Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The Audacity Of Hope: Prologue

I have always wanted to read this book. I have a complicated relationship with President Obama. As many of you may know, I cast my vote for him in 2008. I remember the speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 that launched him as a political superstar. Two years later, at a march on Washington to bring the nation's attention to genocide around the world, I heard Obama speak. I predicted after that speech that he would be our president. We will always be at a variance over abortion and other moral issues, such as the meaning of marriage, and increasingly, religious freedom. My disagreement with President Obama has never been personal. Indeed, I could say in some sense that I like President Obama. I've been at times very critical, and even downright mad, but I feel differently on that level than most people.

It might be my undergraduate training in political science. Politics in America is like a brotherhood; when the sides aren't fighting, most folks have a deep respect for the other, an awareness of the hardships of trying to succeed. And there is a built-in institutionalism to the study of politics. It pushes one away from the extremes, even as great passion has pushed one into politics in the first place.

What we see today is, as many have called it, an anti-politics, a fury with the political class that is reflected in the campaign we're seeing now. In this way, I consider myself very much a creature of our institutions, and proud of that fact. Anger that doesn't issue forth in ideas is just anger, and as I've said before, I don't feel an obligation to respond to it, or respect it.

One specific line in the prologue caught my attention. Obama writes, "I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." I have seen this line--without the bit about being new on the scene--used several times on right-wing internet sites, to push the idea that Obama was some sort of Manchurian candidate. He goes on to say that he knows he's bound to disappoint some of those people, if not all of them, and he hopes to retain the center of his philosophy, even as he advances. By all means, disagree with any or all of that philosophy. I must say, however, that I am ashamed at the extent of the twisting and deception by his opponents. I wonder to what extent I have fallen for those distortions these roughly 8 years?

Fair to say that if you hate Obama, this series of posts may not be to your taste. I want to know what I missed, in the time of being too undisciplined to really listen.

On another note, I remain deeply thankful that two young African-American girls (now young women) think that their father being president is perfectly normal. Because now it is. And we'll be unable to calculate how valuable that is, to generations we have yet to meet.

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