The Content of His Character
Yesterday, the United States of America swore in the first black President in the history of our nation in one of the most talked about inaugurations in memory.
I spent much of the day irritated or angry.
I wasn’t angry that Barack Obama was being sworn in as President nor that we were finally gaining our first black leader. Contrary to public opinion, even prior to Obama’s historic run, I’ve always felt we were on the cusp of electing a black President and that it was only a matter of time before it happened.
What really made me angry were all of my friends and coworkers and relatives and acquaintances and, well, pretty much everyone telling me how I should be celebrating and rejoicing and explaining to me what a momentous occasion it all was as though I, of all people, have no knowledge of history or politics. These same people spent the day lecturing me about how I should embrace Obama now that he is our President even though I didn’t vote for him. I should embrace him in the grand spirit of American unity. I should celebrate the glorious day that has finally seen the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. realized. And as they lectured me, many of them gushed, simply overflowed, with joy and excitement at the dawning of this new day, this day of salvation. They wanted me to be happy too.
But where were these people when I, and my fellow conservatives, were asking for a little understanding, a little compassion, a little American unity? Where were they when we wanted our country to come together to conquer the crises of war and economy?
They were the ones calling our President stupid and accusing him of war crimes. They were the ones screaming that our President’s economic policies were ruinous. They were the ones saying we must pull out of Iraq immediately and cut our losses. They were the ones. These very same people. Nevermind that in the afterglow of an election victory Obama plans to keep Bush’s “failed” economic policies in place for now and does not plan to leave Iraq right away.
But yesterday’s inauguration wasn’t about economic policies and military strategies. No, it was about the fact that America has its first black President in our history. I gladly concede the historical and emotional importance this occasion has and will continue to have in our society and our history. I do not deny it nor would I attempt to underplay it. I understand it is a HUGELY momentous day to a great many people. A day that an entire generation of people still living thought would never, could never, come. Of the fact that our nation could elect a black President, I am proud.
What irritated me as I went about my day yesterday, however, was the apparent worship and adulation people seem to have for the man, Barack Obama. While I acknowledge that Obama’s achievement is historic and deserves recognition and a place in history, I do not agree with some of the more passionate advocates I saw who seem to already be holding this man up on some sort of saintly pedestal. Their fervor and passion are misplaced at best and dangerous if extreme. It’s as if they think that now that we’ve elected a black man President there’s nothing that can’t be solved – no problem he can’t handle. While they may eventually be proven correct, I find their enthusiasm a bit too much for some reason.
I think perhaps what really irritates me is the hypocrisy of the whole situation.
The dream of Dr. King was not that a black man would someday become President of the United States. His dream was that one day we could all look past the issue of race and see the man for who he is and judge him based not on the color of his skin but on the content of his character. This is the very essence of what Dr. King preached. Yet, on the day of the inauguration of the first black President (and one day after a holiday celebrating Dr. King’s achievements) all anyone talked about was how I should love this man and embrace this man and celebrate this man because he’s our first black President. Not once did anyone suggest I should celebrate him for his fiscal policy ideas or universal health care plan. Yet somehow, they suggest, the very fact that we made history by electing our first black President will be enough to sweep away eight years of (supposed) bad Bush doctrine. How the color of his skin may plan a part in this they did not say and I do not know.
I did not not vote for Barack Obama because he is black, nor did I vote for John McCain because he is white. I was brought up to believe that basing your opinion of someone based on the color of his skin is wrong. After all, we are all God’s creation and we are all the same on the inside. I was brought up, in essence, believing the very things that Dr. King preached about so many years ago. All men are created equal.
Throughout the election cycle we were told that if Obama didn’t get elected it was because there’s still an element of racism left in our society that doesn’t want a black man to be President. I suppose no thought was ever given to the fact that perhaps some of us are simply diametrically opposed to his ideology and politics and couldn’t vote for him based on moral values alone. No, we must be racist.
At the same time, no one ever mentions the fact that many, many people seem to have voted for Obama because he’s black. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why a black person might want to vote for a black person to become President especially since it’s such a historic event and so many people wondered if it could even be done. But that doesn’t change facts. If NOT VOTING for someone based on the color of their skin is wrong and is racism then VOTING FOR someone based on the color of their skin must also be wrong. That’s simply the truth of the matter.
Of course there are plenty of black people who voted for Obama who also agree with his politics. Of course there are. But there are also plenty of black people who compromised their political and moral opinions and voted for Obama because they wanted to vote for a black man to become President. I know this is true because some of these people are in my church, and in my neighborhood, and shop in the same stores I do. These are people I know.
Some of these people honestly think they’ll be better off because they’ve elected a black man as President…despite the fact that Obama does not support the moral or political ideas that they support or believe in. I think these people are going to be greatly surprised over the course of the next four years.
Nevertheless, Barack Obama, for better or worse is now OUR President. As I told someone yesterday, I will not play the game that was played by the other side who for eight years claimed Bush was an illegitimate President and who constantly belittled him and called for his impeachment (among other things). Whether or not I voted for Obama is secondary to the fact that he was elected President in a democratic election. He is now as much MY President as he is YOURS.
I had someone yesterday, however, entreat me to pray for Obama’s success as our President. I must pray for him to be successful. My reply to him was that I will pray for Obama as our President just as I prayed for Bush as our President and just as I would have prayed for anyone who is our President. Praying for Obama’s success, however, is a slightly more complicated matter.
Am I saying that I don’t want him to be successful?
I want the Presidency to be successful. I pray that Obama will serve with honor and respect and I pray that he will remain safe. I will also pray that Obama is given wisdom to make the right choices and I will pray that he makes choices that help our nation succeed and prosper.
However, what you must realize is that I am morally opposed to many of Obama’s goals and plans. Were I to pray for him (and by extension his policies) to be completely successful, I would be praying for those policies for which I am opposed to also be successful. Why would I do that? Why would I pray that Obama successfully passes FOCA and helps kill millions more unborn babies? Why would I pray that Obama successfully taxes me even more then gives my money away to people who are too lazy to work for an honest day’s wage? Why would I pray that Obama successfully passes the Fairness Doctrine which is anything but fair and seeks to limit our freedom of speech? Why would I do any of those things?
I want Obama to be successful insomuch as I have (we all have) a vested interest in his success. There are many arenas in which I hope he does very well and is so successful that he makes me proud to be an American. Yet there are many other arenas in which Obama’s success which be a catastrophe for conservative Christians. It makes little sense for a Christian to pray for his own demise or the demise of his moral beliefs. Why then should I?
I understand that the election of Obama has provided hope to a great number of people who didn’t have hope before. Unfortunately, I cannot share in their celebration until I know that the character of the man is more than the color of his skin. I cannot rejoice with them until I know that Obama stands as more than a symbol of hope. I cannot revel with them until I know that Obama really won’t do the things he’s said he wants to do. Because if he does do those things, I will have nothing to celebrate or rejoice at or revel in…nor will any of the millions of others who didn’t vote for Obama in this election.