I saw a magazine cover the other day, with a picture of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cover, with the words “The Dream Realized.” This got me thinking. While I understand the significance of Barack Obama being our nation’s first African-American president, his race has been the sole (or at least primary) point of discussion every time I have heard his presidency discussed. Not his radical positions on abortion, gay marriage, and economics, all of which are major hot-button topics in our nation today, not his glaring lack of leadership experience or even his voting history in the Senate. These issues may be touched upon or mentioned in passing, but all anyone really wants to talk about is “he’s the first African-American President of the United States.”
My question, though, is… so what?
Bear with me, drop those torches and pitchforks.
Yes, it’s a major milestone.
Yes, it means a lot for our country.
But, why should it matter so much? If this is truly a milestone for racial equality and fairness, shouldn’t his race not matter? We should be able to judge his presidential capability independent of his race. It seems to me that we should be at a point for our country where race doesn’t matter. We should say, “Oh, Barack Obama. He seems to be a capable, level-headed, fair-minded individual who will look to the best interests of our nation and ensure we remain safe and prosperous during his term. And, oh look, he’s black; he’ll be our first African-American president. Neat.” Rather, we switch those sentences, and it instead becomes a matter of race rather than of ability.
Now, politics is a dirty game at best, and I personally am very unimpressed with our system of electing officials. In fact I more or less hate politics and distrust everything and everyone involved in them. And while that is a very lengthy and unnecessary argument for another time (or perhaps, best of all, never), I will simply say that I personally think elections should be blind. We should be presented with the relevant details of a candidate, his positions on key issues, voting record, credentials, expertise, etc. That should be the basis of our choice rather than silver-tongued wordplay and flashy MTV and late-night appearances.
But as I said, that’s for another time.
What really concerns me is the way Obama has been accepted by the public and media. I have heard him called “The New Messiah,” and he had already been titled by many as the greatest President of our country’s history before he even took office. He can do no wrong by the media; I remember the beating Presient Bush took every time he made a slip of the tongue or said something less-than-eloquent, and the way he was raked over the coals for every unpopular decision he made while the great things he did went almost totally unpublicized (heard of Darfur? Or his 80% approval ratings in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Pew Institute and the Boston Globe?) And on another, small, nitpicky note of journalistic properness, I can’t even count the number of times I heard President Bush addressed in the media as “Mr. Bush,” a slight at best over their negative opinions of him. However, President Obama has made his fair share of linguistic slipups (spend five minutes on YouTube, you’ll have fun) and I have yet to see one on the news (just as a minor example.)
Now, I understand that many will think I am simply ‘hating’ and simply doing that which I accuse others of doing in the past. That is not the case. I didn’t vote for Obama, but that’s not the point here. President Obama is now the Man in the Oval Office, and as the holder of the highest office in the Land I will respect him as such. I hope his term goes well, and I pray he will be a wise and level-headed ruler. And while I believe the Presidency to be a far less powerful position than many believe (The Senate and Court have the real power, kids) I understand the significance of his position and his power to affect the much-touted “Change” in our nation. These next few weeks will be a proving time for Obama; we will see what he is truly made of once his Office gets rolling.
What I ask is that the people be willing to step back and examine Obama for what he is: a man. A human being, an American, who is the President of our country. Period. He is not a God, he is not Abraham Lincoln, he is not Martin Luther King, Jr. He is Barack Obama, and whatever happens I can guarantee he will not make everything better, and could even make some things worse. He should be, as every other President in the history of our nation, carefully observed and criticized. Remember that he is, first and foremost, a politician and should not be prejudged on flashy campaign promises and a big smile. Nobody should be afraid of speaking out against his policies or practices.
And, thus, after writing far more than I intended to, we come back to the magazine cover I mentioned above: Obama and MLK Jr. with the words “The Dream Realized.” We have to ask ourselves: Is this MLK’s dream? He spoke of a day when color would not matter, when judgement would be made independent of race. Blindly following a politician (and I am not saying everyone does this, but many, many do) because of his race is not Dr. King’s dream. That is the opposite of his dream.
We have a new president.
He happens to be black.
Now, let’s get down to business.