Friday, January 20, 2017

Farewell to a Family of Hope and Change


By noon today, we will no longer have the Obama family living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And that, for me, is a crying shame. It would have been sad to see them go any way. President Obama has served well and faithfully for eight years, so I knew his time in office was over. But his successor? I will not forget: almost three million more people in this country voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton. More of us were happy with the direction we were headed and were prepared to take it further. Instead, we are being blessed with a man who treats women as objects for his pleasure, regularly stiffs contract workers, and campaigned on a message of hatred and division all with the aid of our longtime enemy, Russia.

I don't want to dwell on the man coming into office, but rather think about the man leaving and sing his praises one last time. I am thankful that I was alive and of age and able to vote--twice--for Barack Obama. I will never forget hearing a soundbite from his first news conference after he started on the job in 2009, and being in awe that he knew how to use a subject-verb-and-predicate sentence. That just tells you how desperate I was to have decent leadership in the White House! After eight years of gobbledygook and goofy grins of George W. Bush, I was ready for an adult.

I told people that when he took over, that he had a tall order in front of him. He was going to have to carry a bucket of soapy water and scrub all the magic marker off the walls and furniture in the Oval Office. In fact, I knew it didn't matter if it was him or John McCain in the presidency, whoever got elected would be entering under less than ideal conditions. We'd been engaged in a pointless war that had further destabilized the world. Our economy was in a recession. People were losing their homes and their jobs after corporate scandals and subprime lending dropped people into a metaphorical debtor's prison. And then there was health insurance. Completely unaffordable to a self-employed massage therapist, I had to hope that nothing catastrophic happened to me less I would have to declare bankruptcy, and I had to be select about when I would go to the doctor. 

When President Obama proposed the Affordable Care Act, I knew it was not the ideal solution. I am one of those "liberals" who believes that we should be ensuring a minimum level of care to all our citizens; hence I believe in the same type of single-payer like systems that exist in European countries. People shouldn't have to choose between eating and whether to see a doctor. Sadly, the health insurance industry has amassed lots of money and power in Washington, and so getting my dream health care isn't likely. ACA, or "Obamacare" as it was called, took important steps toward giving the likes of me a chance to buy health insurance that was affordable and gave us protection in case of an emergency. I remember tearing up in the office of the Florida Blue representative as we selected the best plan for me. The president had done something that indeed helped me.

But what made me whole was when President Obama, in his second term, finally said that he had no problem with marriage equality. People don't believe me when I say this but his interview with Robin Roberts on ABC was a massive sea change. I could see and sense the valleys being lifted up and the mountains being made low for LGBTQ+ people. The noxious Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy had already been laid aside, but to have the President of the United States say that I should be allowed to marry did so much to open up the dialogue, especially among friends of color on their Facebook pages. I saw so many otherwise silent bystanders of color come out swinging and standing for the gay community that it made me think, "This might really happen!" And it did. It took brave people putting their lives before the court, but we did finally win the right to be married. And the White House would be lit up in rainbow colors. Once married, I could leave my insurance through Obamacare and be on even better insurance through my spouse's job. Again, the president had done something that indeed helped me.

President Obama wept after Newtown. So did I. His facial muscles were tense with anger and disappointment every time he had to talk about another senseless death of a black person--Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Tamir, Freddie, Sandra, Philando....and on and on. My face grimaced and my eyes teared-up along with him. The murders at Newtown should have been enough. The mowing down of people in Colorado high schools and movie theaters should have been enough. Every murder involving a gun on the south side of Chicago should have been enough. And the horrific killing field of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando should have been enough. But the National Rifle Association is another powerful lobby. I'm sorry the President was not able to accomplish some form of reasonable gun control. My own is to take away the guns, melt them down, and make them into art. But I am a super minority in this country.

I will remember and appreciate a President who took steps, albeit not with the same boldness I had hoped for, toward addressing the real and pressing danger of climate change. Our fragile earth is being fracked, drilled, and drained to death. Really. The refusal to put in safeguards for release of chemicals into our water and ozone-eating emissions into the air is going to destroy us. Really. And there they were, members of Congress, throwing snowballs on the floor of the House of Representatives to say, "See? No global warming here!" It amazes me that people who profess a belief in God who they cannot see deny the emperical evidence brought to them by the scientific community who they can see. It's as if they don't think God might not be working through these scientists to bring us the prophetic news of "Repent and get serious about regulation of industry or we will die of famine and rising waters!" 

We are going to need a whole lot more prophets speaking out in the next four years. I keep hoping the Episcopal Church will rise to the occasion. Meanwhile, I hope that President and Michelle Obama rest well, and join our chorus when they are recharged and ready.

Thanks, Obama. Thank you to your family. 

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