Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank You President Obama

                This is the final day of President Barack Obama’s tenure as this country’s 44th President. There are so many things I’ve wanted to say and it’s been very difficult to organize my thoughts on the subject.  I have been part of a great change in this country with the election of the first African American as our President and I sincerely take that to heart. I remember the 2008 night at my apartment, watching with two of my friends as Mr. Obama was declared the victor and we cheered and cried and were in awe of the amazing capacity for America to embrace change. It wasn’t the hope and change promised as by Mr. Obama, it was the change in America’s tone and willingness to elect an African American to the highest office at that moment in history. It was momentous.  

                I had a feeling that night that things in this country could only get better after so many years in the quagmire of the Bush administration. I really felt the country’s excitement and felt the quickened heartbeats of my fellow citizens at the thought of a young president, eager to take on the ills of America and help us to find solutions to them.  I felt there was now someone in the White House who respected intelligence, who was compassionate, who was a believer in the goodness of people and had the energized base to get things done.  I felt that we had the opportunity to create the nation that our founders had imagined and start working toward a future where everyone would have a shot at success.

                I was shocked when I was confronted with some more conservative friends and acquaintances. They hated Mr. Obama. They just hated him. They felt he was some kind of usurper to the Presidency. They said he wasn’t an American; that he wanted to take their 2nd amendment right away, that he wanted to start a race war, that he was a terrorist bent on the demolition of the United States of America.  They said he was an elitist. They said he was “too educated”. They said he would ruin this country in a way that had never been seen before. All before he’d even sat down at the desk in the Oval Office.

                I heard conspiracy theories that President Obama was the Anti-Christ and people went to great lengths to make the biblical connections to him and the Devil. I heard that he was preparing America for Sharia Law to take hold, so Doomsday preppers started filling their bunkers with guns and nonperishable food items. I saw that gun sales in the United States actually went up right after Mr. Obama was elected. And I couldn’t figure out why this was happening.  Why were people saying and doing these crazy things?

                I’m a rational man. I’m not prone to the peer pressures of too many. I’ve always taken the time to form my own opinion. I’ve seen my opinion evolve as new information was learned. I’ve kept myself open minded and clear headed as possible. I try not to “believe the hype” or “Drink the Kool-Ade”. I want to know more. I want to know sources. I want to know why. Why, why, why?

                I could never find a satisfactory answer. Conservatives just didn’t like him. Republicans just didn’t like him. They didn’t trust him but couldn’t point to a specific reason why. They didn’t think he was their President. He wanted to change things and that was unacceptable to some.  I was told over and over that Mr. Obama was worse than Hitler and when I pressed people to give me more information on why they thought that way I was just told I was “naïve” or “too young to know” or “I’d find out”, or even worse, that I “didn’t know what I was talking about.” The last one always stung, because I did. I am a student of History. I’m a student of Government. I have been following and studying the politics of this country since Nixon. (Even before Nixon actually.) I was familiar with the changing tides and attitudes of Americans toward their President, but I always also found a reason for their dislike. With President Obama, I could never get any kind of concrete answer.  

Nixon was a criminal, Ford was a bumbler, Carter was too soft, Reagan was too militant, Bush Sr. was wishy-washy, Clinton was a philanderer, Bush II was helpless, but Obama was worse than all of them for some reason. I was, and am, baffled by it. Mr. Obama certainly wasn’t perfect. His first term was certainly a learning experience and yet he still only wanted, in my opinion, what seemed like the best for the American people, regardless of race or economic background.  His second term was mired in the mud of the Republican Party’s upheaval within their own ranks. He was stifled by a Congress set on defying any attempts to help the people or in any way compromise with him.

                The vitriolic language that sprang up around President Obama was again, just a shock to me, almost daily. It seemed no matter what he said or did or tried, it was always some attempt to destroy America or take away your freedoms.    An African American President from Illinois, from Chicago, from Hawaii, was trying to take away the freedom of his fellow citizens. The lunacy of that always left me at such a loss for words.  If anything, he was the embodiment of what it meant to be an American and to achieve success through hard work and determination coupled with a desire to help people. How could someone like that want to destroy the very nation that nurtured him? It didn’t make any sense.

                So today, on his last day in office, I’m still stunned by the division and polarizing effect he had on the American people; whether his presidency exposed what was already under the surface or created a new sort of misdirected angst I don’t think I’ll ever know.  Whatever it uncovered I felt it play out against Hillary Clinton in her bid for the White House. I heard the same sort of hatred and vile taunts hurled at her as were thrown at President Obama and I still didn’t get it. It was vicious. It was so hateful and spiteful. It left me feeling like the hope of that night of 2008 was dead.

All I’ve ever wanted in a President is one with a conscious, a capacity for compassion, for an ability to articulate the hurt or joy or anger of the citizens in their words.  I vote for the person that most reflects my beliefs regarding equality, empathy, and has a global perspective, a big picture thinker. I vote for the motivator, the one with the thoughtful and articulate plan.  I felt the President Obama was the full representation of those beliefs and I’m proud to have had him as my President.

Now, there’s some heartache, some fear, reluctance, flatulence and downright spine-tingling terror at the prospect of the 45th President of the United States of America.  I’m sure, because I have the capacity for empathy; there were conservative Republicans that felt exactly the same way when President Obama came into office. I’m sure they were frightened no matter how unsubstantiated their fears were.  And yet, I am not with them, as I feel my concerns regarding the 45th President are substantiated since he does not, in any way, shape or form reflect my beliefs or hopes for the future.  

I have said it before; I think The United States of America is truly the land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. I think this country should always stand up for the little guy. We should always support the underdog in the fight as long as the fight is on the side of freedom, morality and the common good. (Sometimes the underdogs are jerks and we shouldn’t have anything to do with them.)I think it is our duty as citizens to always want the best from our leaders and to write, call, stand, sit or protest when we see them going astray. It is our Constitutional right and duty to express our desires for a more perfect union, to fight for a country of conscience, and to never let the hopes we felt in 2008 be swept away in the winds of today.

                   I thank you, Mr. President Barack Obama for your selfless service to this Nation and I look forward to seeing you continue to help us become the country I know we can be. 

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