Obama’s Legacy – A Look Back – by several authors – The Guardian UK

Obama’s Legacy – A Look Back
–       by several authors – The Guardian UK

President Obama

President Obama

Joyce Carol Oates

Brilliant and understated, urbane, witty, compassionate, composed, quietly fuelled by an idealism born of the legacy of civil rights America in conflict with the old white-nationalist America, Barack Obama is a unique human being and has been a unique president. In some ways (as many have observed) not really temperamentally suited to an office that demands an almost daily scrimmage with opposition politicians in Congress – as well as continual conferences with members of his own party – Obama has behaved with dignity and restraint that might be mistaken for aloofness; while he has shown an astonishing generosity in attempting to compromise with opposition politicians whose fury at the very election of a black man to the presidency has never been tempered, it is clear that, for all his virtues, and for all his idealism, the bitterly divisive politics of our time made it impossible for him to fully realise his political mission. If each American president represents a predominant style, Obama’s is “coolness” – the coolness of grace under pressure, a refusal to rise to the race-baiting tactics of political opponents.

The world may justly recoil in surprise, disdain, derision and alarm at the election of President Obama’s successor – a uniquely unqualified white-nationalist demagogue elected by a minority of American voters, through an archaic “electoral college” system put into place to placate slaveholders, in a gesture some have interpreted as white repudiation of the first black president –but the fact remains that, in 2008, the American people were wise enough, and fortunate enough, to have put an individual of the quality of Obama into office. We will miss him – So much.

Siri Hustvedt

Soon the face of the United States of America will change. For eight years, we have been represented by an elegant, well-spoken, funny, highly educated, moderate, morally upright, preternaturally calm black man. The son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, he embodies a part of the long and tortured story of race in America, that potent historical fiction that continues to ravage the country. The mantra that race is not a biologically real category is a truth, but that doesn’t mean our president wasn’t assaulted daily by grotesque lies and by racist imagery, by the watermelons and monkeys that dogged his time in office, vile attacks that came from obscene regions of that public stage we call the internet, but which only rarely found their way into the mainstream media – until now, that is. The vicious language of Breitbart Newsand the cruel policies of the far right are moving into the White House. The ugly new face of the USA may be “white” but its actual complexion is best described as a vehement orange.

No, I did not agree with all of President Obama’s policies. I was mortified by ongoing drone attacks and upset by his administration’s surprising secrecy. I had hoped for national healthcare, not insurance exchanges. Obama has been criticised harshly by some in the black community for not speaking out enough about racism in its many insidious institutional forms. For years, he sought compromise with Republicans in Washington, and it seems obvious in hindsight that he may have hoped for too much for too long from an intractable Congress.

Obama’s legacy? We are too close to know. I suspect his importance will only grow, and if our republic survives the next four years (by which I mean, if it’s very foundations are not eroded beyond recognition) and perhaps even if it doesn’t, Obama will stand for a politics of human dignity, not a politics of shameful trumpery, hatred and rage.

Richard Ford

It may be the wrong way to say it, but at least a partial marker of Obama’s effectiveness – and of representative government’s effectiveness, when it works – has been his capacity not to trivialise being president by confusing his ego with the job. Because he hasn’t done that, he has been able with some success to be not one constituency’s private messenger (mine, for instance – though I wouldn’t have minded it), but to beall constituencies’ messenger. That hasn’t always worked perfectly, and as a strategy it has had a tendency to “round off” extremes, both wished for and not. But it is by far a better and more respectable aspiration than making America great (again?), which clearly promises to leave a lot of people out. To some observers, this aura of balanced impartiality has made President Obama seem austere and professorial. Aloof. But not to me. To me, his demeanour is of a serious adult whose office makes arduous demands on him, requiring an answering ardour, resolve and discipline, along with a sublimation of the purely personal. I guess that’s boring. Though we’ll soon learn more about boring.

Conservatives, of course, don’t like Obama because he’s too liberal. And lots of liberals are “disappointed” because he hasn’t precisely toted their water, either. (You know you’re doing something right when liberals are disappointed in you and conservatives hate you.) But rather than being all things to all people, President Obama has seemed to be just one thing to all people – which, to my mind, is what our president ought to be. This cold morning, when I think about Obama, immersed in what must be a decidedly mixed brew of emotions – mixed about his deeds, mixed about his effects on the USA, decidedly mixed about our future – I’m confident he is thinking, right to his last minute in the office, as the president, and not much about, or for, himself. That’s what I expected when I voted for him – that he’d be a responsible public servant who’d try to look out for the entire country. He did that. It won’t be long before we are all going to miss him.

Attica Locke

In 2009, about a year after the historic election of Obama, I was in central Louisiana, spending a few days and nights on a sugar plantation. A storm was coming, and I sat for hours on the porch of the small cottage I was staying in, listening to the wind whistle through the sugar cane fields nearby. The sound was reminiscent of voices, and I remember uttering the words “thank you” to whatever souls lingered in those fields. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, to consider the election of the country’s first black president while sitting on the grounds of a former plantation, to be able to say to my ancestors, “Your labour was not in vain”.

What I choose today – a month or so after the election of a bully and a bigot that has so disheartened the majority of my country – is to remember the USA at its best. To say simply: “Thank you, Barack.” Thank you for your grace, your intelligence, your curiosity, your patience, your respect for our constitution, your respect for people who don’t look like you or pray like you or love like you, your jump shot, your rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, your love of books, your love of writing, your beautiful children and your incredible wife. I honestly don’t know where we go from here, or, frankly, what country I live in anymore. But I know your presidency was real – it happened – and I am thankful I got to see it in my lifetime.

Edmund White

Obama will go down in history as one of our great presidents. He always keeps his cool, looks at every question from all sides, brought us health care, sustained the LGBTQ community, saved the economy, lowered unemployment, hovered over the Middle East conflict with admirable passivity, avoided Islamophobia. He has a model family, wears clothes beautifully, moves with elegance and dances well. What more do you want?

Marilynne Robinson

Obama is a deeply reflective man, an idealist whose ideal America is a process of advance and self-realisation, not to be thought of as arriving at any final order, but as continuously generating new aspirations in the course of its vital, turbulent, democratic life. He has a steady faith in the essential generosity and wisdom of the American people, as a corrective to the deviations from the emergence of the “more perfect union” he so often invokes in his speeches. For this reason, and because of his understanding of the country’s history as in many ways uniquely progressive and uniquely open to new hopes, he can accept even his own frustrations and the hostility directed against him as part of this history and life. His resilience in the face of constant attack and the unfailing respect he has shown for the dignity of his office are effects of this historical vision.

A president of the United States of America, however fascinated by the country itself, must deal with the extraordinary complexity of our foreign entanglements, old hostilities and marriages of convenience, many of them patches on a reality that has shifted over decades. And there are the crises of the moment. At issue now is whether terrorism should be dealt with by the methods of traditional warfare, methods terrorism is designed to obviate, or whether an effective strategy would adapt to address its unconventional tactics. President Obama has been seen as weak for choosing the second option – though, after Iraq, the limits of invasion and bombing should be clear.

That a law professor could walk in on an economic collapse and right things is proof of brilliance and composure.

Objectively, the fact that a law professor could walk in on an unprecedented economic collapse, a global crisis, and right things well enough that his critics can forget what an abyss had yawned, is a proof of extraordinary brilliance and composure. He may not have done everything right, but given a normal Congress, the president would have been able to stimulate the economy in the usual ways, for example by building infrastructure, that everyone knows the country needs. New schools and bridges would have relieved the public of both the fear and, in some degree, the reality, of national decline. But this would have made President Obama more popular, and the Republicans were determined to limit him to one term. His Affordable Care Act has performed according to his hopes, again despite furious opposition. While incrementalism has been the approach available to him in the circumstances, it is also wholly consistent with his understanding of American democracy. He expects controversy and criticism, and he has had more than his share.

I know Obama as a man who loves books and ideas, creativity and inventiveness. He talks about the USA in terms of the wonderful varieties of competence and the beautiful demonstrations of good faith and good conscience that pervade its daily life. He sees government as a means to ensure that all these individual gifts will be honoured and enabled. In looking beyond any present moment to the new hope that will surely emerge from it, he can love the country exactly as it is.

Garth Greenwell

Obama has been criticised for being too much style, too little substance. We’re now receiving a lesson in how substantial “style” is. For eight years, Obama displayed a genuinely presidential demeanour, adding extraordinary personal dignity to the dignity of the office. He modelled respect for the life of the mind, for reason and reasonable debate, for the pursuit of culture. Against unprecedented and dishonourable resistance from an opposition party, he rejected a politics of outrage and in his first term repeatedly attempted to find a common ground. As that resistance appealed ever more overtly to the racism and xenophobia that have so animated this electoral season, Obama held up a vision of an America enriched by diversity and bent toward ever-greater justice, the America of Lincoln, Whitman and Martin Luther King.

It would be difficult to overstate what it has meant, for queer people in the USA, to have a president who so fiercely insisted on our place in that vision. Obama took too long to “evolve” toward support of marriage equality. But from his first days in office he affirmed the dignity and value of queer lives. He passed hate crimes legislation and repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; his administration crafted the first comprehensive national strategy for combating HIV/AIDS; by memorialising sites central to the movement for LGBTQ rights, he wove queer history into the larger history of the USA.

Some queer people, especially some gay white men, have been reassured by comments from the president-elect that he will preserve marriage equality. They are wrong to be reassured. His vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, has supported conversion therapy, a cruel and thoroughly discredited practice, and has said that the legal recognition of queer families leads to “societal collapse”. At the time of writing, his cabinet appointments have, to a person, opposed LGBTQ rights; many of them have viciously attacked the dignity of queer people. Most importantly, he has shown himself determined to demolish that vision of a pluralistic America in which these people and other minorities have an honoured place. He replaces Obama’s style of moderation, reason and respect for the other with outrage, disregard for fact, and imperious personal grievance.

The gains queer people made under Obama’s administration are fragile. So are the norms and institutions of liberal democracy. Our new president has given every indication that for the next four years they will be under constant attack.

Lorrie Moore

There are many things Obama did not entirely succeed at: Libya, quitting smoking. (How could anyone in his position have quit smoking? I have money on this.) But to listen to his intelligent voice for eight years – after the previous eight years of the Bush administration’s torqued syntax – was a relief and reassurance to the ears of our citizenry. He was not just a historical presence but a consoling one, despite the house arrest our Congress essentially had him under. He was creative and purposeful as a leader, given everything, and his election was thrilling to the world and to the USA. Nothing like it will happen again for a long time.

Hanya Yanagihara

If he were a char­acter in fiction, he’d be unbelievable: a dream that a certain population of America had of itself.

He always seemed too good to be true, like someone who had been focus-grouped with not just one, but many, demographics, a plurality of fantasies embodied in one man: black, smart, handsome, young. And then the fantasies grew more outlandish, and still, he fulfilled every one: raised abroad; multiethnic; multinational; the brother of an Asian sister; the son of a single mother; a father of daughters. If President Obama had been a character in fiction, he’d have been unbelievable, less a convincing person than a constellation of symbols, a dream that a certain population of America had of itself.

So I understood the headiness, the elation, surrounding his rise. But what always made me uncomfortable – then, in 2008; now, in 2016 – was the idolatry that followed him. There were people (my father, for one) who wouldn’t hear any criticism of him, who would shout you down for merely questioning him. I would be at dinner parties where the hosts would say “I won’t hear anything bad said about him. I’ll defend him against anything or anyone.”

I understood this. He was a vulnerable figure in many ways, a symbol of a not-too-distant past, a black man hoping to lead a country in which black men have never been safe. He inspired our fantasies, but he also inspired our sense of protectiveness; he wore history lightly, but he would never have the privilege of discarding it entirely. We wanted, even needed, him to succeed, because his success would be proof of our own collective evolution. Yet there was also, from some quarters, a kind of condescension in the defence of him, an implication that the very fact of his presence was so miraculous that he couldn’t be looked at too directly or too closely.

We were correct not to engage with the ranters on the right. But we were wrong not to discourage the idolatry on the left. And the unhinged accusations from one side only encouraged a defence that became increasingly, obdurately partisan on the other, a defence that also provided cover and an excuse to ignore saner critics of all persuasions. Dissent is essential to a democracy; not just voicing it, but listening to others who can reasonably voice it as well. Yes, he did eventually receive his share of meaningful criticism, including from some people who supported him – but, I’d argue, far less than he might have. I was astonished, again and again over his two terms, by the number of people I encountered who seemed to recoil at the mere suggestion of his potential shortcomings and flaws. I voted for him twice, but I knew he wasn’t perfect. I didn’t expect him to be.

The irony, of course, is that he himself accepted his criticism graciously and calmly. This grace may be one of his enduring legacies. As many of us in the USA prepare to be in opposition once again, to traverse a period in which our romance with him is likely to only intensify, let ours be a reminder to never again become so blind with love – or hatred – for a politician that we forget to look squarely at him, without fear or favour.

Gary Younge

Judged by what was necessary, Obama was inadequate; judged by the alternatives, he was a genius. He was elected in the full bloom of the financial crisis, when “change” for many was not simply a slogan; it was a real and urgent need. But under his presidency, the gap between rich and poor and black and white grew; Guantánamo is still open; the financial system that caused the crash remains intact and unrepentant; poverty, corporate profits, deportations and whistleblower convictions are up. True, he performed triage on a haemorrhaging economy; rescued the car industry; delivered some health care to large numbers on fairer terms, though it’s now unravelling; promoted alternative energy sources and cut carbon emissions. But given what the moment required, a Marshall plan for American cities and a new deal for the country as a whole, it was insufficient. One could blame this all on the Republicans. But Obama stood claiming he was uniquely placed to bridge those divides. And for some of his presidency, Democrats did control both houses and had a supermajority in the Senate.

That said, his victories saved the country from austerity, vice-president Palin and war without end or purpose. Preceded by George W Bush, he repaired the USA’s image in most parts of the world, returned verbs to sentences and facts to science. As Trump’s dystopia becomes a reality, the nostalgia for his calm, measured and consensual solutions has begun early. He leaves the White House untarnished by scandal.These are no small things. They are also not enough. “Could be worse” is poor rhetorical compensation for “Yes we can ”. He raised expectations he could not meet, contributing to the despondency and cynicism that dominated this election. He is just one man: he couldn’t have done everything. But he could have done more.

Lionel Shriver

Let’s put aside any bygone dismay at the outgoing American president’s chiding that a naughty British electorate voting to leave the EU would be ostracised to “the back of the queue” in the “five to ten year” negotiation of a USA-UK trade deal that neither party requires anyway. (So much for the “special relationship” — especially crap, apparently.) Mark my words: we will miss this man.

I never expected Obama to walk on water, and some policy disappointments are no surprise. High-handed de facto legalisation of illegal immigrants unconstitutionally overrode Congress. Guantánamo still hasn’t closed. The Affordable Care Act kept private health insurance companies unaffordably in charge. But at least Obama tried, with partial success, to reform a broken health care system. The Iran nuclear agreement, taking out Osama bin Laden, extrication from Iraq (however temporary), instigating normalised relations with Cuba: well done.

Most of all, I will miss his style: his suave deportment; his droll sense of humour; his understatement and his physical energy; his articulacy; his charm; his grace. After eight years of George W Bush – who, in comparison to the POTUS in the pipeline, now seems a wit of Shakespearean scale – it has been a great relief for many American expats to feel proud of their president again: “Hey, that hip, sidling, intelligent guy at the podium? That’s our man!” We exiles will have to sustain ourselves with that memory for at least four years of chronic embarrassment.

Rare is the president who enacts a fraction of his initial plans (which is downright comforting at the moment ). Slow to get us out of the sinkhole of Afghanistan, at least Obama hasn’t involved the country in yet another all‑out war, whatever you may think of inaction in the sinkhole of Syria – and sometimes what’s most important is what a president didn’t do. During Obama’s term of office, the USA economy has been sort of OK; the rest of the world has not completely imploded. These days, that’s all I ask.

Jane Smiley

There are several things that President Obama has done that have been very important. The first of these is breaking the colour line as far as the presidency is concerned. It had to happen, and it was always destined to flush out the racists and the resisters, who have consolidated themselves in the Republican party and have been so overt that they have succeeded in disgusting much of the rest of the country and reducing the moral standing of their party. President Obama and the first lady, Michelle, have been gracious and amused in the face of this (in the same position, I would have been alternately terrified and enraged), and as a result, I have come to admire them as exemplary human beings. Obama’s accomplishments have been steady and incremental – in the face of congressional intransigence, he has managed to improve the economy.

He has given us the beginnings of a healthcare plan, ridden the waves of louder and louder discussions of racial inequality, and introduced some policies to fight environmental degradation and climate change. But he has also given us (or allowed us to endure) drone warfare , the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the non-prosecution of Dick Cheney and George W Bush for war crimes. In addition, even though Obama has paid more attention to Native American rights than any previous president, we have had to endure the Dakota Access pipeline debacle, amounting to unbelievable cruelty towards Lakota people and their supporters. The Army Corps of Engineers has at last blocked the permit. Can we thank Obama for this?

A president is both a world leader and a national figure. As a world leader, Obama has presided over increasing political and environmental chaos without much help from any other leader (remember David Cameron?); I think he has done the best he could not to engender more chaos. As a national leader, he has engendered more chaos, but it is necessary chaos – a loud and meaningful return to the question of what constitutes the real America. The final answer is still up in the air. This election year, we had our choice – stick with the corporatocracy (Clinton), try to improve the structure (Sanders), boil it down to a living hell (Cruz), or throw it all away (Trump) – and we still cannot decide.

Candace Allen

The grace. The all-encompassing, abiding, and amazing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool, no matter what came his way, be it birtherism or monkey memes, gross disrespect or counter-constitutional misbehaviour. The commitment. To the demands of that impossible job, to equality and science and the angels of his better nature in the face of an opposition which, for the first time in the history of the republic, would rather the country fail than the black man succeed. The intransigence of that opposition was surprising, but he never flinched nor doubled down; not only because this was the job, but because he was the first African American elected to that role. There could be no hint of shirking as he was carrying the dignity of our race as well as our republic on his shoulders. And being alright with that.

President Obama has made my heart dance; the entire family has.

Which is not to say that it’s been a perfect time. I’m not sure that anyone could make a better job of the mess that is Syria, but I wanted Guantánamo closed. The Nobel peace prize when he had barely begun was absurd; the financial indulgence of Israel in the face of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Palestinian policy and general disrespect wearied my soul. But I ask those who chide that he might have cleared legislative gridlock had he been more a back-slapping arm-twister in the manner of Lyndon B Johnson, do you think those Republican recalcitrants just managing to mask their racism would have acquiesced to such a touch? Obama’s mixed-race identity and his being at peace with all facets of this identity is the very embodiment of E pluribus Unum but they couldn’t see their reflection in him.

Their preference?

Obese entitlement and inchoate bluster; but white as they are white. From discipline in all regards to no self-control at all. From respect for and aspirations toward Enlightenment principles to the conning posture that facts are superfluous as he surrounds himself with a crew of pantomime villains that would be laughable if they weren’t so terrifying. I will not say his name. He is not my president. Count me among the resistance, my eyes steady on the prize.

Benjamin Markovits

Obama featured briefly in my last novel. He arrives at a political fundraiser, gives a speech, and afterwards gets involved in a game of pickup basketball. The speech, in some sense, was the easy part. Obama is a terrific speaker, and when you try to copy him, it’s one of those moments when another writer’s style has become fair game – as if your character had left some notes lying around, of the kind of thing he usually says.

There are his cadences: those rhetorical lists of two or three, as he works through an idea, a stump speaker’s trick for drawing out a thought until the next one comes along. His folksiness, of course, was literal, too. It seems all politicians need something to call us, and what you can get away with is one of the measures of your appeal. Ed Miliband struggled with “friends”, but I was always happy to be included among Obama’s “folks”. And then those sudden shifts in register, from hip and appealing (“Come on, man!”), to something a little more Nancy Reaganish, schoolteachery and prudish (“That’s not who we are!”). Somehow he gets away with that, too.

Harder to convey on the page is the sense you get, hearing him speak, of a great actor delivering his lines. As if he both meant them and somehow was considering them at the same time – like an actor who has intelligent thoughts about the quality of the screenplay even in the middle of his performance. He reminds me of Robert Redford , let’s say, from All the President’s Men. There is something in their eyes … and they use the same slight hesitations over a phrase, as if they might change their minds at any point. Even at his most emotional or inspirational, Obama keeps a certain amount back – a detachment that comes across for some reason as dignity and not evasiveness.

Cynthia Bond

I did not believe Obama could win the primary in 2008. I was born in April 1961, four months before Obama. Although desegregation had been the law of the land since 1954, in Texas it was in name only. I grew up near Prairie View University – a historically black college where my father taught. I’d never seen a white person, except on television. When we learned we were moving to Lawrence, where my father would teach literature at Kansas University, my sister drew a white man with brown palms. This was all we knew. My entire childhood I saw racism, what had to be fought, what may, or may not be won.

I volunteered for Obama’s 2008 campaign. The tenuous thread of hope becoming a thick cord – I was a believer. I cheered with my three-year-old daughter when he won, leaping and screaming with friends and their children. Then the inauguration. Then watching him fighting, making changes that shifted the face of the USA. And I exhaled. I believed. Each time I saw him there was hope that anything was possible. Of course I could defeat the self-hatred I’d been taught – it was never mine.

I saw Obama win twice – saw his hair turn grey. I saw his pain at the Sandy Hook school massacre, at the killings in Orlando, at the body count of black men and women killed by police. I saw the rise of white nationalism and hatred. Still he remained strong. Still he accomplished more.

I innocently believed that a nation that had elected Obama would never embrace a man who as president elect, has turned the USA into his personal cash cow, doing things that even my partner, a government official, would be fired for doing. When I was a social worker I couldn’t even borrow a dime from a client. It would be a violation of trust.

I am reminded, once again, that I am living in the racist country of my childhood. How could I have forgotten? What dream had I been living in?

I am a tangle of sorrow, pride, anger, and still hope. Mostly because Obama is still here, as a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again and because there are millions of us who will fight for what is good in America.

Sarah Churchwell

I voted for President Obama twice, and if I were able to vote for him a third time, I would. This is not to say that I think his presidency has been without its serious, even calamitous, failures, the most important of which is his unwillingness to intervene in any meaningful way in Syria. I also feel that his excuses for “kill lists” and murderous drones are a serious betrayal of the principles upon which I voted for him.

But what will linger with me most powerfully about Obama’s presidency, is the dignity and style with which he, along with Michelle Obama and their daughters, inhabited the White House. They are grownups in an infantilised, and infantilising, world. They are disciplined, distinguished, serious, proud. They are intelligent, humorous, compassionate. There was not a whiff of scandal; their standards are exceptionally high, and they expected the rest of us to measure up. Some people obviously resented that, but I found it a tremendous relief. My country’s response to this man of such obvious superiority, who happened to be African American, has been so vile that I still can’t fathom it. But it won’t destroy his legacy.

The Obamas changed the rules for what it means to inhabit the White House, and not only because they were the first black family to do so. They were also the first modern family to do so, to be informal yet classy, upright yet kind, and, most importantly – themselves. These are real people, and they are formidable people. Obama didn’t get everything right, but clearly we shall not see his like again in the White House. One of the few shreds of hope to which I cling is the promise that once he leaves the presidency, he can take the gloves off. He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side.

Aminatta Forna

When Obama was elected president of the United States, I was happy but worried. I was worried by the fervour which accompanied his achievement. Obama talked about “change” and here were people taking him at his every word. The world was going to change! I never saw this feverish look on the face of a person of colour, only the faces of white people. The black and brown people around me were joyful, but we knew better than to believe in promises, however heartfelt they might be, because nothing is that easy. Yet here were some folks acting like his was the Second Coming, raising the bar so high, anything but transcendence would count as a failure. I believe they would rather have seen him martyred.

Over the coming weeks his legacy will be debated here in the USA and all over. The ticks: Cuba, same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, Iran, Bin Laden. The crosses: Cuba, same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, Iran, okay they’ll give him Bin Laden. The fact of the matter is we don’t know what his legacy will be. Certainly, the Trump wrecking ball threatens to overturn parts of both his legislative legacy and foreign policy achievements. So what will Obama be remembered for most?

GRACE! There is, I have seen, a deep love in many quarters for Obama which I have never witnessed for another American president in the years I have lived on and off in this country, and the love is rooted in the almost surreal levels of grace Obama and his family have shown in the last eight years: in the face of the Tea Party’s antics, the obstructionism of Republican congressmen, willing to debase themselves and the principles of democracy in order to try to bring him down, the “birther” insults, the cries of “you lie” during a speech in Congress. Both his public behaviour and his personal behaviour have set a standard few presidents have ever reached, a combination of gravitas and warmth. Singing “Amazing Grace” in a Charleston church in memory of slaughtered churchgoers, his easy relationship with his daughters and deep love for his wife, the genuinely funny White House Correspondents’ Dinner speeches. Most of all, his refusal to show bitterness toward his enemies.

Of course, it was his dignity his detractors simply couldn’t stomach, he transgressed the imagined boundaries of class and race. In his conduct, he was better than them. And so to cover their shame, they voted for a new president in their own image and likeness.

He provoked the best and the worst of the American people. The world will miss Obama. Deeply.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On December 12, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Siri Hustvedt: The mantra that RACE is NOT a biologically real category is a truth, but that doesn’t mean our president wasn’t assaulted daily by grotesque lies and by racist imagery, by the watermelons and monkeys that dogged his time in office, vile attacks that came from obscene regions of that public stage we call the internet, but which only rarely found their way into the mainstream media – until now, that is.

    On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race and the Making of British Columbia – by Adele Perry

    Adele Perry, essentially arrived at the same conclusion that both race and gender are not inevitable and fixed categories; but rather historically constructed ones that are not created through biology as much as they are normalized through biological discourses.

    Tim Wise makes the same point, I believe:

    If you are beginning to understand this thing about “race” …. perhaps, you will begin to decipher how you [we] are being deceived.

    Remember those Honorary White West Indian Cricketers in South Africa …??

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