Friday, October 17, 2008

Making Peace and Justice a Post-Election Priority

Will the outcome of this year's U.S. presidential elections make a difference for the world's poor, oppressed, and marginalized?

Seven months ago, while the presidential primaries were still underway, Baptist ethicist Miguel De La Torre argued that:
So far in this campaign, all three (Clinton, Obama, and McCain) have ignored the fact that the gap between the rich and poor has more than doubled between 1980 and 2005. All three candidates will defend free-market policies and none will seriously address the undemocratic distribution of wealth, resources and privileges in this country.
Noting that "all three (of the candidates) are ontologically white males," De La Torre went on to explain that:
It does not matter if a black man or a white woman is elected president. If the national politics and economics of the captains of industry were to be threatened with a reversal caused by the needs of U.S. marginalized communities--be they blacks, women, or poor whites--the future president would rally all the forces at his or her disposal to maintain the prevailing economic power structures that exist, even if those structures are detrimental to communities that share their gender or skin pigmentation.

On the international scene, whoever the future president may be, it will be her or his job to protect the interests of the empire abroad. Therefore, in terms of U.S. global economic policies, it really doesn't matter if we elect a black man, a white woman or conclude that all the change we really need is another white man.
Ultimately, De La Torre concludes that regardless of who wins the White House in November, that person will simply be the new "face of a global neoliberalism that continues to privilege the few at the expense of the vast majority of the world's population."

Sadly, this year's elections are turning out just as De La Torre has predicted. Even though economic justice for the poor is one of the central themes of both the Old and New Testaments, neither of the two major party candidates, both of whom claim to adhere to the Christian faith, have addressed this concern in the last three presidential debates. While John McCain tries to dance around the fact that his economic policies favor America's wealthiest citizens, Barack Obama has firmly positioned himself behind American's so-called middle-class, most of whom--while not anywhere near as rich as McCain's constituency--are still amongst the world's wealthiest people.

The good news is that, just a few days ago, the leadership of the National Council of Churches in the USA wrote an open letter to Senators Obama and McCain, calling upon them to make the poor and poverty, both in the U.S. and abroad, a major priority in their campaigns. While it seems unlikely that such a letter will be cause for a major shift in either candidate's campaign at this late date, it is still important because it alerts the candidates, the nation, and the world to the political priorities of the American church. Regardless of who wins the election, the NCC has made clear that it stands on the side of the poor and will seek to hold the occupant of the Oval Office--whomever that may be--accountable to that priority.

Poverty, of course, is just one of many priorities that we as Christians should have when it comes to the struggle for peace and justice. And like poverty, few--if any--of those priorities have been addressed by McCain and Obama. Regardless of the outcome of this year's elections, we will clearly have our work cut out for us.

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At Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 12:06:00 AM EST , Blogger Steve Hayes said...

"Ontologically white males"?

Symbolically, perhaps, but ontologically?

Hilary Clinton has balls? That's a symbolic statement, surely -- not an ontological one -- unless of course, she's a transvestite and Chelsea was adopted.

At Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 9:29:00 AM EST , Blogger haitianministries said...

De La Torre's choice of "ontologically" is a bit unusual, no? He does, however, attempt to explain what he means in the second paragraph of his essay:

"Saying that Obama is ontologically white or that Clinton is ontologically male is neither an issue of race nor gender. The question is not if Obama is 'black enough' or if Clinton became too masculine in order to play with the 'good ol' boys' in the Senate. Such speculations are nonsense chatter occurring mainly among white media pundits who fail to understand the depths of this 'historic election.' Barack's whiteness and Hillary's maleness raise postcolonial concerns and questions, and as such, make this an issue of class."

That being said, I would agree that "symbolically" or, for that matter, even "functionally" would be more straightforward.


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