By Dr. T
The title of the celebrated novel by Jane Austen and subsequent major motion picture starring Hollywood royalty, such as Keira Knightley, Donald Sutherland and Dame Judi Dench, could just as easily be a description of the 2016 political campaign as a definition of the two-term presidency of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. The story of Pride and Prejudice deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the class-conscious society defined by the landed gentry of Great Britain. For the past 8 years, we have been front row and center as the first African American served this nation as its 44th President. By his side as partner, confidant and rock solid support was his First Lady, Michelle Obama. This couple, along with their two, classy, smart and beautiful daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, and the Matriarch of the family grandmother Marian Shields Robinson, have inhabited the People’s House and represented this nation with class, dignity and exemplary grace in the midst of a nation submerged in the tumultuous times of race, class and gender wars, domestic unrest, social injustice and mass incarceration; not to mention the global insecurity of terrorism, genocide, war, poverty and the urgent ecological crisis.
“The Birthers Movement” rose up as an unprecedented challenge to the “legitimacy” of a sitting U.S. President. Whatever the rationale given by the movement and those who participated actively or tacitly in its rhetoric and fervor, the basis of its genesis was unabashedly located in racism and racial animus. The complexion of the president and the idea of an African American Family inhabiting the White House were so visually and patently disturbing to the “landed gentry” of the United States that it could not possibly go unchallenged. Ultimately, the man elected, decisively, (twice) to the most powerful position in the world acquiesced to the incessant drumbeat calling for him to prove his legitimacy by “showing his papers.”
Throughout the past 8 years of the Obama Presidency, the continuing call for the systematic de-legitimization of our first non-white president, breaking with America’s longstanding tradition of installing white males as the only recognized and authentic leadership of the nation, has not only prepared the soil but planted the seeds of dissension amongst economically depressed and/or disadvantaged whites fueling white angst and resentment towards the current inhabitants of the White House. This phenomenon joined the “take our country back” chant and spawned the clarion call to “Make America Great Again.” And now we stand at a precipice of epic proportion never seen before in the American mainstream political debate. The high calling, gravity, intelligence and elegance of the nation’s most prestigious and important office, that of President of the United States, has been plunged into the cesspool of gutter politics and “reality-TV show” sexploitation media memes.
President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama have elevated the nation and brought dignity and grace to serving in the office. They have each, in their own right, created a legacy and made historic contributions while also, as a powerful couple, given Americans aspiration and hope. They have made us proud to call them our President and First Lady, even those who strongly disagree with their politics or policy. As we look at where we are now in the final months and weeks of a presidency in its final days, we all need to take stock of the man and the woman who have served us well and elevated us all by their fine example of sacrifice and citizenship. To you Mr. President and First Lady Obama, on behalf of a nation who should be grateful, I give you my personal gratitude.