Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Guest Post: Oren Jacobson Reflects On Our First Black President


Oren Jacobson is the progressive who briefly put together a primary challenge to reactionary Chicago Blue Dog Dan Lipinski. After listening to President Obama's eulogy in Charleston last week he sent along this moving post:

Amazing (in his) Grace
By Oren Jacobson

After thirty heartfelt minutes, the greatest orator of our time-- and undoubtedly one of the most consequential Presidents in American history-- took Charleston’s Evangelical African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the country as a whole, to a crescendo. This crescendo was different than what we have come to expect from Barack Obama. It wasn’t his trademark soaring rhetoric that catapulted him toward the heavens this time. Rather, it was a long pause followed by the the man moving, unexpectedly, into song.

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me...”

He barely got past the first two words when the congregation joined in, carrying him to the finish as he had carried them in their collective grief. The first Black president stood at the pulpit of this historic Black church, where the futures of nine black men and women were stolen by the hatred of an unapologetic white supremacist, and delivered a eulogy in his familiar baritone that drove home a message reflecting a characteristic emblematic of his presidency: grace.

When they called him a Muslim he handled it with class. When they demanded his birth certificate, he displayed humility. When he was called the “Food Stamp President,” an unquestionable racial dog whistle, he stayed the course on the high road. When they criticized him for bowing to a foreign leader, for being an apologist, a socialist, for being weak, for leading from behind, he kept his eyes steadfastly on the horizon.

Every president is attacked by his opponents for his policies, but this president has been relentlessly attacked for his policies and for who he is, from the outside in. Overtly racist attacks may not be acceptable in the public sphere in this day and age, but under the camouflage of language deeply rooted in racist ideology, the sentiment has been made clear.

He is a Muslim, a Kenyan, an anti-colonial socialist. He is not like us. Doesn’t share our American values. He is the Other.

He never got mad. He never reacted in anger. He kept his composure under circumstances that would cause most to quiver in rage. How else could this man not only end up in the White House but deal with the problems he has had to face and the vitriolic antagonism he has encountered from day one, whether based on policy, politics, or racial motivations, if it not for grace?

This stirring testament to the too soon lost attempted to heal the nation’s wounds, acknowledged our uncomfortable realities, challenged our egos, and charged us to keep moving towards a more perfect union. A man and a people-- well within their rights to cast dispersion fueled by righteous indignation, allow anger and frustration founded on the injustices of past and present to consume them, attack the people who assault them both figuratively and all too often literally with the same level of hatred-- walking gracefully down a path of reflection, prayer, and hope.

In spite of the centuries of oppression, in spite of a flag flying over capitals in this country with the symbol of a rebellion meant to maintain them in a permanent inhuman status, in spite of a criminal justice system with proven racial bias, in spite of widespread economic disparity, this congregation and our president formed a perfect display of all we should aspire to be. This moment was profound. It was a testament to the beliefs that have formed this nation: that we can overcome, that we can rise up in spite of circumstance, that we can build a better tomorrow no matter what burdens we carry today. It was Barack Obama at his best. It was leadership at it’s best. More importantly, it was America at it’s best.

In times of national tragedy it is common for our presidents to speak for us. This speech, by this man, in this moment, was among the most remarkable moments of American history. It capped off a week that can only be described as the best of his presidency-- a presidency that, despite being characterized as a travesty by the right and a let down by the left, has accomplished so much with such grace that we too often fail to recognize the scope.

16 million Americans have affordable health care because of this man. He saved the economy from the brink of disaster. He ended two wars. He repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He refused to prosecute DOMA. He passed Wall Street reform and major consumer protections. He protected Dreamers, and millions of others with executive orders.

He became the first President to support marriage equality and made it a touchstone of his second inaugural. He pushed through federal benefits for same-sex partners. He appointed more gay officials than any other president and the first transgendered cabinet official. He passed the Lilly Ledbetter act, expanded funding for the Violence Against Women Act, and appointed the first woman to lead the FED. He appointed two women to the Supreme Court (doubling the previous historical total) including the first Hispanic judge. He saved the auto-industry. He killed Osama Bin-Laden. He cut the deficit by more than half. He raised fuel efficiency standards, doubled federal investments in clean energy, negotiated a major climate deal with China, and has presided over the longest period of sustained private sector economic growth in American history.

Despite all of this, President Obama faces level of hatred fiercer than anything endured by his predecessors. Politics and policy may inspire discord, but one cannot honestly stand witness to such seething disdain and not recognize the racial roots in at least some of the attacks.

As I sat and watched him sing “I was once was lost, but now am found…” a lump built in my throat and tears welled in my eyes. I wondered out loud how people could see this man, hear this man, and still hate this man? To disagree with his politics I get. But to despise the man makes no sense.

What a beautiful representative of our country he, and his family, have been for us. We have changed for the better under his leadership. In that moment yesterday there is no doubt some of our national hope was restored. The hate will not stop. The attacks will continue. The disrespect will endure. But, it matters not. For President Barack Obama has been, and will continue to be, Amazing in his Grace.

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At 1:01 PM, Blogger joel hanes said...

Election night 2008, this song :

and again in 2012

And that train is still running.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger CWolf said...

He never got mad. He never reacted in anger. He kept his composure under circumstances that would cause most to quiver in rage."

Sounds like a tag line from the biography of Jackie Robinson.

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the growing under-employed of the US will have plenty to be grateful about, especially after Barry gets his TPP and TTIP, among other trade travesties he's promoting! Fine oratory indeed - backed by a stiletto in the economic kidneys.

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my unofficial (and incomplete) list of particulars. It's rough, not fully annotated and has some repetition but it gives the flavor of the "accomplishments" of "our first black president." Our first chartreuse president could hardly do worse. John Puma

1) most legal deportations (see: http://tinyurl.com/q9u74d9)
2) most whistleblower prosecutions
 and “legacy”: http://tinyurl.com/poylddt
3) constant support charter schools 
4) expand the powers and scope of the intelligence agencies
5) nothing v. illegal foreclosures, thus vividly emphasizing the "dream" part of "the American -----"
6) no criminal investigations of too big to fail bankers
7) allowed BP to drill in Gulf again
8) ?allowed destruction of net neutrality http://tinyurl.com/llp39d6
9) indefinite detention of US citizens for “acts” on US soil
10) assumes power to assassinate US citizens, outside the us, w/o judicial review
11) gives states the “right” to determine how to cut greenhouse gas emissions
12) Justified Iraq invasion http://tinyurl.com/q9wf35o
13) Endless sacrificial firings to respond to endless, proven-false scandals, which, then, is used by scandalmongers as proof of false scandal. (Instead of Obama lifting both middle fingers vigorously skyward.)
14) Defends CIA which finally admits to spying on congress
15) Risen: greatest threat to press freedom in a generation
16) merged Homeland Security with local law enforcement as new “tool” to quash rights of 1st amendment (except religion)
17) pressuring unions to accept and congress to “fast-track” new “free-trade” treaties 
18) says the Bush family is “good people”
19) proposes E coast off shore drilling http://tinyurl.com/mgwaop5
20) killed Quadaffi who got rid of his nukes at US insistence http://tinyurl.com/mvtgsh7
21) sells drones to foreign countries: http://tinyurl.com/legqn3f
22) officially declared Venezuela a threat to the US http://tinyurl.com/q2gtqh2
23 promised “Most transparent administration” but in actuality sets FOIA censorship record (with almost two years yet to go) http://tinyurl.com/kgvu3e4
24) approves Arctic oil drilling http://tinyurl.com/ppp5a2q
25) seeks cell phone “kill switch” http://tinyurl.com/m9xkx7k
26) opens public land to coal mining http://tinyurl.com/p7s6vo5
27) in 2015 SOTU address boasted about having ruined Russian economy with his sanctions
 (ie war crimes in a sane world) http://tinyurl.com/mb5trqm
28) semi-hysterically calls for reinstatement of Patriot Act (paragraph 215)
29) gyrates to avoid stopping NSA spying http://tinyurl.com/o3erc4a
30) pushes TTP and other sovereignty destroying “trade agreements” that will make NAFTA look like 200% protective tariffs
31) along with #27 allowed neo-con Nuland and crank McCain to engineer neo-fascist putsch in Ukraine thereby making "global" nuclear holocaust a real threat once again.

At 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotta go with anon/John Puma on this one. If Obama were a gymnast, I would agree to give him style points. He isn't.

The power to kill US citizens without due process means that the Constitution is now a goner. ACA and marriage equality are minor, irrelevant red herrings. Obama is a criminal like Bush Jr.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am certain that if the above commenters were president, they would do everything right because they must be perfect! Not defending everything Obama has done, but it is so easy to see what should be done when you are not the one making the decisions.

At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear 6:53PDT Anon,
I only asked that Obama not destroy the Fifth Amendment, which seems like a pretty light load for a Constitutional law professor, and a pretty grievous error for the president of a government of laws to commit. 4:16PDT Anon/John Puma has a more extensive list, most of which also seem like egregious crimes - not mistakes - to me. But then, I don't think either one of us is as loving and forgiving a person as you are. - signed, 6:39PDT Anon.


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