George Graham

Whatever Happened to Change – and Hope?

I suppose it was naive of me to hope – especially to hope for change. But that’s what the posters said. And the crowds chanted “Yes we can!”

But it looks more and more as if the Republicans were right when they said, “Hell no, you can’t!”

No we haven’t closed Guantanamo. No we haven’t left Iraq. No, we haven’t talked Iran – or North Korea – into playing nice. No we can’t even get our close ally, Israel, to behave in a civilized manner.

No, we haven’t ended the “don’t ask-don’t-tell” policy that has robbed the U.S. military of so many valuable people at a time when they are so desperately needed.

No, we haven’t enacted climate change legislation or jump started a significant alternative energy industry. We haven’t even been able to convince everyone that global warming is an imminent threat. Polls show more than a quarter of the American population still don’t believe it’s a scientific fact.

No, we did not pass a universal health care bill. That job will remain undone until truly affordable health insurance is provided for everyone in America. And that cannot be accomplished without a “public option.” The complex morass that Congress concocted after months and months of wrangling will do some good but it leaves the job undone. And it is likely to make things worse for many Americans.

No, we have not found jobs for millions of laid-off workers. The economic reforms enacted so far have lined the pockets of the greedy but left the needy still waiting for better days.

And, worst of all, we have failed utterly to protect the environment.

I say “we” because I was among those who voted for Barack Obama, marching to the polls to make my mark for hope and change. It was the best I could do to fight a rotten and perverse system, a system that seemed hopeless at its core.

But, despite the blizzard of words I have endured since that historic election, the system remains unchanged, and things seem as hopeless as ever.

The power of the military-industrial complex remains unchallenged. The tyranny of the corporations grows more oppressive each day.

Charlatans and mountebanks continue to milk the country’s financial system of millions – even billions.

And oil gushes unchecked from the bowels of the Gulf.

To add to my dismay, there’s news today that the Obama administration is going to allow resumption of offshore drilling in shallow water – less than 500 feet.

Why? This month’s Rolling Stone Magazine may have the answer.

An article by Tom Dickinson exposes the corruption and negligence that caused the Gulf disaster, revealing that the Minerals Management Service was allowed to ignore and violate environmental laws not only during the Bush years but also after Obama’s election.

Here’s an excerpt:

Interior Secretary Salazar did little to tamp down on the lawlessness at MMS… And instead of putting the brakes on new offshore drilling, Salazar immediately throttled it up to record levels. Even though he had scrapped the Bush plan, Salazar put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf in his first year alone – an all-time high. The aggressive leasing came as no surprise, given Salazar’s track record. “This guy has a long, long history of promoting offshore oil drilling – that’s his thing,” says Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “He’s got a highly specific soft spot for offshore oil drilling.” As a senator, Salazar not only steered passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8 million acres in the Gulf to drilling, he even criticized President Bush for not forcing oil companies to develop existing leases faster.”

A top-to-bottom restructuring of MMS didn’t require anything more than Ken Salazar’s will: The agency only exists by order of the Interior secretary…Even though Salazar knew that the environmental risks of offshore drilling had been covered up under Bush, he failed to order new assessments. “They could have said, ‘We cannot conclude there won’t be significant impacts from drilling until we redo those reviews,’ ” says Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the oil industry would have cried foul. And what we’ve seen with Salazar is that when the oil industry squeaks, he retreats.”

You can read the Rolling Stone article here:

I know the President is only human, and powerful special interests are deeply entrenched. I know that politicians must spend millions to get elected and depend on contributions from the special interests they’re supposed to keep in check.

I realize that the Democratic majority in Congress is compromised by “Blue Dogs,” who resist change and sabotage progressive legislation.

And I know that, as Count Nicolo Machiavelli said more than five centuries ago:

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experience of it.

But in the exuberance of the Obama campaign, I dared to hope for change. And now, in the absence of change, I am running out of hope.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for