is a Democrat. He is now the leader of the same coalition that "ended welfare as we know it" in 1996, that largely supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and that recently bailed out Wall Street bankers. Barack Obama and the party he now leads supports the expansion of government surveillance, the expansion of American forces in Central Asia and is without a plan or even a promise to de-privatise health care by creating a single payer system that's universally available to all.

. . . .

Now that the election is over, it's time for us to go back to making history ourselves. The stakes are high. Had community organizers in the 1960's allowed themselves to be co-opted by John Kennedy, Barack Obama might not have been allowed even to vote, let alone to lead the Democratic Party as President of the United States. Let's not get organized by Barack Obama because if we don't organize ourselves now, then poverty will not be ended, human rights will not be secured, oppression will not be beaten down. [More here.]

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