Ode to Obama
Last night our president, Barack Obama, gave his final speech to the nation.
I think it's important for me to put into words what his presidency has meant to me. It's kind of a shame that this all feels a little final, in the worst way.
Since 2008, I don't think that I've ever been so aware of being a so-called African-American. Prior to that, I had always tried to assimilate to the best of my ability with white culture while also attempting to keep my "blackness" intact. That took on many forms, some that I am proud of, others I would categorize as buffoonery.
My heroes, outside of my obvious adoration of my parents and their accomplishments, were those of sports heroes and entertainers. Anyone of any other ilk as far as being African-American were lame to me. One must remember that most of our leadership prior to Barack Obama were preachers and those in the church. Never anyone outside of these three realms held any significance for me.
I mean, of course, I knew of icons like Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall. I even had a bit of pride for Gen. Colin Powell for his accomplishments during the time I was in the military. But never had anyone captured my attention outside of my small “assimilate at any cost” world than when Barack Hussein Obama came into prominence.
In the eight years that he's been the leader of this country, it has been an ongoing and fulfilling fight to protect his good name. Not that he needed me or anyone else to come to his defense; his resume, poise and intelligence spoke volumes in that regard. But the everyday battle against the snarky and sometimes most disrespectful attitudes outwardly displayed toward him and his policies, for no apparent reason other than to be snarky and disrespectful, became the norm for me.
It would be easy to go with the flow of the dominant society and find "political" reasons to ally myself against the president, which would've made my social life with white people much more enjoyable I suppose. And believe you me, the bait that was thrown out there by some unscrupulous individuals just to start a vitriolic dialogue was hard not to bite on.
And I bit… A lot!
But as time marched on I began to realize that this was not about policy but prejudice. This was the old and ancient battle that we so-called African-Americans have been fighting for centuries. There was nothing that this man could do on any level that could diminish the bigotry that is in the DNA of this nation. As altruistic as he may have been in his vaunted position, there was nothing he could do to allay the disdain that a certain segment of this population has for people of his/our "kind".
But this is not an indictment of an entire population. One should remember that without the support of a forward-thinking portion of this country, someone like himself, no matter his intelligence or polish, would've been afforded the opportunity. That is a fundamental truth.
So eight years have passed and for all intents and purposes I would consider his tenure a resounding success even in the face of vicious, diabolical, and sometimes questionable opposition. There'll be some on both sides of the aisle that consider his presidency a failure only in that he wasn't able to solidify his legacy in positive and fertile ground. Not in the eyes of the dominant society anyway.
But as a so-called African-American male, President Barack Obama has in many ways shown what each of us are capable of. It's not to say that he is the say all and be-all of what it means to be a so-called African-American in the United States, but he is one of the greatest examples of what, at our core, we are.
He epitomized in my humble opinion, the fruition of the fight for our legitimacy, our right to serve, our civil rights and duties as citizens of this country and this world.
This is one of the first times in my life that I can actually say that we had a president that was for EVERYONE! Even for those who hated him on the most basic levels.
No matter how you felt or even feel about President Barack Obama and his legacy, I can honestly say that I am proud to have been alive to have seen him and his family represent not only the United States of America, but the African-American population, as a whole. His detractors will always be uneasy in their criticism because in their heart of hearts they know what he represented. His enemies will always have to show their true hearts, because in the face of dignity their true intentions, motivations, agendas and malice will shine through.
I'm afraid that we may not see anything close to what we've experienced in the last eight years in regard to minority representation in the highest office. Maybe it's a blessing to not have to deal with partisan politics and racial vitriol in our faces every day for no apparent reason other than to be evil.
But I will honestly say that we are a lesser nation today than we were eight years ago. We are lesser by virtue of losing an iconic, classy, intelligent and fundamentally sound family in the Obamas.
As a veteran, I would like to thank you, President and First Lady Obama for your time and your service to this country. You made us proud. You represented above and beyond those that preceded you and those that will serve in your wake. You will be missed.