Stop whining and go do something

By Wes Alcenat

It would be ridiculous of me to claim that Barack Obama has all the answers to the current quagmire in Iraq. It would be equally suspect of me to conclude that he’ll put an end to the war immediately after assuming the presidency. What I know, however, is that Obama has a plan to immediately begin withdrawing our troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year. I know that he opposed the war before it started, denounced it publicly, and is now feverishly calling for Congress to stand up against President Bush and put a definite end to it.

I bring these facts up to shed light on the twisted facts that “Billionaires for Obama” sought to convey last week to a group rallying with the Obama campaign against the war. The use of semantics and rhetoric seems to carry a lot of weight at Macalester. Students protest over semantics rather than putting their anger to practical use. It is not surprising that those same students are often caught up in rhetoric instead of real protest. I choose to identify myself as moderate and not liberal in part because I’d rather be engaged and active in a movement for peace rather than theorizing about how to bring about peace-besides, the classroom provides enough practice for theories.

So often students like those behind “Billionaires for Obama” are so preoccupied with judgment before observation, denouncing other beliefs rather than practicing their own, that they only get caught up in the cycle of intellectual responsibility. Maybe instead of playing dress-up, these students should organize a disenfranchised community, rally diverse coalitions around progressive issues, or get students out to vote like the Obama campaign is doing.I am supportive of anyone who thinks that the war should end and is actively participating in the greater political effort to bring that end. I am not supportive of people who have embedded themselves in liberal rhetoric but aren’t actively seeking change or even supporting those working for change. While I have the greatest respect for free speech, it is impermissible that anyone who is deeply entrenched in the luxury of a $40,000/year education-as are the “Billionaires for Obama” group and myself included-should designate themselves as advocates for the poor by claiming that Obama supports the funding of war on the backs of the poor. Money may buy intellectual eruditeness, but it cannot buy political wisdom. That is what is lacking in a lot of Macalester’s students-the ability to see issues from both sides, and the courage to support those working for the same goals you’d like to see accomplish.

My final advice to that group is that they act on their moral obligations, form a coalition in collaboration with others seeking the same goals, and proceed to elaborate their stance both against the war and the current administration like the Obama campaign has been trying to do. Like Obama says, it is not enough to be against something; ultimately you have to be for something. The liberal agenda lacks that. The very example is seen in the rhetoric of do-gooders of “Billionaires for Obama” who contradict their own agenda by opposing others actively working to reach the means to the same end-the unjust war in Iraq.

Wes Alcenat ’10 is the Mac for Obama Coordinator. He can be reached at [email protected]