by Bryan Gentry
With the inauguration of Barack Obama our nation is brutally divided. A small majority of our nation view him as a possible answer to our problems, and a large minority see him as just your “typical liberal.” Within each of these building factions, we have extreme polarization taking place.
The problem lies in the fact that these polarizations dominate political conversations. Martin Luther King, Jr. alluded to what Barack Obama may represent and what our union currently looks like decades ago when he said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” What King said must be understood in the context in which he used them, but we can also find a message for today within them.
Everyone, in regards to how they view the new president and politics in general, should attempt to take a defensive yet critical approach; we must accept but change any disappointment to come, and hold on to the hope of positive change. We must also be informed citizens, and understand what is going on in the administration.
An informed view will come to individuals who take the time to educate themselves. Thomas Jefferson and W. E. B. DuBois both wrote about the importance of education in our society. Too often it appears that voters vote on the person, not the issues at hand. This is dangerous. It invests too much power in the hands of emotion, personal bias, and the superficial. It seems as if in this election, everyone got too caught up in this. The more people I talk to about politics, the more I realize something: the most educated voters vote third party (or Ron Paul).
Why is this? Is it because they simply want to be different? I suppose that is possible. However, I believe this is because they did their research and discovered that their candidate closely resembles their positions on numerous issues. This is the way to vote. Even if this would create a more hectic system of campaigning, it would bring our republic closer to a democracy. However, that is not what we have. We have the elitist two party system, and that will have to do.
So, here we are. We’ve reached a point where we can continue the fighting created by a dual party system, or accept it. In accepting it, we have to realize that the fighting that currently exists cannot continue. It does not mean that one side is superior to the other because they have the presidency or a majority in congress. It doesn’t even really mean we have to “cross party lines” to create alliances. It means that we have to accept differences and critically analyze the workings of our government, compare it to our moral beliefs, and responsibly speak out. We don’t necessarily need to love thy neighbor, but we sure as hell don’t need to hate him either.
The group who will have the hardest part not hating thy neighbor will be conservative Republicans. I don’t mean that to be judgmental, by any means. The truth is Democrats would be in the same camp if the election had gone differently.That does not mean that one must resort to outlandish irrational statements. For example, I had to make a long drive the other night. I was playing with my radio and landed on a conservative radio station. For the most part, valid concerns about big government and experience were raised; however, one commentator referred Obama’s liberal economic policies (such as the bailout) as “the fall of capitalism.”
Is that a rational statement? No, not really. No one man has brought down this country yet, or destroyed capitalism in the United States. Statements such as these are not the definition of responsibly speaking out.
Understand this: there are great similarities between the moralities of your party and the political positions of our new president. Currently, outspoken partisans have succumbed to the ignorance of hatred as a valid position, and used it to deepen a growing wound. But many political leaders are attempting to create a stronger union. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are an example of these leaders. I challenge the people who fall into this category to defend Barack Obama, and to view him as your leader. He will define the culture, direction, and international respect of this nation for at least the next four years. He is your leader.
However, those who did vote for him need to realize one thing: he will not be able to do everything he promised to do. The chances of him doing so are as likely as him flying from D.C. to New York to save Lois Lane as she falls from the NYSE with the rest of our investments. Some issues will take precedence over others. Right now, the issue at hand is the economy. He cannot do everything he promised to at once; he is not Superman. Another thing must be realized as well: the stances Obama took during his campaign have either been forgotten or forced to moderation. In my opinion, this is a great thing. However, those who were looking for something more or some great “change” are in for a disappointment. The change we are looking for won’t all come from the top. We are a rampantly out of control consumerist society. We are equally responsible for the mess we are in. We have lost sight of what is important, and we have decided to define ourselves with “shit we don’t need.”
Obama does not hold the key to equality in this nation, either. Whether that equality is between sexes, races, sexual orientation or religion, we must bridge those gaps on a personal level. The success of this president lies in our hands almost as much as it lies in his own. I challenge supporters to speak out against Barack Obama. He is not a clone of you. He does not represent your every individual opinion. There will be policies that you will not agree with. He is your leader, but he is also your employee.
After Obama’s inauguration today, he would traditionally be granted about a year-long honeymoon. Why grant him that luxury? He works for the American people. The lack of interest in politics immediately following an election is simply unacceptable. In the semi-democratic nation we live in, the president must answer to us, regardless of whether that person is George Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain or Abraham Lincoln. No government should have the luxury of knowing that people are no longer watching them. If Obama’s presidency is to be live up to expectations, he deserves better of us.
Personally speaking, I believe in him. I believe that with time, he can unite this nation, lead us in the right direction in a responsible manner, and make us feel proud of who each of us is as an individual and as an American. However, I know that this belief cannot blind me; it cannot restrain me if I ever see injustice, an abuse of power, or plain ignorance working in the name of the United States and her citizens.
Regardless of how you look at this, the inauguration of Barack Obama is a historic event. Those who are caught up in the fever of his inauguration simply want to believe, want to hope for something larger than themselves. And rightfully so–it has been awhile since we’ve had a leader who can communicate to the American people like Barack Obama can. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a leader who can motivate the masses. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a leader with an academic resume like Obama’s. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a leader who can allow people to hope and believe. However, we need to believe responsibly. The moral resume of politicians is not impressive.
There are the Andrew Johnsons, Richard Nixons, Eliot Spitzers, and Rod Blagojevich’s of the world who have given political leaders a bad reputation. However, there are also the FDR’s, Nelson Mandelas, Ronald Reagans, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s who inspire others to do great things. Hopefully, the latter group defines Barack Obama.
Maybe I’ve been caught up in the hope and possibilities of what can be. But why not hope? Why not hope for the best but understand the extent of the challenges we face? Martin Luther King Jr. spoke powerfully about hope. Barack Obama and the United States of America have the ability to expand on his hope.
Hope – Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. [It is] a belief in things not seen. [It is] a belief that there are better days ahead.