The Barack Obama Presidency
Being someone who has always been somewhere on the uncharted z-axis of the political spectrum, I have never really felt at home with Democrats or Republicans. Amongst the average American with which I speak, I find my views criticized as too right wing or too left wing or too mild or too extreme… only a few of the thinkers with whom I share ideas get a lot of comfort from the pair of dimes I add to discussions.
As with all presidential elections, the 2008 elections stirred up emotions amongst my fellow primates in a way that I can always describe as tribal. The older I get and the more I live in our system, the more I lose the idyllic view of our society’s democratic process—the majority of American politics reminds me more of a religious rally than an intellectual debate. Slogans, catch-phrases, propaganda and posturing… that’s all we get from our would-be and existing leaders during campaign season. So a man like John McCain, who has always seemed to march to some more passionate tune, suddenly donned the strings of a caricature… talking about the future of America in the one-dimensional script of the right-wing conservative Christian.
Barack Obama, too, failed to evoke inspiration in me this year. Although he seemed to hold up a higher decorum and seems to be a man who likes to think… he too made sure to preach to a mass of non-thinkers who think in dichotomy. Barack Obama used calculated deception when defining his opponent in the same way that John McCain did—in the same way that all politicians who are serious about getting elected are—John McCain is George Bush. How many times did the media remind us that John McCain was at odds with the Republican Party and George Bush before the campaign started? We need change! How, Barack?
What I find ironic every single election is that candidates tell us what they are going to do for the country. But you rarely hear them state the obvious limitation of the promises a would-be President makes—American Presidents don’t make laws, they enforce them. An honest candidate would say simply this: As President, I promise that I won’t approve laws X, Y and Z but I will approve bills, should they arrive on my desk, A, B and C. The question that I would have liked to hear from the media during the campaign, especially this year when both main candidates came from Congress, would have been this: As a Congressman, why did you not make efforts to pass laws that you now feel are so important during this political campaign? Furthermore, what makes you think that you can do all these things when you are no longer in the position to make laws?
Certainly, the President does hold power and can hold sway over the minds and efforts of Congress and America (a fact poignant in many Americans who feel that the executive branch intentionally and deliberately misled Americans into feeling there was an American security issue in Iraq a few years ago). There are agendas in which Presidents have influence; but Presidents cannot move mountains... they can only move Americans in ways that make us feel like we all can. President Bush did not save Iraqis from their own historic ignorance; Barack Obama cannot save Americans from their own set if naïve beliefs.
I think that Barack Obama is probably a good man, and I expect and hope that he will do a fine job in his role as President of the United States of America. At the same time, I feel that Americans are deeply divided right now in ways that one man is unlikely to address.
The day after the election, I already saw signs in yards saying that America had elected a terrorist—that a new civil war is at hand. That type of sentiment is similar to the primitive hatreds we commonly shake our heads about in Iraq and other "less civilized” countries. I even know people whom I love personally that are preparing to move out of this country simply because a "Socialist” is now in power—they would rather move to Israel than stay near to family because of this supposed evil.
Americans are tribal primates in suits and nice neighborhoods. Our brains are moved by the same chemical and instinctive functions that other tribal primates are moved by. The fact that Americans are still stricken with the issue of race is a clear indicator that we are still not a mature nation; the fact that we are fixated on Barack Obama’s race speaks to the fact that we have not reached intellectual maturity. The redneck who hates Obama because of his color is ignorant; the black man who sees Obama as a savior is ignorant. Obama is a man. As long as Americans continue to make any decisions, personal, political, cultural or institutional, based on the color of skin, Americans will continue to be morally adolescent.
Barack Obama may indeed help some people question the validity of their innate prejudices; but those prejudices are more natural than we want to admit. Our tendency to cover issues in political correctness often keeps us from addressing our problems. To hate a man because of his color is racist; to expect privilege because of color is also racist; racism is a natural tendency… and it takes an unnatural will to progress to lose our innate racism—American ideals themselves are not natural, and they require great effort to sustain and promote.
I hope that Barack Obama can do great things for America. But I have a gut feeling that Americans do not realize the simple truth behind all progressive movements: the general fabric of America is defined by the general will and heart of individual Americans. If the masses of Americans do not see their mission in life as a journey to improve themselves and their world, then America is not going to get better. Barack Obama can preach progress, but it’s individuals that have to make the changes in their own lives, in their own communities; parents need to teach their children to be good people; businessmen need to think more responsibly; teachers need to teach more passionately. Otherwise, America will still be the same thing it has been—a machine that perpetuates our natural tendencies to think myopically; a machine that forgets the ideals of men like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Barack Obama… to live up to the expectations of America, you have a really tall order. The only way to live up to it is to transcend the traditional role of President. You have to be one of those rare leaders that can actually inspire people to better their own lives. If you do that, you’ll be remembered as a great human being; if you fail that, you’ll get to be noted as the first black president… which, in the end, doesn’t really mean anything.