So, for some time now, I have been reflecting on the Obama years mostly with a wistful sadness tinged with a looming sense of impending doom for what might come next. I have often in the last two and a half months felt a great sense of mourning, watching President Obama tidy up the loose ends of his time in office, and saying goodbye to us many times over in different scenarios. I mourn the loss of this man as our leader, but I also am mourning the loss of something even greater. As the last 24 hours of Barack Obama’s presidency slip by, I feel like we have lost our decency, our decorum and pieces of ourselves as Americans that I do not think will return again, at least not for a very long time.
On a personal level, if the GWB years contained some of the darkest moments of my life, the Obama era held the brightest. I beamed with pride, through clouded eyes and tear-stained cheeks as he was elected in 2008, naively declaring that with his election, racism was officially over in this country. It is with pangs of embarrassment that I look back on my naivety, with the benefit of hindsight, at how next eight years panned out. But still, these were good years. We bought a house, traveled, got married and had our precious daughter. I found financial stability and continued to feel secure that if I worked hard, I would be OK. I was happy that we were ending wars and people were getting healthcare and equal human rights. I couldn’t believe that there were people, and how many of them there were, that wanted the opposite. And thanks to the rise of Facebook, I knew exactly who those people were. My heart was pierced each time I found out about another.
I always followed politics and always had strong views, but I personally identified as an Independent. As the inexplicable hatred of the President grew and the heart of the Republican party blackened, I personally was pulled further and further into liberalism to be certain that I could never, ever be associated with the people I believed were irreparably harming this nation. I would often say, “I am not a Democrat, but I sure as FUCK am not a Republican!” Now, I have no choice but to vote a straight D party line.
I watched closely and in horror as Republicans in government turned into extremists, driven by absolute contempt and hatred for our President, and became bent on destroying the planet, the government, and our democracy. They declared war on intellect, on science, on the poor, the old, the middle class, the sick, the children, and on the Constitution, while screaming about saving the unborn (which is a front) but in actuality only beholden to their billionaire donors and the corporations who own them (which is not). It sickened me and offended me to my very core that these shameless politicians hijacked Christianity and somehow, made people believe that while doing the literal exact opposite things that Jesus would do, that it was they who were the party of God. It was as if they rewrote the Bible and the Constitution to fit their agenda, and essentially everyone forgot what the original documents actually said. Boggles the mind, really.
As President Obama was obstructed again and again, I would become incensed when someone would say to me, “Oh, Obama really isn’t doing anything.” I was always met with silence or regurgitated Fox News talking points if I asked for elaboration. Worse still was when I had to constantly remind people that he wasn’t actually the President in 2001 or in 2008, but what you do with people to whom facts matter naught? Still I, again naively, believed that all the people would see these obstructionists for what they were and vote them out. I believed that Republicans would never win another national election. And, I was correct. Without total
cheating gerrymandering and the antiquated Electoral College, the Democrats would have a Super-majority in every branch, right now, today. I suppose that is the hardest part for me to process and accept. That these forces and technicalities, not the Will of The People, have stolen a very bright and beautiful future from me, from my daughter, from everyone.
I listened and watched in furious anger and utter disbelief as this man was treated with such stomach-churning disrespect and made the butt of disgusting and racist conspiracy theories for eight fucking years. As he was portrayed as an un-American tyrant who would refuse to leave office when his term was up, who would Jade Helm himself into an unending power as he took away all your guns and loaded you into a FEMA trailer. These are the same people who turned around and enthusiastically voted for a man who actually and truly does have a tendency to do all of those things. The very man who lead the crusade to delegitimize and vilify our sitting President and accused him of faking his own birth certificate is now demanding that We the People bow down and give him the respect he so vehemently denied to President Obama. With less than 24 hours left in Barack Obama’s term, I wondered, albeit briefly, if any of those who spread these vile lies that did indeed irreparably harm our great nation, feel sheepish or a sense of shame for the damage they have caused. But I believe one would need to possess a level of intellect or decency first, and these individuals who perpetuated this filth lack both.
If I can find any upside to President Obama’s term ending, it is that I have fatigued of defending him, of hearing him insulted, of trying to combat the lies, of trying to explain the ACA (“It’s not a fucking insurance plan!”), of debunking the fake news, of trying to deflect the unending stream of hate and bullshit being constantly flung at this undeserving target. I am sure he is exhausted, too. And if anyone deserves a break, I think it is he. I hope that he spends every day of the rest of his life in impenetrable peace.
President Obama has been a portrait of class and dignity. He has been everything that a leader should be – articulate, thoughtful, inclusive, self-aware, willing to own up to mistakes, willing to compromise, accepting of criticism, level-headed, even-keeled, respectful of others of all lots and statures, and reverent of the role he had ascended to. The things that he was able to accomplish in the face of unprecedented obstruction will be looked upon favorably by history. I do not think that President Obama was perfect. There were failures as there are in every presidency. But I will remember that children loved him, that he tried to help the sick and the disadvantaged and our veterans, protect the environment and that he was just a good person. And those are the things that matter to this “godless liberal.” His grace and his beautiful gift for oration will be missed and likely will not be replaced in my lifetime.
So, it is with an extremely heavy heart that I say goodbye to President Barack Obama. He was better than we deserved. But I will always, for the rest of my life, feel grateful and fortunate that he was my President during a time when I could fully appreciate him. I will be proud to tell Colette about the time we elected our first black President, and what a truly good and decent American he was. There are so many lessons to be learned of the last eight years, and there are so many reasons to be grateful for them. There is also so much work to be done to preserve democracy and the dreams that this here hippie progressive holds for this nation. But right this minute, I just feel a vast sense of sadness and mourning, and I do not believe that this feeling will retreat for a very long time.