In recent history, two concepts of justice have stood out. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed in a kind of justice that could only be achieved when systematic oppression had been eliminated from the world. George W. Bush, on the other hand, believed in the justice of old Western movies and gunfights. When he inherits the Bush legacy on January 21st, 2009, Barack Obama will have to choose between these two approaches. The decision he makes will reverberate around the world and be one of the first indicators of whether "Change We Can Believe In" was merely good sloganeering.
"I just got a call from the Associated Press," announced the speaker before the crowd of Obama supporters packed into the Virginia Democratic Headquarters in the McLean Hilton in Northern Virginia. "We just did what has not been done since 1964." The crowd erupted in to euphoria. Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama had just taken Virginia. And with Virginia - as was announced moments later - so went the presidency. The emotion was indescribable. Strangers hugged. Tears fell. Cheers rolled through the ballroom. The United States had a new president - an African American president, bringing new hope to a nation in difficult times.
The deadliest war since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe is starting again - and you are almost certainly carrying a blood-soaked chunk of the slaughter in your pocket. When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million dead, the clichés of Africa reporting tumble out: this is a "tribal conflict" in "the Heart of Darkness". It isn't. The United Nations investigation found it was a war led by "armies of business" to seize the metals that make our 21st-century society zing and bling. The war in Congo is a war about you.
Democracy is not something that happens once every four years when you go vote for President, Senator, governor or congressman. It should be an every day act. It can be participatory, and we can no longer leave important local, regional or national decisions in the hands of our elected representatives alone. They should be held accountable, not to their campaign contributors, but to the citizens who they are supposed to represent. Unaccountable politicians and beltway lobbyists got us in to this current national crisis. Only the American people can get us out.
Canadian resource companies are under fire in Peru. On October 21, Cesar Zuniga, the president of the Achuar indigenous group FENAP, told a local radio: "We, as indigenous people, reject the Canadian company Talisman. We do not want them working in our territory. We want the Peruvian state to respect us, and the armed forces to stop helping the company." The indigenous communities believe oil development causes ecological harm and leads to social conflict.
The irrepressible Louis "Studs" Terkel was many things - oral historian, radio and TV host, actor, activist, Bronx-born icon of Chicago, the "great listener" who was hard of hearing, Pulitzer Prize-winner. But most of all he was an inspiration. He inspired every younger activist or independent journalist who ever met him. And who among us wasn't younger than Studs. The self-described "guerilla journalist" died Friday at 96. He was almost 70 when I first met him, more than twice my age. But I couldn't keep up.