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BEARING WITNESS - President Obama, The Great Divider

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, has repeatedly been accused of dividing the country. Before his presidency, the 50 states' residents lived harmoniously with respect and occasional peaceful disagreements. Hardly. For centuries, many factions of the country have conflicted, sometimes in a hostile, bloody conflict. When President Obama was sworn into office, the people of the U.S.A. had a leader unlike any other. Once we stopped patting ourselves on the back for making history, we didn't know how to relate to the man. Some expected him to fill the typical first Negro role. Be like your White predecessors, but look, Black. Others insisted he was a savior for African Americans. Even more, wanted him to be above reproach. He could not make mistakes, have flaws, or remind us that he's unique. 

Because President Obama was different from previous presidents, we couldn't decide what to do with him. Instead of growing in the experience, we held firm to our pre-Obama positions. Political fundamentalists swooped in to take advantage of our weaknesses. Either we were hard right or left, in between wishy-washy (AKA moderate). Thinking became a political bucket of falsehoods. If you overthought, you were part of the out-of-touch, discriminating, intellectual elite. If you weren't formally educated, you could not make good choices and needed to be told what to believe. Suddenly, the objective of achieving the American dream of advanced education was questioned.  

Having a highly educated leader, a former professor who tended to lecture rather than chit-chat with the public, was too much to bear, mainly because this man was Black. Blacks don't lecture. Blacks entertain and follow directions. Mr. Obama's honesty in this regard unsettled us. His acknowledging his race was too much for some. Not making his race the focal point of his decisions was insufficient for others. We wondered what this Black man was supposed to do as President. We never allowed him to be President, a luxury his predecessors enjoyed. He was honest about understanding that dissonance. Again, we were unprepared for his response. We were forced to take hard lines on race because looking at him reminded us that if the U.S.A. holds a bit of everything, then bits of everything will eventually be visible. More people than some of you realized did not appreciate that eventuality. They preferred it when others stayed in their places. The rest of us couldn't reconcile that this meant that the U.S.A., as we knew it, would change into something we couldn't conceive. We had to stop that. Consequences be damned. The country could not evolve. 

Barack Obama didn't divide the U.S.A. He showed the blissfully ignorant what others were feeling. In response to his existence, racists torpedoed to the surface. His presence empowered the marginalized to express their frustrations. He created neither racists nor frustrations. If you prefer not knowing these perspectives, you are part of the problem. The divisions always were here. If you didn't realize that you were strolling through life wearing blinders. Welcome to those who have cleaned the rose color off of their glasses. You have a choice. Repaint your glasses or productively address the divisions.  

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