Loving, Lamenting, Losing, Obama.
As a boy, I’d often be taken aback whenever my father would express his platonic love and appreciation for different men in many ways. He loved Jim Brown. The pro football player, actor, and activist who embodied the ultimate in black manhood and machismo. Sydney Potier held for my father, grace, elegance and uncompromised sophisticated black maleness. Singer Eddie Kendricks, represented fun, independent spirit, and inner-city smoothness. Although he would never use these words, he adored them. It was always strange for me to watch someone so brainy, manly and athletic as my father gush over men. My youthful perception of manhood I’d acquired, taught me to like or appreciate with aloofness other men.
Enter Obama. Now I get it. As black men, we are often conditioned to display a limited range of emotions. Now, I see why my father broke all the rules of displaying openly black male affection and adoration. President Obama broke all the rules of black men for me and in large part the world. He held the grace of Portier. The spiritedness of Kendricks. The power, activism and the manliness of Brown. What he did in this way was nothing new. We grew up with men equally as regal. Obama had the opportunity to put it all on display and modernized it. He emotes. For many grown ass men, this is taboo. He steps around anger, as presidents do, but he will go there as well. And like Jesus, Obama wept. It’s oxymoronic to say, but he’s no punk about his emotions. Perform a random Google search for images of our President. You’re walloped with a vast display of emotion, character, and personality. His sincerity towards us makes him easy to love. And will make him easy to miss. we’ve lived through our own Camelot. A shining, rich, Black Camelot. And era replete with an iconic queen and not one, but two darling princesses. Now my son spies my gush.
President Obama’s ankle-breaking political ball-handling and in-the-zone legislation notwithstanding, we’d hope for something different. Many Black people wanted more on the ground activism. And many we’re disappointed. I think we imagined a Reconciler in President. We still can’t come to grips with the limitations of the presidency. Why can’t he just get in the streets and stop the police violence and abuse of power. Why couldn’t he change the plight of the impoverished immediately? Everyone else can wait. We initially felt like, now my big brother’s coming and he’s going to straighten you, racists out. That’s not what a president does. That’s our work.
We now, even at this early date I feel a vacuum. The heart of the nation is draining. Where will be the compassion and the connection? The Resolute desk is far from emptied. And we yet yearn. Yearn for a future day past. I know the President is not done. He’ll do things that will effect my grandchildren’s’ lives. Even after he leaves the office. We feel the loss already. I’m sad like a little kid who doesn’t want his summertime to be over. This presidency and redefined the nation. More personally, he’s redefined and reinforced Black manhood. And redefined me and my manhood. He made me understand my father’s love. His platonic yet all-encompassing love of black men who occupied spaces he was warned his manhood dare not go. President Obama embodied a wide spectrum of maleness, openly. We’re blessed to have had that in our lives for a moment, and for a lifetime.