Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thanks Obama

"If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually, you'll make progress."                                            
                                -- Barack Obama

Precious time is running out. Soon the camelot-like era of the Obama family in the White House will be over and a terrible scourge that a lot of bigoted people wanted will come to town. I'm sad it's ending, particularly in light of what's to come. I'll miss calm and reason. I'm dreading the Orange Psychopath.

For eight years, I've listened to critics bash Pres. Obama. After he was elected the first time, evangelicals called him the anti-Christ and said his election marked the end times. At Tea Party rallies, right-wing radicals paraded signs carrying crude racial caricatures of Obama and his family. People like Donald Trump perpetuated the lie that Obama wasn't born in the USA and this presidency was illegitimate. And it never ceased to amaze me that the detractors would call a Harvard educated Constitutional law professor an idiot.

I've had to look no further than my own family where my ex-father in law, a pugnacious, combative (like his hero, Trump), conflict loving man would always, without fail, go on a diatribe about how Obama was a Muslim (My father in law hates Muslims) and a traitor to the United States. I had to hear it every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every kid's birthday, every family gathering of any kind. Let me tell you, I don't miss that.

Obama was a tyrant, a dictator, a marxist, his critics said. He inflamed racial divisions, they claimed. Why? Because he occasionally talked about race and didn't treat it as an issue we should pretend doesn't exist? Funny how the people who lashed out at Pres. Obama were always bringing up his race. Their bigotry was not hidden. It was apparent from the time he was elected. Obama wasn't a "good negro" they could accept as Ben (Uncle Tom) Carson is. He had a mind of his own and didn't parrot the right-wing mindset that oppressed people who looked like him and conservatives hated him for it. 

Recently I saw on social media where the friend of a Facebook friend wrote, "This is what I think of Obama's presidency" and she posted an emoji of a dog taking a dump.

In a million years, could you ever picture Pres. Obama doing something like that? Taking a vulgar, juvenile gibe at someone he doesn't like or disagrees with. No you couldn't. It's not his style. Not in his nature. The 44th president is worthy of being called an adult. Like his wife, Michelle, and daughters -- Sasha and Malia -- Barack Obama embodies poise and grace. Unlike those who malign his character, Obama has reserve and self-control.

Having battled depression all my life, I'm in awe of people who exemplify good mental health. Probably what I admire most about Obama is that he's secure in his own skin. Pres. Obama has encountered unprecedented Congressional obstruction and profane hatred from unenlightened, uneducated members of the public. Yet he never stooped to their level, never lashed back. He didn't take their bait. You would never find midnight tweets from Obama making cheap retorts to anyone who dared to criticize him. He was unflappable, strong enough, he didn't need to respond in kind, resorting to cheap put-downs. He had a job to do. He had other fish to fry. Unlike his incoming successor, Obama had a thick skin. He accepted that criticism came with the job. It wasn't until the 2016 Democratic Convention that Michelle Obama revealed the secret.

"When they go low, we go high."

Indeed, Pres. Obama has been a good influence on me. When I've been tempted to strike back at people who have made cheap barbs at me, I've actually stopped and considered what Barack Obama would do. I showed restraint and that is in no small way the President's influence. He's a true leader.

I'm glad my kids got to grow up with Obama as president. They have seen the disposition of a world leader who walks and talks with grace and dignity, who represents the United States respectfully before the eyes of the world. I feel sorry for the kid in first grade whose presidential example will be a rude, crude, foul mouthed jerk with no filter, no ability to put the brakes on.

The sad reality is that one of our greatest presidents will be followed by the worst. It's been said quite accurately that Trump is a narcissistic, lying tyrant and racist. It's as obvious as the wind and the rain. Yet the misguided troglodytes riding the Trump Train will say those words apply to Obama who is as far from that description as you can get. But they are so blinded by hatred and willful ignorance they earnestly believe the unbelievable.  

Trump wants to build a wall at the U.S./Mexican border (nothing racist there) at taxpayer expense. It's metaphorical of the walls he has put up to divide America. He only speaks for the angry white person. Hispanics, African Americans, the disabled, Muslims, the media, he ridicules and vilifies. Trump is a demagogue, defined as a political leader who exploits prejudices rather than using rational argument. 

As president, Obama has endeavored to represent all Americans -- black, white, Republicans, Democrats, people of all faiths and people of no religious faith. Right-wingers, who by definition live in a world of oppression and discrimination, hate that Obama extended rights to LGBT people, but that's indicative of the President's charge to ensure all Americans -- and not just a privileged group -- are guaranteed their Constitutional rights. Unfortunately much of the white evangelical privileged group cry that their rights are threatened when others are given a share of the pie.

I became emotional when I watched Pres. Obama's farewell address. I didn't think I would, but I did. His galvanizing address was the complete antithesis of trumpism. Obama mentioned the contributions of immigrants, the right of all Americans to affordable healthcare (which he made possible through the Affordable Care Act), the right of all Americans -- and not just the one percent -- to economic opportunity ("our democracy won't work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity," he said) and he lauded the sacrifices of our military men and women. He talked about the challenge of climate change, which Trump and his choice for head of the EPA deny exists.

"Science and reason matter," Obama said to applause.

In my favorite quote from his speech, the President said: "For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s — (applause) — that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they're not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our Founders promised. (Applause.)"

President Obama has the gift of oratory like Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Reagan had. I'm sure it will be a while before we hear a President speaking in multi-syllabic words again. I knew Obama had a keen mind years ago when I read his book, The Audacity of Hope. Unfortunately, we're leaving behind an era of erudition, learning and self-growth and entering a new Dark Ages of "I don't read books." Trump's ascendancy to the presidency is the triumph of anti-intellectualism in America.

Unlike Pres. Obama, Trump's presidency, as Congressman John Lewis accurately noted, will be an illegitimate one. His election was hacked by the Russian government and helped along by the FBI's eleventh hour witch hunt of Hillary Clinton. There is credible evidence to suspect Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has dirt on Trump and is blackmailing him, ergo putting the sovereignty of the United States in peril.

I refuse to watch Trump's inauguration, and if I were in Washington D.C. right now I would boycott the event as many Democratic congressional leaders are doing. I imagine school children will watch the event in their classrooms, and I feel sorry for them. The first Presidential inauguration I remember seeing was that of Jimmy Carter when I was in second grade. It was 1977, and I was sitting on a rug in Mrs. Clark and Mr. Johnson's combined classroom, watching democracy at work on a small black and white television. As with Obama, we had an example of sterling character in Pres. Carter, not that of a vulgar, disuniting, loud mouth, inappropriate grabbing con man. It will be incumbent upon adults like myself to be good role models for our children. I'm sure many service people, teachers, community leaders and the like will, unlike the illegitimate president, show our children what real American heroes are.

I won't be around 50 years from now to see what the history books write about Obama. But my children and their children will be and I'm confident that history will look favorably upon him. I've read what today's history books say about the progressive leaders of the past and how they treat the McCarthyites, John Birchers and Dixiecrats. I can tell you, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich -- and yes, Trump -- are not going to fare well.

Years ago when Obama was campaigning in the 2008 election, he showed up in my neck of the woods, appearing at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., a town Obama has family ties to. I wish I'd taken that day off work. But I'm proud to say my mother was there, that she met Obama and shook his hand. Mom was a dyed in the wool Democrat. Today she's in an assisted living home for people with dementia and doesn't know who the President is anymore. I'm glad Mom had that opportunity before the onset of her disease formed.

I hope someday I have an opportunity to meet Obama. I'm sure he'll remain active and travel in his post-Presidential life. No doubt, he'll write books, and I think he would be a good candidate for the Supreme Court although I'm not so sure that will happen. There is one thing I am certain of, however. He will, like Jimmy Carter, continue to show good citizenship and stand for great things. 

We definitely haven't seen the last of him or his family. And remember, yes we can.

As I write this, it's in the news that George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush are both in the hospital. The former President is in intensive care. Let's say a prayer for them and their families.