I Can’t Say Goodbye
People who know me would probably have placed a healthy bet that I would be glued to the television Tuesday night to watch President Obama’s Farewell address. They would have lost. I didn’t watch. I couldn’t.
I instead went to the movies to see “La La Land,” a dazzling feat of imagination about the tragic triumph of ambition over passion. It was a pleasant escape, but it didn’t last long.
I returned home, where President Obama’s tearful eyes hid just behind the front door, dominating our large TV screen. My iPhone buzzed along with explosive news about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
It seemed, as it so often does these days, that solace and tranquility exist scarcely beyond the bounds of imagination.
Much will be lost on January 20th, 2017. Freedom of the press will be under attack. Racism will continue to thrive. Lies will flourish. Liberal democracy as we know it could be on its way out the back door.
But the departure of President Obama strikes a deeper chord. For all his accomplishments and broken barriers, his presidency stood for one thing over all: that wild dreams and seemingly foolish imaginations live not just in the hearts of aching souls but also in the halls of the White House; that our society rewards qualities we can respect and admire.
That treasure is so pure and fragile that its presence was not always recognized. But it’s absence will dawn on us every day as we get out of bed. It’s loss — not to mention it’s dreadful replacement — is a failure, a tragedy.
I can’t say goodbye, for there exists no white flag for decency, aspiration or nobility. We cannot surrender the foundations of our vibrant democratic system, our heart’s cravings, any more than we can relinquish the ground that we walk on. We can’t say goodbye to President Obama, so we are left only with the option to fight for what he represented.
The question, of course, is how? To start, we ought to never again fall prey to what Martin Luther King, Jr. called a “tragic misconception of time,” the misguided view that “time will eventually cure all ills.” We should celebrate our victories, but recognize that time alone is not a shield, that in the absence of vigilance things can easily slip backwards:
Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.
Now is the time to begin rebuilding the crumbling bridge between imagination and this current chapter of history. There is no more valuable fight.