Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cause and Effect: America's Inevitable Response To Barack Obama and Racial Equality

This night in 2008 sealed America's fate in 2016.
"And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can", Barack Obama exclaimed as a crowd of over 240,000 in Lincoln Park erupted in cheers. When the former Senator and then, President-Elected ended his victory speech after the 2008 Presidential Election my face was wet with tears and a sense of civic pride swelled inside of me, the likes of which I never before and have not sense felt. Four years earlier, when I lived in Chicago, a stone's throw from the same park President Obama would deliver those words, the first vote I would ever cast would be for Obama's senate race versus Alan Keyes. Later to witness that same man soar to such unseen and unprecedented heights was beyond awe inspiring, it was beyond basic comprehension. I'd liken the experience to a blind man being granted sight for the first time, would the comparison not be met with charges of gross hyperbole.

There's a potpourri of subjects in this world I find endlessly fascinating. Sports, politics, film and television, to name a few, but nothing arouses my intellectual senses quite like American History. Look no further than the birth of this nation to find an inconceivable meteoric rise to power that is singularly unrivaled in human history. In only 240 relatively short years, the United States of America clawed it's way from being a handful of backwater rebellious English colonies to becoming the premier place of commerce, technology, medicine, education, and entertainment arts in all of the world. It's history is made even more complicated in that America has had all of those aforementioned triumphs, while simultaneously perpetrating the world's most grotesque form of injustice, slavery, then engaging in over one hundred years of state sponsored overt and latent racial supremacy. I've long held the belief that Thomas Jefferson writing the words, "All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" WHILE OWNING SLAVES, is, and will be in perpetuity, the planet's primary example of irony.

We don't live in a world where there's this clear, inconvertible evidence of systemic racism. There's no segregated lunch counters to sit at anymore. No stores or buses to boycott. No more Bull Connors or George Wallaces to point to as clear oppressors. The men and women two generations before my own won those battles and when the battle-lines were THAT clear it's easy to see how once those fights were over, one could assume the war was over. As we as a nation have evolved, so has racism. Where pre-Civil Rights racism was Godzilla; this prodigious force that lumbers toward ALL men, crushing anything in it's wake with such obvious force, that even the blind can't deny it's presence, post-Civil Rights racism is more akin to Predator. An equally duplicitous threat that clandestinely maneuvers through an environment now eradicating ONLY it's intended targets and doing so with staggering efficiency. I apologize in advance for the following tautology, but it has to be said again. No one in a Godzilla film could reasonably say he didn't exist, so the collective fight against Godzilla is a lot easier to mount when you don't have to spend time arguing his existence. By contrast, people in Predator films met their end in part because they're too busy questioning Predator's very presence.
Scenes like this pepper America's past.

I tell you all that not to lecture you on America's sins but to prove that despite these missteps, the spirit of the ideals and principles of this country's founding have endured. America itself has endured because our nation is a nation of fighters. It's in our very nature to fight the powers that govern us, but it's also our inherent righteous nature that pulls us forward. Albeit kicking and screaming sometimes, but forward nevertheless. The bedrock foundation of America's core founding ideals are so unflappable, that if you were only to look at the basic essence of the words of our Constitution, and use them as a guide, you'll always find yourself on the right side of any problem. It's chief message is one that calls for common sense, reason, fairness, and freedom that no rational man can reasonably dispute. The problem is those beautiful yet, quixotic words have to be implemented by men, whom we all know are seldom powered by the virtues of our founding documents. Too often men can be governed by less noble traits like greed, envy, hate, and fear. Even with all its rough edges, I still love and admire this country and its history.

One can not love the history of this nation without a certain "love" for the men that have led it. To love America is ipso facto a love of Presidents. Since this country's founding, these puissant men have guided and shaped, not just this nation's history, but the world's history like few other men can or have. I can name them all in succession, tell you the length of each man's term of office, and even offer up inutile facts about each. Knowing what I've know of our history and that office, I believe that I'd sooner live to see my beloved Chicago Cubs win a World Series before witnessing a Black man hold the Presidency. So I naively thought that just the moment itself, living to see this nation, via the freewill of a majority of it's own free citizens, elect a Black man to it's highest office, would be something worth collectively celebrating.

I already mention that the days of "Godzilla" racism are gone so that meant there aren't too many great moments of racial "firsts" to cross. Almost every major entity in this nation has christened itself with the champagne of racial equality. Sports leagues, schools, judges chambers, every field of employment, art, entertainment, all have had someone break through. Yes, many of our greatest Civil Rights heroes are dead and gone but there are still people in our country who can say they saw many of these moments. I had become reluctantly resigned to the fact that my generation's social defining "where were you when" moment was destined to be September 11th. Needless to say, it wasn't a story I would tell with pride to my as of yet born grandchildren. In my mind, November 5th, 2008 had given us "millennials" the a ultimate reprieve. We are a country fueled by the dream and broken promise of equality but built and run on the actions of racial hierarchy. You, reading this, and I, typing this, got to see our country show itself and the world, unequivocally, that that dream and that promise weren't just words anymore. It was real.

Even if this NEVER happened again, even if President Obama had lost his re-election bid in 2012, or worse, he had been struck down that night in Lincoln Park, WE had lived to see the country actually elect him. In my learnt opinion, there is no more enviable moment of American history to have been alive to witness. And yet, why has this nation not overwhelmingly saw the moment as I had? Does my Democratic political leaning, knowledge of history, or my shared race with our President offer me some idiosyncratic viewpoint other people aren't able to see? Upon further examination, it should have been my comprehensive knowledge of our nation's history that guided me to see the rise of the tyrannical right and Donald Trump. Donald isn't doing anything special. He hasn't tapped into some unseen racism that America was waiting to unleash. He hasn't given voice to some "silent majority". Trump is simply put, America's logical and appropriate response to racial equality.

 I was often confused as to how or why President Obama hasn't enjoyed the long established norms and respects that the office in which he holds typically grants someone in his place. Why he's endured historic levels of Congressional pushback. It's safe to say we're all aware of Newton's third law, which states, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Given that, and the history of America, I should have known that for every moment of cataclysmic racial equality, there has always been equal backlash. For slavery to meet its end, our country would wage its bloodiest war. A war within its own boarders, among its own citizens. A sweeping change in the voting habits for the country's southern population was the casualty for civil rights being embraced by the Democratic party in the 1960s. The end of Jim Crow/segregation saw the drug war and mass incarceration as it's logical response. Only with hindsight, is it easy to see how fool-hearted I'd been in thinking anything than other the complete opposite of everything that is Barack Obama, Donald Trump, would emerge from the crater of Obama's historical Presidency created in this country's psyche.
The face of America's logical reply to an Obama Presidency.
Where President Obama was born and raised in the most modest of means, Donald was born to superfluous wealth and prominence. Where President Obama is a tireless intellect, Donald is a lethargic imbecile. Where President Obama is exceedingly humble, Donald is endlessly egotistical. Where President Obama is consciously articulate, Donald speaks in the rambling self-interrupting cadence of your over inebriated uncle. Where President Obama is measured, reasonable, and Spock-esque in regards to logic, Donald is thoughtless, capricious, and seemingly unhinged from reality at times. Where President Obama's professional achievements reach the heights of Nobel Laureate, one could argue that Donald's professional ascension is WWE Hall of Famer.

I honestly believe if I were bestowed the all-reaching and divine powers of God Himself, I couldn't create a more fitting evil doppelganger for Barack Obama than Donald Trump. It doesn't seem real when I think about it but somehow, it seems so perfect. It's not all consternation in this perceived lost cause.

Last week, former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali passed away. From the universal and unanimous outpouring of love and respect Ali garnered you'd think he was always loved by America. I don't think I need to tell you that initially, the braggadocious, loud mouth, draft dodging, handsome, Muslim African-American heavyweight champion of the world didn't go over too well in 1960s America. But history looks kindly at Ali and his stance. Before his death, one could argue that Ali was the world's most beloved sports figure. Only through revisionist history can we all see the just nature of Muhammad Ali's words and actions.

I believe that one day, this inevitable rise of Donald, will become, like slavery and segregation before it, will be but mere battle scars of our country's unique history. That Donald and this shit-show that has become the 2016 election will fade from memory and President Obama will be seen with the rose color glasses history often uses to gaze onto others. Because trust me, one day, and you may not know or believe it yet, I believe near majority of Americans will join me expressing pride to tell the people of tomorrow they lived to see Barack Obama.

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