FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Loss of a Sense of Grace

After Aretha Franklin passed away, one of the video clips shared on social media showcased Aretha singing “Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center with president Obama and Michelle in the audience. The association of Aretha Franklin and Obama is noteworthy because it represents something we’ve lost in the past couple of years both in the presidency and as a country, and that is, a sense of grace.

Obama had many flaws as a president. He was not a political animal.  He could not twist arms like Lyndon Johnson. He was too reasonable with his opponents. When he reached across the aisle, he expected someone to grasp his hand and instead it was slapped away. Instead of withdrawing from Afghanistan as he promised he would, he consulted the generals who surprise, surprise, asked for more troops. He refused to punish Wall Street when they bet against America and won while the rest of us lost. And he turned the funds for rebuilding the infrastructure over to the states resulting in the states using the money for shovel ready projects and saving jobs rather than rebuilding the infrastructure.

Nonetheless, when we elected the first African-American President there was a feeling that we were progressing as a country. And Obama did not let us down. His Presidency was scandal free. His family was the real life embodiment of the Cosby Show. The first lady was a role model for African-American women and for all girls. There was a feeling, in listening to Aretha Franklin singing, and in the Obama’s appreciation of her, that we were experiencing a shared multi-culturalism, a richness that showed what America was capable of, to both ourselves and to the world.

Now of course we know what the anti-thesis of that experience looks like. We know what it is like to have an awkward President, a racist, sexist, xenophobic criminal who embarrasses us on a daily basis. His followers revel in all this at his rallies. Now we know what it is like to have a first lady who doesn’t care about children separated from mothers or families housed in cages. We know what it is like to have a family who use their position for personal profit.

When Obama was elected I bought a tee-shirt that said: My President is Black. My tee shirt provoked a lot of reactions. A number of African-Americans told me they liked it and asked where they could get one. A number of white people, however, reacted completely differently. “You know, he’s only half-black,” they said. This reaction proved significant when, after a few years in office, whites began turning against Obama. Could it be because they realized he was actually black?

One of the instigators of this shift in perspective was Donald Trump who in questioning Obama’s citizenship was really saying Obama was not one of us but was rather, the other, an outsider, an alien.

Obama happens to be particularly good at code-switching. He can be the Harvard grad or he can be the basketball player.  He can give a brilliant speech and he can sing along to Amazing Grace. He can write his own memoirs and he can sit down for a beer with a Cambridge cop.

Trump on the other hand is always the same dude. He does not change his behavior for anyone including the Queen of England. We now know that about forty percent of Americans are fine with this. As long as the economy is humming they will accept anything Trump does whether it’s insulting heroes or assaulting women or degrading former friends or kowtowing to Putin or failing to pay his taxes or making deals with Russians or obstructing justice, or undermining democracy, or suppressing votes, or attacking freedom of the press. None of that matters as long as people are making money and feel they are valued by their dear leader.

Still, the America that elected Obama, exists. Maybe that America will show up to vote in the mid-terms and in 2020.

More articles by:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail