New Hope for a Second Term

President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address surprised some pundits with his strong messages on climate change, immigration reform, gun safety and other social issues. But whether real action follows will depend on a shift in public consciousness, says Robert F. Dodge.

By Robert F. Dodge

This year’s presidential inauguration on Martin Luther King Day finds us as a nation and people at a remarkable crossroads. We have the same daunting issues we have faced for years before us; and yet there is something different.

There is a developing shift in our consciousness and responsibility. We are witnessing a new awareness of the challenges and necessity of addressing them. What is needed is the collective will and steadfastness of effort to realize the opportunities that are upon us.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama during the official swearing-in ceremony in the Blue Room of the White House on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This year commemorates profound social events in history, from the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago. That dream and challenge is alive and vital today, and recent events have made the need to realize it ever more apparent.

From Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook, the challenges we face loom large. They range from climate change, gun control, immigration reform, to mass incarceration, war and social and environmental justice. On our shared planet, there is a demand for environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment. We must recognize that these issues are all connected. Not one can be had without the others. The tipping point on these issues is at hand.

Daily we witness the devastating effects of climate change, from year after year record temperatures and 2012 being the warmest year on record for the lower 48 U.S. states. We see the catastrophic global storms and record melting of the Arctic Sea ice. People are making the connection of extreme weather and climate change. The storms affect everyone, though poor and underdeveloped communities and civilizations feel a disproportionate brunt with resultant environmental injustice.

Gun violence is a public health threat and national disgrace. Averaging 87 gun-related deaths per day, the United States saw more than 30,000 of our citizens die last year from gunshot. Gun-related deaths are the leading cause of death among inner city black children and teens.

This “war” rages on everyday right here on our soil. According to Bloomberg News, deaths from these weapons of mass destruction will soon overtake annual auto fatalities. This public health threat has gone on for far too long.

As with any public health threat, prevention is key. A sad and paradoxical outcome of the Sandy Hook shootings and the loss of innocent white school children and teachers is that previous congressional adversaries to gun control are starting to evolve, recognizing that there is no “safe” population. They are seeing the need for some sensible control of our current insane gun policy.

Immigration reform has long been ignored or used as a divisive political issue. Yet immigration is a reality in our society and how we respond will address social and economic justice. Our economy is dependent on the labor of these “non-recognized” people whom we so often overlook and treat as non-entities. This is a complex and international issue that demands compassion and leadership to resolve.

Mass incarceration that flows from the “War on Drugs” finds 2.3 million people in the U.S. behind bars. With 5 percent of the world’s population the U.S. has 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated, making the U.S. the “incarceration nation.” Fifty percent of this population are men of color; this has been referred to as the new “Jim Crow.” This institutionalized racism tears apart the social fabric of our communities.

Finally, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan it is imperative that we look closely at addressing and eliminating the root causes of war. All war has the possibility of going nuclear, either by intent or mistake. In a world that remains wired for instantaneous nuclear annihilation stemming from outmoded Cold War thinking, the time at long last has come to make real progress in abolishing these weapons.

The cost of war and the military-industrial complex to our society and world in lives, treasure, natural resources, brainpower, and missed opportunities is incomprehensible. The entire war economy demands a complete review as we face the finite fragile future of our planet. It is inaugural time – time to inaugurate some key necessary changes.

Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.

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8 comments on “New Hope for a Second Term

  1. Based on Barack Obama’s promises during his 2008 election campaign and what he actually did in country’s foreign policy, which was worse than Dubya Bush – only some dreamers would believe Obama will do what he said in his inaugural speech. He is a Zionist from head-to-toe – and I never would like to be among the naives who may believe him.

    “Although he would be the first Black president, don’t expect Obama to abolish slavery,” – Canadian Arab News, 2009.

    http://rehmat1.com/2008/12/13/obama-the-first-jewish-president/

  2. Lantern Rogue on said:

    Obama; the guy who can lock you away forever or kill you without judicial oversight. Well done partisan fools!

  3. leftover on said:

    I find it interesting Dr. Dodge speaks about “social justice” but mentions nothing about the 45,000 people who die every year from lack of health insurance. This not a public health threat, but gun violence is? He speaks about “insane gun policy” but not a word about ObamaCare subsidizing a healthcare system that rations care based on economic class that disproportionately affects people of color. Social Justice?

    He talks about social justice and the “non-recognized”, but mentions nothing about rising poverty, profound inequity and long term mass unemployment which disproportionately affects people of color. Why are these factors not recognized by Dr. Dodge? He talks about mass incarceration without mentioning not one criminal culpable in the economic crash has been…or will be…prosecuted beyond a mere slap on the wrist.

    He talks about war and its root causes, but ignores the audacious hypocrisy of Barack Obama, who has expanded American imperialism and the wars, who murders noncombatants with impunity, and claims the right to execute American citizens with no more “due process” than scribbling a name on a piece of paper, using Martin Luther King’s bible to get sworn in as President.

    Cornel West responds…

    If I was a rich white guy, I suppose I might see “New Hope for a Second Term.” But I’m not, so I don’t.

  4. Paul G. on said:

    What a waste of space, sounds like a graduation speech. It would have been much better to include Cornel West fiery comments on the hypocrisy of Obama swearing in on MLK’s bible.

    He we have a Potus infamous for his cowardly subservience to Wall Street, his assassination program, persecution of whistleblowers, etc, etc. ad nauseam. This POTUS has the cheek to use the bible of a man who stood up to rabid bigots, was beaten, jailed, spied on and vilified by elements of his own government and finally assassinated with the collusion of that government.

  5. Frances in California on said:

    So, all of you pissy commenters would rather Romney had become President? What will it take for you to figure out that until Americans abolish the Electoral College, no President will ever be able to do what he or she sets out to do. You act as if, just because they’re hopelessly corrupt, Congress has nothing to say about any of it? Did you graduate high school? Or, more to the point, did you learn anything there?

    • leftover on said:

      I learned enough to recognize that, based on performance thus far, there is precious little difference between neoliberal Democrats like Obama and neoliberal Republicans like Romney. I also learned about FDR and The New Deal…and LBJ and Medicare and The Great Society… 2 examples of what can be accomplished when political leaders respond to the needs of actual persons instead of corporate persons.

      And I learned in science class that doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results each time is one definition of insanity.

      I also learned, studying Martin Luther King…“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” So excuse me being pissy…refusing to accept…as you do…that there is no alternative to a system that produces Obamas and Romneys.