I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book, Beloved, and waxing nostalgic about what was and what could have been. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, I thought we, as a country, were finally …
I have been reading Michelle Obama’s book, Beloved, and waxing nostalgic about what was and what could have been. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, I thought we, as a country, were finally taking a step up on the evolutionary scale, finally living up to the ideals that are the underpinnings of this country. I loved reading Michelle’s words about struggling to balance the demands of politics. She wanted to nurture and protect her family, but as a citizen, she knew that America needed and deserved to have the man with the “noble heart” in the Oval Office. She deplored the hype and pretension, but she wanted so much to have a positive effect during Obama’s campaign. She said she did that best by revealing her real self, making personal connections with people she met in small groups and in large crowds. Facing the small-minded sniping about her, her clothes, and every word she uttered, she wanted to articulate who she really was and to show the world an intimate view of Barack.
In her speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention she said she had recognized when they were getting to know each other how much she and Barack had in common: being raised in a loving and supportive family that sacrificed to provide the education needed to pursue their dreams; believing that hard work made it possible to realize those dreams, which meant making a positive difference in the world, not just seeking money and power. Quoting her husband, she said, “He spoke about the world as it is and the the world as it should be, and we too often settle for the world as it is even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations. We know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like, and he urged us to believe in ourselves and to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American story?” She said, “Barack and I agreed that you treat people with dignity and respect even if you don’t agree with them.” She acknowledged Joe Biden, saying, “People like Joe Biden, who has never forgotten where he came from and has never stopped fighting for people who work long hours and faced long odds and need someone on their side again, all of us driven by the belief that the world as it is just won’t do. That we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. That is the thread that connects our hearts….and runs through our journeys…and that is why I love this country.”
She reflected on Obama’s work in the Senate to insure that veterans would be honored with not just parades, but with good jobs and health care, including mental health care. She said that “this time would be remembered as when we listened to our hopes instead of our fears.”
Obama, at his last Press Club Dinner, thanked the journalists for their hard work and said, “Taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require you to shed your objectivity; in fact it is the essence of good journalism.”
During the 2008 campaign, we saw the hate lashing out and oozing out everywhere with not-so-subtle racist slurs, and when Obama won that first election, what did Mitch McConnell say? That the priority of the Republican party was to see that Obama failed. Isn’t that admirable? That elected leaders would focus their energies not on improving conditions for American citizens or building the economy in sustainable ways but stonewalling the very efforts that would.
The Republican party choices have just seemed like one bad joke after another. Sarah Palin for vice-president? Come on, now. When I heard the announcement at the Republican National Convention and heard her speak, I breathed deeply and relaxed, for I knew then that Obama would be elected. Thanks for that gift, Republicans. What is it that beats in the hearts of these people? I really have a hard time understanding it. Do they really think that people with money are more valuable as people? Can anyone really be that ignorant in 2021 to believe that someone’s skin color makes them more or less worthy? (It has been a lifelong conundrum to me that some prejudiced, pasty-white people spend thousands of dollars going to white sand beaches for a tan, risking skin cancer, to attain the same beautiful, brown color to flaunt at their country club that bars membership to those who are naturally brown and beautiful.)
Then along came Trump and all that followed. I was writing thoughts for this column on Saturday along the lines of seeking common understandings, shared goals and humanity, quoting Michelle saying, “It’s hard to hate up close.” And then I heard that Trump had been acquitted.
In the history of our country, there has never been a President who has so crassly ignored (or seemingly been ignorant of) the mandates of the constitution or the fact that it actually is his job to uphold the constitution and the electoral process. Never has there been a President who has encouraged insurrection and violence for his own blatant self-interest. Trump had clearly lauded the violence in Michigan, calling Governor Gretchen Whitmer a half-wit and a tyrant because she was enforcing safe COVID lockdown restrictions. He continued to criticize her after a right-wing attempt to kidnap and possibly murder her was foiled by the FBI. Trump tweets going after Democratic governors said his followers should liberate Michigan, (and Minnesota and Virginia) and “save your great 2nd Amendment.”
Trump encouraged the mobs to get rougher. He had a well-documented history of encouraging hate groups and political violence, paving the way for later violence in the attack on Congress on Jan. 6. The mobsters were supposedly protesting a stolen election, but I read that eight of those arrested had not even bothered to vote. Six people lost their lives. Yet the lily-livered Republicans could not call him to account for his extraordinary behavior, so Trump celebrates in his sumptuous surroundings, chortling about his victory, declaring, “We’re not done yet!” and the sycophants huddle around, sucking from what they perceive is the power teat.
How is that even possible? I’m trying to seek the higher ground, but I’m having a hard time getting there. We can breathe a sigh of relief because we now have a reasonable, sane, caring man in the Oval Office, but we can’t complacently sit back and think that all is well. This time our country was saved from four more years of Trump, but the irrational forces are out there, committed to defeating every progressive thing that we might believe in (and that, ironically, often benefits them). We can’t rely on hoping or wishing that things will magically be okay. We need to speak up, step up, and put our time, energy, and money behind whatever we value to help make the world as it should be.