Yes we can, but what?

By Ignacio Gutiérrez
February 10, 2008

It was only a matter of time until someone successfully invoked JFK’s image alongside Barack Obama’s timely call for change and hope beyond mere comparison. And with Theodore Sorensen endorsing Obama, it’s no accident either. The legendary speechwriter for JFK has claimed giving Obama “a phrase or suggestion or two”.

And for “the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion” as Obama stated after winning the South Carolina primary, there’s something for them too. A video making it’s rounds on the internet, replete with celebrities singing out the phrase “Yes we can” along with excerpts from other speeches.

OK, so I’m one of those cynics. And yet, I personally like Obama. He’s refreshingly honest, genuine and an optimist to say the least. It’s great that he’s managed to thwart apathy among voters and is getting more and more people involved. But his message and his following are starting to get a little creepy.

Democracy is the worst form of government if people choose evil, Churchill once said. While it would be an incredibly far stretch to label Obama as such, for anyone familiar with the Spanish translation of “yes, we can”, “si se puede”, and it’s overt use by the Castro regime in Cuba, this subtle call for socialism hits a little too close to home.

Ask anyone who has even traveled to Cuba and seen the inordinate amount of communist propaganda that puts Nike ad campaigns to shame. It’s unspoken and subtle reminder to everyone of its citizens that “yes we can” imprison you for decades without even so much as a trial by judge or jury for daring to question the common good and supposed “will of the people”, reverberates from every other street corner throughout the country.

Were it not for the fact that “si se puede” is actually referenced in the video, with someone even pumping their fist into the air, perhaps this connection would be superfluous. But whether by accident or design, the actual speech’s message is unmistakable. And just like clockwork, it’s timed to the best and noblest of intentions.

“It’s not about rich vs. poor” Obama mentions. However, the part where we “can’t afford another four years without decent wages because our leaders couldn’t come together and get it done” misses one obvious point. It’s not up to government to decide wages, its up to the marketplace, ie the people speaking with their dollars. And what better way for them to lose their jobs to foreign markets than by imposing mandatory wage increases on companies and increasing their costs of production, not to mention the cost of living for everyone overall.

“There are those who will continue to tell us that we can’t do this, that we can’t have what we’re looking for, that we can’t have what we want, that we’re peddling false hopes.” Intentionally peddling false hopes, maybe not. But then again, informing and educating people as to how the economy of any society functions most effectively and efficiently when government gets out of our way and stops mixing up our rights with entitlement programs has never been the hallmark of any Democratic, let alone socialist rhetoric.

Hopefully Sorensen will pen a more compelling line for Obama and all of us to follow. One as inspiring as “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. At least that one didn’t foster an entitlement mindset. Instead it motivated people to give more than they took and drove many to find and even create their own opportunities and destinies as opposed to expecting prosperity to be doled out like some welfare check. It almost demanded people take responsibility for themselves, and yet still be there for one another.

“Yes, we can heal this nation.” Sure, as soon as government stops intruding in our lives and the marketplace and ends the slow and steady pace towards a nanny state that could imperceptibly morph into a totalitarian one. Then there’ll be no doubt that “yes, we can seize our future” once again.