National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Obama & the Fall of ‘The Man’

The United States is on the verge of perhaps the most profound cultural sea change in its history.

Were Sen. Barack Obama to win the U.S. presidential election Tuesday, it would usher in an entirely new social paradigm, realizing the worst fears of those who’ve opposed it so vociferously since it was manifested in the civil rights and anti-war struggles of the 1960s.

The import of this cannot be overstated, and will take years if not decades to fully sink in. It represents far more than the election of the nation’s first Afro-American president, although that is, of course, a profoundly significant element of it.

It represents, to put it succinctly and as we used to say in the 1960s, the overthrow of “The Man.” The architect of the Vietnam War and racial hatred, “The Man,” back in those days, was also known as a “WASP” (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) and “Male Chauvinist Pig.”

He, whose military-industrial complex, multi-national corporate institutions of natural resources looting and human exploitation, and imperial military forces, ran America, which included defining the reigning paradigms of its political, cultural and religious institutions.

He raised boys to be battlefield fodder for his wars, and girls to raise more boys. He ruled by imposing economic apartheid, including by undermining organized labor, exacerbating division and hatred among the masses, insisting that morality was personal and not economic, diverting attention by offering “bread and circuses” Roman Empire-style (sports and entertainment), and controlling major sources of news and information.

He hated homosexuality, feminism and abortion, because they threatened to knock his warrior culture priorities off track. He insisted on the right to beat his children into fearful, slavish compliance with his wishes, and as for abortion, in general, he demanded that women worship the sacred nature of everything that issued from his loins.

He imposed the religion of an angry, judgmental God, a big man with a long beard and a booming voice that demanded obedience, and threatened hell.

Many of us who fought for civil rights and economic justice, for equal rights and respect for all, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, in the 1960s and early 1970s knew that our enemy was not a set of bad laws or mere ignorance, but was “The Man,” himself. In the last 35 years, those enforcing the social paradigm of “The Man” have fought viciously against the social tendencies set in motion back then, with a ferocity that can only be understood by appreciating what was really at stake for them.

But in an almost underground way, the much-maligned “baby boomer generation,” in addition to evolving the computer, the Internet and the information revolution, steadfastly advanced the values of social and economic justice, respect and equality, even as “The Man” held sway in the official corridors of power.

In the last eight years, “The Man” was virtually unchecked imposing his will within those corridors, proving incapable of restraining his own greed and penchant for deceit in the process. He feasted on the global economy by lifting all regulatory limits on predatory selling and lending practices, duping not only unwitting middle class folk with false promises and subprime loans, but also global investors with smoke and mirrors obfuscating securities instruments leveraged up to 40 times their actual value.

“The Man,” therefore, had sewn the seeds of his own destruction by such wanton gluttony and excess.

A new generation, born into a world that the “baby boomers” caused to include a tenacious respect for the rights and freedoms of all, has seen the patent deceit and injustices contained in the invasion of Iraq, the brutish American unilateralism in foreign policy making sworn enemies out of former allies in ethnically and culturally diverse parts of the planet, and most recently the torching of its parents’ and their friends’ American dreams through the real estate and financial markets collapses and specter of recession and mass unemployment.

With their parents and mentors, these young insurgents have stormed into the campaign offices of Obama over the last year, taking to the barricades, as it were, to once and for all liberate society from the festering sores of destruction “The Man” created.

Were it to happen Tuesday, Obama’s election would affirm every value of social and economic justice that “The Man” has angrily fought to suppress in my lifetime, and by so doing, it will be a whole new day in America.

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