Point of View Columns

Still in Search of Obama

It just may be true that every blessing is mixed. There is the joy and pleasure when something good and great happens. But there is also the remorse and dismay when that something good and great doesn’t last forever. And so it may be that when the history books are written decades from now the phenomenon known as Barack Obama may be viewed as a mixed blessing for black Americans in particular and for Americans of good will, whatever their hue. And if those far off history books turn out to be correct, it will be due to the memory of the remorse and dismay that were experienced by the many who embraced and supported the Obama phenomenon.

Many historians and political observers agree that Barack Obama was an extraordinary president who came to office during extraordinary times. His successful leadership during the worst economic times since the Great Depression of the 20th century are Rushmore-worthy. His effort to fundamentally reform the delivery of health care in this country is a worthy legacy. The reform of the financial services industry just may have rescued this country from the self-inflicted wounds of Wall Street. Progressive movement regarding gender equality and gender preference and commitment to environmental salvation are all hallmarks of a remarkable presidency.

The list goes on. But the takeaway is that Barack Obama has a place in history for more than being the first black President of the United States. A lot more.

But historians from the future, visiting us now, may tell us that because Barack Obama was the first black President of the United States, and a progressive president to boot, the cauldron of racism that still bubbles in too many communities without color boiled over, in the process merging and melting racist sentiments with anti-women sentiments, anti-gay sentiments, anti-regulation sentiments and run of the mill Ayn Rand right wing of the right wing sentiments.

This amalgam fueled by the pure hatred of that Kenyan in the White House, solidified a bloc of Americans who not only hated Obama, but hated anything and everything that he supported. And that is one of the key reasons that we now have Donald Trump as president.

Granting that hindsight vision is invariably 20/20, the election of Donald Trump as president was at least probable, if not predictable. The meanness, the ignorance and the dedication to the impossible task of reconfiguring history are not surprising considering the whiplash of a backlash that affected too many Americans upon the election (and reelection of Barack Obama).

But what could not have been predicted is the virtually sphinx like silence of the now former President Obama as he witnesses the rampant and raging attempts at the destruction of his legacy as well as the possibly irreversible harm that Trump is visiting upon all Americans. While it is true that tradition has dictated that former presidents are silent former presidents when it comes to criticizing their successors, it is clear that these are not traditional times – and Barack Obama is not a traditional ex-president.

While there is nothing in his personal history – both prior to and during his presidency – to indicate that former President Obama would be the vocal leader of resistance to epic systemic harm that is the hallmark of the Trump Era, it is now shocking that Barack Obama has been virtually silent when it comes to criticizing Trump and articulating all that is wrong with this demon of a president.

The people who are being harmed the most by Trump are the people who supported Barack Obama, marched for Barack Obama and waited in line for hours to vote for Barack Obama. The America that is in jeopardy of ruination is the America that Barack Obama swore to protect, and it is impossible to believe that that oath expired on January 20, 2017.

Yet Barack Obama maintains virtual silence – with the exception of a few tepid Delphic comments that are subject to the interpretation of whatever audience has paid to hear him speak. His most vocal, but still veiled comments that might have referred to Donald Trump were spoken in South Africa, 7000 miles away from the Trump crime scene.

It is simply not enough for the man who electrified a nation and a generation with the promise of Hope and Change to stand quietly on the sidelines working on his library and a Netflix production deal while this country and its people go to Hell in the Trump hand basket.

For better or for worse, Barack Obama’s voice is the only progressive voice that commands national attention and it is Barack Obama who can mobilize and energize the resistance that can possibly turn the Trump tide.

It is time for Barack Obama to shed his cloak of invisibility and to renounce his vow of silence. The time is now – we can only hope that this is the change that we will see in the 44th President. Destiny led him to the presidency. Destiny now leads him to be a vocal ex-president.


8 thoughts on “Still in Search of Obama

  1. Dr. Ford, Excellent words that we, all people, need to reach Hon. Barack Obama. I love reference to put him on mount Rushmore. Thank you for not being silent to USA Electorial selection of dangerous number 45 or agent orange.

    • Duane Hill says:

      Wally, I think Thomas Walker in his comments below has it right. In addition, one can also argue that those dark forces that you referred to in your piece would only be rallied further by Obama stepping into the fray as you recommend. We need a new generation of leaders to pick up and carry the mantle forward. Hopefully some of them will emerge out of the mid terms and beyond.

      • I appreciate your perspective as well as those expressed by Thomas and others. It is just that time is not our friend….hopefully the new generation of leaders will make themselves known sooner than

  2. Antonette says:

    I enjoyed your piece. It made me imagine what it would look like if President Obama spoke up to mobilize people. Maybe some change for the better would come then.

  3. Thomas Walker says:

    Wallace, In the more than fifty years I have known you I have rarely,if ever, disagreed with one of your positions. This, however, is one of those times. I don’t think we should view Barack Obama as a black messiah. Is oresidency accomplished some good things and was an important milestone in the history of America. However, I think it is a good thing that he is not sucking up all the oxygen and is allowing other leadership to emerge. As the events of the last few days are beginning to show, the excesses and corruption of Trump and his associates are now reaching the point that a day of reckoning in approaching. And new leadership is emerging. Let’s see what the midterms produce. And let’s keep adding our own voices to the dialogue.

  4. Vaughn A. Carney says:

    Black people paid dearly for the ascent of Obama, but I wonder if he even feels a sense of obligation for it. Even as some damned fools were prattling idiotically about a “post-racial America”, I witnessed a snide, vindictive attitude toward black people in corporate America. Many lost their jobs and livelihoods out of pure vengeance and spite.
    Obama owes all of them. And it’s past time for him him to step up and acknowledge it.

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