President Obama’s Courage


    Robert Parry has written a thoughtful article about progressives taking President Obama’s courage for  granted, or even disputing it.  It is worth reading and considering. I say this in full recognition that I am one of those progressives Parry speaks of.  Yet I want to share with you some thoughts.  As we have criticized the President’s caving to Republicans on more than one occasion and as we have finally applauded his drawing a line in the sand beyond which he will not go to appease them, Parry’s words haunt. We talk about how terrible it is that only this president has had to contend with the vast proliferation of gun-packing hot-heads at rallies.  We are angry at this turn in the pubic distemper and defend him against the racist attacks by a Southern-Strategy-driven, racist  party. We talk about how terrible it is that only this president has had to contend with the vast proliferation of gun-packing hot-heads at rallies.  How is this allowed?  

    But the truth is that no black man in the United States who makes a serious run for the White House can be described as a coward or lacking guts.

    On the last night of the campaign in 2008, my youngest son Jeff and I went to Manassas, Virginia, to see Obama’s final rally. About 100,000 people crammed into an expansive field normally used for county fairs, an impressive turnout especially for an event only recently added to the schedule.

    But an unsettling image was kept out of the TV camera angles: Secret Service sharpshooters with their baseball caps on backwards were positioned around the fairgrounds surveying the crowd through the telescopic scopes of high-powered rifles. The threats against Obama’s life were unprecedented.

    How often we forget what our President has sacrificed for our nation! He has taken on this very public role with the full knowledge of the risks, as deplorable as they are. He has done it for us. Is this not both generous and courageous?  

    Yes, it is true that other national leaders in other times have had to face life-or-death situations.  But, law enforcement agencies would never have tolerated the presence of guns at rallies. That this goes on now speaks volumes about the ill will pervading this country and the outrageous slack being cut to those who visibly threaten and intimidate.  But he has been living this.  And it is he and his family who must face this burden every time they are in public.  Imagine his wife having to worry about this every single day!  Imagine his own private worry!  No one should have to do so.  Especially this President who lives with good will for all.

    That this man is targeted by extremists who mean him ill is something our society must both atone for and try to re-mediate.  Where are the republicans of good will to get their fellow partisans to dial it back?  

    But meanwhile, one family lives its life in the spotlight governing a nearly ungovernable country in the worst economy in nearly a century and with the most obstructive House of Representatives ever concocted by an opposition party. Though I strongly disagree with the President on a number of his accommodations, especially the December 2010 tax cut deal and the escalated war in Afghanistan, I want to recognize his courage and to express the hope that this nation yet can fully embrace this man who leads with such grace…  

    There are times, such as when I watched him respond with humor at the White House Press Corps Dinner, that I want to cry over what they are putting him through.  You could almost see the pain through his effort to  to bring a little lighthearted fun to the evening.  So no matter how frustrated I get with his administration, there will always be a part of me who jumps to his defense when an out-of-control oppo party looses its collective mind–and its heart–out of their contempt for this man who has essentially given them more than they deserved and treated them better than they earned.


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