Listen to you
My name is Adrian Madriz. I am a Christian in the Episcopal tradition, a son and brother, a Latino, a Miamian, and an American. I am gay, relatively young and a Millennial. I am also a former fellow of the 2008 Obama for America campaign, and a former Field Organizer of the 2012 OFA Campaign.
I am making this video and its associated blog because I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that I can no longer support President Obama.
The happiest day of my life was Nov. 4th 2008. Never had I ever felt more optimistic about the future, or more proud of what I helped accomplish. It was the first day of a new age in history. It would be different because we would have a functioning and effective leadership that would restore the people’s faith in government and it’s potential. One that would be run by intelligent people that would meet the country’s basic needs, and wouldn’t start jingoistic wars, would work to end oppression, and would make sure America avoided the pitfalls of empires in decline.
But then, Guantanamo Bay stayed open, Chelsea Manning was thrown in jail and the orchestrators of the Global Financial crisis were not. Drones began to kill innocent civilians and American citizens, our government became less transparent, more secretive, and more willing to violate the civil liberties of every congressman, foreign dignitary or American citizen that got in its way. We started humanitarian wars in Libya, and turned a blind-eye to the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
But absolutely none of that shook the resolve of my support for President Obama. From the get go, I knew he wasn’t going to be perfect, and I knew that he was not singularly in charge of what got done and what didn’t. I defended all of his shortcomings vociferously to my friends who had begun to question if he really was the change they could believe in. Any cognitive dissonance I had was quickly dissolved by the earnest belief that the core of who he was, and what he valued had not actually changed. This was the pragmatic price to pay for stable and effective governance, and for our safety.
After all, he had succeeded in so many ways. How could I discount that? I cheered when the ACA became law, when student loan reforms had passed, when DADT was overturned, and yes, when Osama Bin Laden was killed.
But all of those successes, and all of that work was betrayed this past week when he decided to take the United States back to war with Iraq.
Some people may look at my waning support and wonder, “Why now? Why this issue?”. Because even though I was able to somehow explain away all of the other disagreements I had with the Obama Administration, this one simply could not be explained for two reasons. #1 Because it is a continuation of the United States’ imperial oppression. It is merely the latest instance of a long series of actions the United States has taken to let us know that it really has no interest in letting go of its hegemony. And further, that as a hegemonic power, it will be no different than its predecessors. That we will be a country that hides its mistakes and gives comfort to the oppressors. That we will say Michael Brown passed away when we all know he was murdered. #2, because the issue of Iraq is what made you, you President Obama. Back in 2007, when your campaign was first announced and folks were trying to decide between you, Hillary and Edwards, you were the only one that stood against the war in Iraq from the beginning. It was the issue that made you different, that made you more qualified, and made us more hopeful.
But on a personal level, this new War in Iraq is the latest drop in a bucket of broken promises that I can no longer prevent from spilling over. It is the point where I have to say, “No more.”
And it is especially hard for me, not just because I worked so hard to get you in office, but because for these last 7 years since I first decided to support you, my entire life has basically been about you. Indeed, one of the strongest associations my friends have about me is my fervent support for you. It is how I’ve defined myself to them. It has bordered on obsession at times. My birthday in 2009 was Obama themed, with Obama decorations and even an Obama cake. My walls were littered with your campaign signs, propaganda and newspaper clippings. My user name on various sites and videogames has been ObamaPwnsGOP. I wouldn’t know the man I am today if you had never become the President you are now.
You gave me the values I hold today, including the belief that America could be strong without displaying military strength, that racism is not a relic of the 1960s, and that you can be a proud American without being proud of what America does.
And so, untangling you from my life requires me to really think about who I’m going to be, and who I really am. Before I was the man who dared to believe that things could really change. Now, after this new mission in Iraq, I’m most certainly the fool who just refused to grow up and accept that things can never truly change. These past 7 years have merely delayed the inevitable transformation into the hard-hearted cynical person we’re all fated to become.
In late July, I made a proclamation to social media that if we were to go back to Iraq that the only pictures of you that I would post would be the ones of me burning everything I own that bears your name. Though you may not be a man of your word, I still am.
Over the next 51 days until Oct. 7th, I will burn one thing of mine that I associate with you, either because your name is on it, or because my association with the item is too tied up in you. This will be very difficult because many of these items go beyond trinkets from your campaign. They bear the names of people I met in my time working for you, or they’re even things which will one day be very valuable, like these business cards from your Senate office. They’re even going to be things like my graduation cap, because I was not only blessed to work for you, but also to have you speak at my graduation from the University of Michigan.
Why 51 days, because that’s how much time you have left before you have to get Congress to authorize the military operation in Iraq, under the War Powers Act. Sure, you’re lawyers might argue that it’s all part of the original AUMF from 2002, but you know in your heart what’s right and what isn’t. If you ignore congress, you’re wrong. If you stop this war, or you go to Congress, I will stop burning my things. Not because this is meant to be an ultimatum. Rather, I will take it as an indication that I was wrong about you, in a prodigal way.
And so slowly but surely, the next 51 days will see me burn what little hope I have left. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for you to prove me wrong. Maybe, you will find it in you to reward that hope. To reward that belief.
Until then, know that this is the first day of a new age for me, one where I will begin to seek a new change that I can believe in.
You’re a good man President Obama. You’re a good husband to your wife and a good father to your daughters. One day, I hope to be that good to my own daughters and sons. By Oct 7th, my hope for your presidency may be ashes, but my belief in America will burn forever.