Endorsing Obama is a Lame Idea /// However, Not Voting for Him is Probably a Bad Idea /// Open Letter to Yoga Practitioners

endorse: to express approval of or give support to, especially by public statement; sanction
American Heritage Dictionary

Dear People Who Practice Yoga (incl. It’s All Yoga, Baby, Matthew Remski, Yoga Brains, et al.),

Tomorrow we will be voting for Barack Obama. And yet, we will be doing so for reasons that do not befit the power we are willing to bestow upon him. The fact is, we feel that Barack Obama will do less damage than Mitt Romney. We do not believe Barack Obama, as a Democrat in a two-party system, has the ability to implement substantial social change in this country, the kind that can be felt at the furthest margins. We merely believe he will do less harm.

Recently, Matthew Remski posted an article asking yoga practitioners to endorse Barack Obama. While we believe Remski’s intention is good (yoga peeps with their can’t-take-a-stand-on-an-issue verbal absenteeism has gots to go!), we believe his use of the term “endorse” proposes a mono-belief (asking people to come together and “approve” of another person) and puts those in agreement in a dangerous disadvantage. For we believe that by “endorsing” Obama, a person encapsulates themselves within the State, rather than voting from outside of it as a pro-active strategic maneuver against it.

We believe people should vote for Obama not because we want them to support or approve of Obama. To ask a person to endorse another, is to ask that person to take on your own beliefs. Rather, we want people to vote for Obama because we think people will get more of what they desrve from him. We want people to vote for Obama for selfish reasons! (Gasp). He, as president, as a representative of a largely infiltrative structure, owes you big time!

Tomorrow (some of) you will have the opportunity to vote one of two men into a position of power the likes of which you have never experienced (unless you are an ex-president). This man will have access to information and dotted lines you will most likely never encounter. Many people around you are going to tell you that voting for one man over the other will have an inevitable effect on the course of this Nation State we find ourselves in. While we are of the belief that the presidents differ markedly on most issues, and that these differences have significant immediate effects for many people, we do not believe, that by choosing one over the other, that we will find ourselves in an irreversible world of better opportunities.

The reason we feel this way is because we believe people, not presidents, create change, usually irregardless of who is in power at the time they are creating it.

Iran

Many people believe that it takes a president, a strange man you have never met, sympathetic to your ideals to enact change. And yet, history shows that social progress—defined here as a continued expansion of rights and equalities extending out to encompass greater and greater diversities of peoples—has come about during the presidencies of political parties that were both against, as well as for, it.

Cairo

So, while it is true that The Civil Rights Act (1964) was signed into law during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, a sympathetic Democrat, many people forget that the movement began and matured during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican (Malcolm X met with The Honorable Elijah Muhammad at the very beginning of this presidency). The Weather Underground, a radical far-left political group, began in 1969 during Republican Richard Nixon’s presidency, and was ultimately dissolved in chaos during Democrat Jimmy Carter’s term. Politicized hardcore punk music and culture came and went during the Republican Reagan years and resurfaced as vegan straight-edge (a largely socially conservative movement) during Democrat Clinton’s term. Allan Ginsberg‘s long poem “Howl” was published, put on trial for being obscene, and subsequently cleared all during a Republican presidency. The largely successful WTO protests in Seattle, WA in 1999 occurred during an era of neo-liberal politricks, and found itself having to deal with the start of the overtly hawkish double terms of George W. Bush only two years later. Today we have the Occupy movement, begun during the Democratic presidency of Barack Obama. Will it end during a possible Mitt Romney reign of terror, only to be reborn under a different guise during a different presidential era?

Seattle (the “Clinton years”)

What’s significant is that a brief history such as this shows how the response of people to injustice does not vary according to the presidential party in office, but rather to the degree to which people find it necessary to make a sustainable difference. If history is any proof, this will continue to be the case regardless of who comes to power on Tuesday.

As for tomorrow, please consider this: Presidents are symbols. And, while that may seem to belittle the potentially disasterous effects a president can have on human beings, it’s important to remember that symbols can kill. Symbols have power. And yet, it’s a power that more often than not, we bestow upon them. Presidents are no different. They are signifiers and represent whichever hands roll the bones best. Our advice? Vote for the symbol that has been given the power to inspire direct action for social justice and spiritual exuberance. Perhaps a Romney presidency will invoke the deepest rooted revolution in progressive-minded people. Perhaps Obama. Either way, you needn’t worry about progress. Progress isn’t a matter of presidents. It’s a matter of you.

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54 comments

  1. Linda-Sama

    you get another “well said” from me…..

  2. Paula

    <3 Well said.

  3. Things are unsustainable and cannot be fixed in four or eight years. When, not if they break down, It helps to have to deal with an administration that does not jump too fast into shutting down the web or sending the swat team. I think all Matthew, Rosanne, Carol, and everyone else are doing by endorsing is using social media to creating activisim through the back and forth you just participated in. Also,we hags tend to get carried away when our friends’ and daughters’ ladyparts become part of the next adminstration’s restoration projects…

    • Thanks. I finally got to poke around the site. Interesting stuff. Will have to read more. She’s got some anti-spanking stances, and things of that nature that I’d be interested in reading. Always curious about “anti-” stances, I am.

      • Greenpoint

        glad you finally had a chance to take a look, and its a dude I believe, Arthur Silber to be exact…

        can’t recommend enough going through his historical writings/comments/articles….touch on many different topics…

  4. We also have our congressional elections and senate elections, should the unthinkable happen.
    I, personally, do not have the money to leave the country, should that unthinkable happen. Canada (to be precise), just so you have an idea where my sympathies reside.

    Voting is a right.

    We have to at least work with what we have–in a civilized manner …
    Anarchy is not a realizable ideal right now.

  5. I AM THAT

    Balanced and understanding, comme d’habitude, bab. We need more thinkers with their heads on. Thanks for speaking to help with the screwing!!

  6. Yoga Whelp

    Sorry, yoga doesn’t have anything to do with organized politics – left, right or center, socialist, fascist, or anarchist. It can be – and has been – adapted to ALL political ideologies.

    The Nazis were fascinated with yoga. The Pentagon is fascinated with yoga. The crunchy granola anti-war set is fascinated with yoga. The porn industry is fascinated with yoga.

    The really dangerous myth is that “yoga” can or should be wedded to ANY social or political agenda. Let yoga be yoga — unencumbered by special issue and cause pleading.

    Of course, vote tomorrow — from whatever political perspective you might have.

    Just don’t call it “yoga”? Because, otherwise you’re really just “yoga bleaching.”

    You’re also dividing yourself from others, who may want or need the “benefits” of yoga and who don’t share your politics.

    They don’t need your posturing – endorsement or not – to “qualify” for the blessing of yoga.

    • Not sure who you’re speaking to here. We actually believe yoga *as a practice* is more or less politically neutral. However, *the people who do the practice* have all sorts of interesting, crazy, wild, wrong, correct, funny, stupid, inspiring, dangerous, monumental, radical, boring, happy-go-licky ideas.

      Our belief is in stark contrast to, say, Kelly Morris, who recently posted on her FB page that “Being a yogi entails actually standing for something and I don’t mean green juice. Something besides ‘Perfect your downdog, eat raw, tolerate bigots, racists and liars as unevolved, smile lovingly and move on’. Being a yogi entails standing up for what is right, what is kind, what is selfless and what is true.”

      While its a perfectly nice sentiment, I believe she’s speaking more about a certain *brand* of good person, rather than a random hypothetical “yogi.” I believe her sentiment and take is more in line with what you’re talking about.

    • jorge

      not to speak for anyone else, but where are you drawing the connection to yoga from this post? do you just mean because it’s on a yoga oriented blog? i basically agree with what you’re saying and it’s a very interesting topic in itself, but i don’t think that’s what this post is doing. just a dude(s/ttes) sharing their political opinion on the election.

  7. jorge

    I’m voting for obama for exactly this same reason. i could never find a conscious reason anyone could “endorse” him, not even during his first election. the long dirty road he and all other politicians have had to walk down to be in the position they are is inexcusable. regardless of their ideals they simply wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t done this, the system(for lack of a better word) is bigger than any individual. sure, i was secretly excited too when he first got elected, but i’ve never expected much from him the realm of real and lasting change. that has always come from the bottom up and from communities. his foreign policy is horrendous and strikingly similar to the pres. before him. his lack of protection of the natural world equally as bad, and don’t even get me started on his full on make out sesh with the patriot act. inexcusable. i think there are very real differences between him and mittens though on domestic issues that affect people on an everyday level and that to me is why there is a moral responsibility to vote for obama. it’s bigger than just you, me, and our big utopian opinions. we have a choice that can make getting through this thing called life easier particularly for marginalized communities(working class people, women, immigrants, the queer community,etc.) and we can hope it will affect even more communities than that as well as cross our fingers that it will potentially give some relief to the people of other countries who are on the wrong side of our guns…..and oil….and religion. i think that is what makes this an important decision to make, it’s a tactical decision. as you pointed out babzy, and i agree, change will keep happening regardless of who is on the throne but using every tool we have available to bring it about truly honors the idea of doing things by all means necessary.

  8. Heaven help the world if the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson, er, um, I mean if Mitt Romney gets in.

  9. fair comment – AND Romney would install supreme court justices who’s decisions will make a BIG difference in actual people’s lives, with no real recourse to reversal. i’m talking gays, pregnant teens, unwanted babies, rape victims, etc – punk rock and protest in the street may not be as immediately potent as whether Romney or Obama get to make those appointments. not to mention life for immigrants and those without health care.

  10. yojay29

    fair comment – but supreme court appointments may affect more people’s lives pretty directly than punk rock and social uprising, even if conditions somehow emerged that made this possible in the usa. life for rape victims, pregnant teens, unwanted babies, poor folks with no health care, immigrants and gays will be demonstrably worse under romney.

  11. 1. Voting as a strategic act against the state. Interesting. And yes.

    2. Irregardless is not a word.

  12. the moment already came

    Even though I love this post, and have borrowed extra thumbs just to up it, I’m about to get pedantic on this joint: I think you, and the dictionary, are using the word endorse in a way few or no people are actually using it in the political arena, including Matthew. I don’t sense any of the posts you mention asking me to “approve” of Obama, I read them as encouragment that I vote for Obama. Which you also do, and which, for the reasons you describe and still others, I am glad to do without “approving” him.

    I read Matthew’s article, and his first reply in the comment thread says he looks at this “endorsement” as a means of pragmatic damage-control, not a philosophical “I-agree-with-and-want-to-align-myself-with-all-your-choices-and-values.” Which, if you take a look at the Republican race especially, is exactly the way most political endorsements are given: “I don’t really like this guy, we disagree about a lot of stuff, I think maybe someone else could do it better, but I’m gonna vote for him, and for rather Machiavellian reasons, I think you should too.” But if you print that in a newspaper, it doesn’t really look, um…endorsing.

    Which is what makes it such a weird, double-edged word. Because when Bloomberg says he endorses Obama, that is obviously, explicitly, a qualified endorsement meaning “I want you to vote for Obama.” But then Obama can pick up that same word and wave it around as if to say, “Bloomberg APPROVES of me.” Which is not what Bloomberg said. But then, he knows what he said, and how it will be used, so he’s cool-cool about it. And it seems most of these bloggers are cool-cool about it too.

    I know the dictionary ‘got your back here, and it’s cool to get irked when people use words to mean something they don’t acutally mean. Like ‘enormity’ or ‘ironic’ or ‘Mila Kunis.’ But it also sounds like you wouldn’t encourage anyone to give ANY political figure an American-Heritage-style endorsement in any political circumstance, which makes it a pretty useless or off-limits word in really the only sphere where it is ever trotted out. All the same, I share in your endorsement of Obama.

  13. BabaR! Great post, and so nice of you to chime in from Mount Sanctanonymous! Your analysis of “endorse” is well-taken, although distinguishing it from “we believe people should vote for” is a little tortured, especially when the convention of your parodic voice requires using the royal “we”. “We will be voting for…”; “We feel that Barack Obama will do less damage…”.

    In any case (as “the moment already came” has suggested above) “endorse” is meant to speak less to support-for than to a type of collective speech that yoga culture has not yet been able to evolve. As I mentioned in the original piece, the public voice of yoga culture has focused itself through its online bulletins and blogs, and the writers and administrators of same are now in a kind of editorial position. “Endorsing” is what media does, in order to represent the speech of a voting block, rather than whatever you would call “We believe people should vote for…”.

    Semantics aside, I’m gonna mark BR down in the “endorsed” column, which makes an even dozen since Thursday. But don’t worry — this by no means encapsulates you within the “State” — you’re still free to not walk on the state’s sidewalks and not bathe in municipal water, and not have your burning house put out, and not be rescued from your roof by FEMA, and not benefit from the few environmental protections the state bestows, if you please.

    For your kind readers who bring up good third-party issues, and especially the question of yoga’s political neutrality, my follow-up to the original post might be of interest. In it, I suggest that yoga might be defined by its practice outcomes, not by its practice details. I feel this view will shed some light on whether yoga naturally arcs towards the progressive.

    http://www.yogabrains.org/politics/a-challenge-to-the-yoga-community-can-we-endorse-obama-raises-more-questions-than-answers/

    • Ooo. A lot of snarky personal (sorta, I mean, there’s more than one here) barbs thrown for being yoga’s latest rational mind! I like it. And to think, we tried really hard to remove anything that was directed at you specifically. Ah well…. Play with fire, I suppose.

      Anyway, I’m out, so can’t fully respond, but took five minutes to ask a random group of people (actually a few different people in different groups) unaware of The Babarazzi, your post, or who we are. I’m not even sure any do yoga, perse, and have no idea who they are voting for. Anyway, I asked each what they thought the word endorsed meant. The responses were as follows:

      1. To sponsor someone, give them money, believe in that person’s ideals.

      2. I’d be throwing myself behind that person.

      3. To vouch for someone. There’s something to do with business.

      4. Well, if a famous person does it I imagine there’s money involved. If I’m endorsing someone it means something less. I guess I condone the person.

      So, you know. Food for thought. I wonder how others understand the word. Just glad we didn’t use it. That would have been a big mistake. People might have gotten the wrong idea!

      • Just trying to honour/reflect/support the general tone you affect so well, BR. I, I mean we, I mean I, look forward for your more complete response!

        • Nah. I think the above sums it up.

          Tell you what, though. Your articles are tight as hell, nuanced, well-positioned, and sharp, but you respond to critique on the blogs that dish it like a newb. Buck up, lil’ sailor. You ain’t all that yet.

        • J

          Hey! I live on Mount Sanctanonymous TOO! I’m up here doing yoga in a cave.

          By the way: wonderful piece Baba. You never disappoint. If you’re not too busy, come by my cave. I’m working my way through Travis’s DVD’s. The siddhis are really coming along: I can turn invisible now.

    • wondering

      who or what is the “public voice of yoga culture”?

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  15. Etienne

    Thanks for this! To add to your points: while it is true that progressive cultural and political movements do begin and even thrive during conservative administrations, that doesn’t eclipse the importance of the things a good president is good for. Appointing Supreme court justices is crucial for the protection of civil rights. There are plenty of very strong “people’s movements” under the current prez — but plenty of them are far-right, esp the anti-choice movement. So not all “political movements” are so hot. Obama’s decision to allow the individual states to not renew No Child Left Behind was crucial to even beginning to salvage k-12 education. His “race to the top” program is not much better, much it’s far less harmful. It’s going to take probably another decade for education to recover from NCLB, it if can. Also, the difference is in how quickly, blatantly and aggressively conservatives could pursue really vicious agendas, like starting a war with Iran, or turning public education entirely over to “charter school” profiteers. So yes, the choice for president does matter

  16. yogadas

    It would be kind of us to “look the other way” about “irregardless,” but we can’t. We can’t. Like you, I’m not really a we, but I’m going to refer to myself as a we, except when I don’t. We roll like that, and because this blog (with a name that conveys a plurality) is all about not looking the other way, and because the person who wrote about your use of the non-word “irregardless” first does not have the final say-so here, I’m not looking the other way. I don’t have the final say-so either, but I’m going to pretend that I do because I’m actually in the process of making fun of you about something else. “We” can’t look the other way because “irregardless” is not just a mistake. There’s willfulness involved. You had to ignore spell-check. You had to really believe in the word to use it, and I don’t even want to get into what kind of person believes in the word “irregardless.” Interestingly enough, you did use the real word “regardless” a bit later in the piece. So maybe you really are a “we,” and if so, the person there at Babarazzi who used the word “regardless” should assume the supervisory “I” position for all of you. If he or she does take control, then you probably will stop referring to yourself as both a “we” and an “I” in comment streams like this. Or, maybe you’re a shapeshifter. That would be cool. But then again, if you do have super powers I think it’s even more reprehensible that you treated Rainbeaux Mars the way you did. She has annoyed me for 20 years, but come on, that was not a fair fight. Maybe this one isn’t either because the real Babarazzi is on vacation or something, but in any case, it’s time like these that I bet you’re especially glad to have established anonymity.

  17. yogadas

    Well, I’ll take the high road and just agree that there is no x in Rainbeau.
    XXX XO XOOVO

  18. DoubleRainbeau

    Owlface:

    On the contrary, there are ample x’s in Rainbeau Mars. You can see a pair of them in her fine 2001 film, Going Greek.

  19. Oh my . . .

    (Also, Baba, you have a twin.)

    . . . – – – . . .

    • I am missing what you are saying… And, I’d like to know.

      • That’s an S.O.S. for wack unlyrical lyrics, Andre. Looks like Batman brought his own Robin…

        In other words, DoubleRainbeau sounds like s/he is mirroring you. This fractured online identity stuff is a subtle game. (0v0)’s been bumping around in the funhouse of online alter egoes since 2006, and (thinks she) knows a splinter self when she sees one.

        • Wait. Are you saying “DoubleRainbeau” is one of us?

        • DoubleRainbeau

          Oh Hooty, I’m flattered. Being mistaken for a real, live BaBa makes me all swoony. Sadly, not so. A (gender-neutral-pronoun) can dream, though.

          But you are HALF right. I have commented here under other names, and I would love to hear your guesses. In the meantime, I will tell my alter egos that I’ve been mistaken for the real deal. They will be beaucoup jealous.

        • Hrm. Well, I’ll be sounding you out, Mystique.

          • I don’t understand any of this. It’s very coded. I like it as poetry, but am confused by it as non-poetry. But, then again, it’s ALL kinda poetry, soo….

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  21. yogaforliberty

    Boom. I like how you start, “Dear people who practice yoga,” implicitly not, “Dear Yogis.” The idea that “yogis” should band together and endorse, makes as much sense as athletes endorsing by sport. First, yoga is not an identity, it is a practice as you state. It’s not like the NFL would ever release this statement: The NFL believes an Obama presidency will result in a instantaneous evolution causing people to realize football is a terrible sport, so we wholeheartedly endorse Romney. Football transcends politics, and so does yoga.

    Come on, we are people who practice yoga. The people who practice yoga are not progressive leaning, as Remski likes to delude himself, they range the entire political perspective.

    • Such a strange analogy, yogaforliberty. Football as “a practice” doesn’t require or lead to an understanding of ethics or a realization that we are interdependent, does it? Ethics are at the heart of politics.

      • yogaforliberty

        Yes, football preaches ethics, sportsmanship, community, being a team player, etc. Teams help out their communities. If I wanted my child to learn ethics and interdependency, I would have him/her play a team sport over sending to a yoga studio. The overall point is that if teams endorsed, they would lose fan base. Not good for the bottom line, not good for yoga inc.

        The idea that ethics are the heart of politics is a little bit of a stretch. Maybe in yoga fantasy world. I would say money and power, but maybe I’m just a cynic.

        • amphibi1yogini

          “If I wanted my child to learn ethics and interdependency, I would have him/her play a team sport over sending to a yoga studio….”

          Better yet, with martial arts you get all that, PLUS respect/honor, passion and the spirituality inherent in yoga, thrown in for good measure …

          As for endorsing political candidates, I’d probably think the martial arts studio wouldn’t touch that either …

        • Well I take it back: we’re in total agreement there. Although I’m a baseball guy myself. And you are right about which environment currently does a better job of promoting community values. While I share your cynicism, I do not feel fatalistic: I think yoga culture can and must do a better job of community formation in the future, especially with the decline of organized religion amongst the millennials. Communities will evolve politics. The arc of yoga when practiced fully is definitely progressive: the last century of Indian history shows this, by and large, with most lineages providing excellent social welfare services. Practitioners in pomoland may express the whole spectrum, but I’m willing to bet that 70-80% of that fabled 20 million voted Obama or third party last week.

  22. Actually, as an organization that must deal with a union–viz., the NFL Players Association–the NFL does not transcend politics, not even a little bit. Ex-candidate Romney would have gutted the National Labor Relations Board and populated it with anti-union hacks. It would be within a president’s purview to nominate folks to the NLRB (as s/he nominates justices to the Supreme Court) who actually disdained organized labor and would just as soon see all unions abolished. President Obama’s friendlier stance on organized labor is a boon to America’s 15 million unionmembers, including those members of the NFLPA whose job it is to play football. Major League Baseball exists in its present form because of an antitrust exemption explicitly granted to it by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922.

    If one is governed, then one cannot transcend politics. And (speaking as a unionmember and an employee of a labor union), if one works, then one cannot transcend politics either.

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