I started writing this about 32 hours before the earliest possible election 2016 victory projection, and I felt all the thrill and panic that you may expect (and, probably, also felt). Now that we have a result, I’m feeling crushed and blindsided. More than anything else, though, I feel a sense of great loss at the end of the Obama presidency.

I have felt the closeness of January 20, 2017, many times per day; I need to suppress tears each time. The best way I can explain it to you is by appealing to the shared experience of Doctor Who fans who identify one of the now 12 incarnations as “my Doctor.” “My Doctor” might be the one you saw first or when you were a child; it’s the Doctor who (see what I did there) you admire from afar. Mine is the Tenth Doctor, and my daughter’s is the Eleventh (respectively, David Tennant and Matt Smith). In that way, Barack Obama is my president — a hero, a role model, an inherently flawed individual who nevertheless taught me how to be a better person.

Before I continue, I’d like to acknowledge that you and I may disagree about the soundness and helpfulness of Obama’s policies and actions. Indeed, I started 2008 as a McCain voter, but he lost me when he, well, you know. I participated in Texas’s bizarre “two-step” primary + caucus for Obama, mostly because of his opposition to the Iraq War[1] and his willingness to be vulnerable and honest about the role of race in his life. I was inspired by the Affordable Care Act, and even though it’s due to be repealed I know Obama won by taking pre-existing conditions off the negotiating table. He made mistakes, but he owned them. In a rash of lone-wolf attacks with military-style weapons, Obama cried, pled, and sang to draw attention to the dangers of unrestrained gun availability. And unlike former President Clinton’s term and the pre-election period of President-Elect Trump’s life, the Obama presidency didn’t feature any adulterous scandals. I know someone out there is seething at this paragraph, and that is fine. You can have your own president.


Really, I mean it — because I know that attachment to a certain leader is also about more than their policies or actions. About a month before the 2008 election I moved to Los Angeles to start an exciting new job; about a month later my then-wife asked for a divorce. By August 2009 I was madly in love with my now-wife, and we were married a year later. In the past eight years, I’ve become a father three times over. We’ve moved around in SoCal, inhabiting five different valleys in three counties. My career has been on a mostly upward trajectory. Yes, some darkness broke in. I lost my grandfather in 2010, and I’ve had to intensely focus on often-serious depression over the past couple years. But I really am better off than I was eight years ago. I don’t credit Obama specifically for all that positive change, and I know many people can claimed to have suffered directly from his actions. Even so, the fact remains that my life began around the time Obama took office. I don’t know what life looks like without him.

I suspect that my dad’s fondness for Ronald Reagan is similarly tied to that moment in his life: both his children were born, he became an officer in the Air Force, and he was able to pull his family out of the desperate poverty typical of the enlisted airman. It’s not either agreement with the president’s policy and the time of one’s life — it’s both.

It humbles me to admit that for lots of people, Trump will be their president in the way that Obama was mine and Reagan was my father’s. I am not gracious enough to write a heartfelt blessing to both Obama and Trump, but — thank God — the Holy Spirit moved through the authors of this prayer so I don’t have to compose such words — only believe them:

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to your merciful care, that, being guided by your Providence, we may dwell secure in your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.


Image credits: Top, t-shirt from a D.T. news Tumblr. Second, from the White House.

[1] I realize, with a bit more experience, that this wasn’t actually a good basis for comparison between Clinton and Obama. After all, the latter did not have to be accountable for voting no and facing the (ultimately false) possibility of nuclear/biological terrorism from Iraq.

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