Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration


It is with a heavy heart I say farewell to President Obama and his family. I have admired him, disagreed with him, sometimes sworn a little at him, praised him, laughed with him, and been shocked for him. I know a lot of people will disagree when I say that he and the first family brought a much-needed sense of dignity to the White House; but when you consider the relentless obstructionism from his political opponents, the unwarranted personal attacks by the ignorant masses he and his family suffered, and the unknowable challenge of being the first US President of African American heritage, down to the end, he refused to stoop to the level of his detractors. From day one of his presidency, his opponents brazenly boasted of their intent to make him a one-term president, and despite one attempt after another to reach across the aisle to them, the president was forever rebuffed, derided as "divisive," and subjected to increasingly ridiculous attempts to discredit him (birth certificate, anyone?). He was and is blamed — quite wrongly — for racial divisions that have come to the forefront of our national consciousness. There is all kinds of fault to go around, to be sure, but at the end of the day, we, not the president, are responsible. And yes, I know many of you disliked his policies, not his skin color, but racism was, in fact, a horrifyingly huge component of the hatred heaped upon the Obamas. For god's sake, I have personally witnessed racists coming out of the woodwork way too often, not just on social media but in the world at large. I stopped going to one local establishment I had frequented for years because, since 2008, the owners and staff constantly bitched and moaned about the "Muslim nigger from Kenya." Those exact words. Over and over and over. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I have disagreed with President Obama on any number of issues; he did spend too much, he tended to go for over-regulation rather strike a fair balance between necessary protections — for the environment, for minorities, for labor issues — and executive overreach. I think he too often caved to special interests rather than stand up for the middle class. That said, however, the more he braved the slings and arrows of his detractors, the more I admired him. When his initiatives failed, he was derided as weak and ineffective; when they succeeded, he was vilified as a tyrant. From the right, no consistency, little logic, and never a reasonable alternative proposed. Nothing he did could please his detractors. And again, the uglier his detractors become, the more I came to admire him. Little illustrates the ridiculousness of the prejudice against him than the right's condemnation of his farewell address (to which I was going to link, but the White House site has apparently removed it), in which Obama's usage of the first person was condemned as "narcissistic." I did a little math on this myself. The speech ran approximately 4,800 words long. Obama referred to himself in the first person 75 times. That's 1.5 percent of the word count. To those of you in opposition, I defy you to produce a 4,800-word missive detailing one's eight-year tenure, one's accomplishments, one's failures, one's hopes, one's recollections of how it personally impacted one's family, one's forecasts for our nation, without mentioning yourself using no more than 1.5% of the total word count. I defy you.

"Oh, but the speech shouldn't be about him, it's about us." Next breath: "We never could get to know Obama because he was distant and disconnected." Sure. Sure thing.

A personal disappointment: more than anything, having seen the complete, utter failure of our pre-ACA health system to address severe, chronic illness — up close and personal — I truly wanted Obamacare to succeed. There are so many positive tenets of the plan, it's a damn shame it was implemented so poorly; I have never felt it beyond repair, however, and I fear the direction we'll be going in the coming days with healthcare is going to be an even greater disaster. I hope I'm wrong.

In fact, when it comes to President Donald Trump, I hope I'm very, very wrong in my, oh, maybe slightly negative evaluation of him. No, really. I have, with more than due conscientiousness, evaluated every conceivable rationale for accepting his shortcomings, every argument for his strengths, and I'm sorry, but there's just nothing there. Nothing. What we have today is a narcissistic, immature, tone-deaf bully, who has assembled the least-qualified bunch of clowns to staff his cabinet positions that any sentient being could imagine. I can't see any good coming out of this, and if you can, you must give me the name of your eye doctor.

All that said, I do not want to see Trump crash and burn. Our country, our fortunes, our lives depend on this man being an effective leader, a respected player on the world stage, a partner in the success of the United States. But at the end of the day, Trump works for us, we Americans who put him where he is, however unwillingly. Me, I will oppose his every utterance that does not reflect my values. As I have from the day I reached legal voting age, I will speak with my vote as well as whatever ability I might possess to influence rational, reasonable people to see what I see, as objectively as possible. If Trump follows through with his promises to bolster the middle class, to present a workable health plan that does not leave the most vulnerable of us to the wolves, to boost a still-struggling economy, to keep America a respected world power without thrusting us into yet another avoidable conflict... I will say to you, to the world, to Trump, to anyone with an ear to hear it... that I was wrong in my evaluation of his abilities. My ego has no vested interest here. But my well-being, and the well-being of my loved ones does. However, I will never apologize for condemning this man's lack of character, not only admitted to but celebrated by his most rabid supporters. Given that a disproportionately large number of Trump's supporters are diehard Christians... I'd call that an irreconcilable absurdity. Wouldn't you?

Yeah, I understand a dislike of Trump's opponent. Hillary Clinton brought enough baggage with her to kill a train of pack mules. But I tell you this, I'd vote for her again in a heartbeat over what our now-President Trump brings to the table.

If you don't see things as I do, I'm fine with that... up to the point that you and I get thrust into a void from which we can never return. I'm not fine with that. And truly, despite having been brought up in a period when fallout shelters were ubiquitous and we rather amusingly learned how to drop, duck and cover, this chapter of life is one that brings with it a unique trepidation, a sense that the territory into which we're treading is anything but Great.

No, I'm not religious, but I pray that I am the wrongest son of a bitch to ever walk this land. I pray this. If I'm wrong, in four years, you can have a front row seat as I eat humble pie. Deal?

4 comments:

Wilson Fletcher said...

Magnificently said. I'm proud of you, Dad. ;)

Beth Nelson said...

Very eloquently spoken, my friend. :)

Terry Nelson said...

Your brilliant writing skills continue to display themselves, but as you probably know, I don't subscribe to the relatively positive evaluation of President Obama. I remember early in his presidency when he said in a stump speech in Philadelphia, that Republicans "Don't know how to drive. They can ride with us if they want to, but they got to get in the back seat." Also, in 2009, when the top congressional leaders from both parties gathered at the White House for a bipartisan working discussion about President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, the President, when challenged by one Republican senator over the contents of the package, replied: “I won.” To me, this doesn't seem like someone who wants to work across the aisle.

Though President Obama displayed some positive qualities as a strong family man and strong-willed, I'm also cognizant of his seeming arrogance, when he continually blamed blunders on others, whether major or minor. I don't remember him taking the blame for anything on his watch that didn't go as well as planned, from Benghazi to the gassing of Syrian rebels and the expansion of Russian and Iranian power, from the increase in the number of citizens on food stamps to the reduction in median income. It also seemed as though he was quick to respond, sometimes prematurely, to racial issues when blacks were victims, but not so quickly when police officers or the military were involved. Could this have possibly contributed to some of the negative racial attitudes toward him or between the races across the country? I don't know. According to Gallop in mid 2016, 32% say Obama's presidency is one of the most important advances for blacks in the past 100 years, down from 71% immediately after he was elected and 58% nine months into his first term.

I can't say that I will miss the Obamas, but I am concerned about the new President with his seemingly thin skin and resistance to listen to his advisers. Also, I can only hope that his faith in the Christian God to protect us doesn't convince him to "push the button", not expecting us to come to any harm from the response. During this time, we can only hope for the best ,do what we can to limit any damage and support the good things that could occur.

Mark Rainey said...

These are some fair points, and thanks for the thoughtful post.

It's funny, most liberals think Obama was too non-partisan, that he cooperated far more than he should have with the GOP. For the flip side, here is a fair article that speaks to those points: http://www.themodestproposal.com/?p=151

There are many "failures" that I don't think he should take the blame for, simply because his efforts to address them met with a GOP brick wall. Requests for additional security funding were denied (and funds for foreign security have again been blocked). As far as his approval rating goes, depending on sources, he's done quite well: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/06/politics/obama-approval-rating-new-high/

As I alluded to in my post, I have seen shortcomings that I completely agree were critical; for example, he could and should have been far more supportive of law enforcement — yet at the same time, there are systemic issues that were highlighted, and while "institutional racism" is an ugly and perhaps overly broad term, there's certainly enough of an issue that has bred a sense of fear and helplessness in the black community. I think Obama was trying to tread carefully here to avoid alienating a huge contingent of his supporters, but that really backfired. However, his record on civil rights for marginalized members of our society speaks for itself. It's the fact that these have come so far forward, and rightly so, that it's slapped social conservatives into an irrational frenzy.

At the end of the day, my conviction is that Obama was a man to aim high, and I think he always had the best interests of the country at heart, whether one agrees with his vision or not. Perspective from one side to the other is so skewed by extremism — for example, most liberals I know figure Obama to be just to the right of Ronald Reagan, whereas conservatives feel he was the most liberal president since FDR. As with most such extreme views, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.