What Color is Barack Obama’s Swan Song?
His presidency is well beyond salvation but with a mere pen stroke he could save his soul, and with it, potentially ours as well.
I’m no fan of Barack Obama.
Insofar as American presidents do have agency, are not simply avatars of corporate interests, I would argue that no post-war president has grown a delta between promise and production larger than he. The fact he did it while maintaining an air of benevolence and accomplishment in the face of all available evidence to the contrary is even more remarkable.
A testament to the efficacy of modern propaganda I suppose.
At his core he may very well be a “good” man but last I checked his tally of broken campaign promises stood at over 150. The collective result and most grievous of which, by far, is the institutionalization and now transfer of the largest, most pervasive, destructive, and inherently undemocratic war and surveillance machine in recorded history to the maniacal man-child we call Donald Trump.
I’m not even sure Stephen King could fully imagine lest articulate the potential horror such a sword in the hands of such a man could yield. And so, with the die cast and transfer of power inevitable, one would think any truly “good” man — let alone the audacious harbinger of hope himself — would do everything in their power to cripple the fascistic Frankenstein they gave life to before throwing up the deuces.
Recent events, sadly, suggest otherwise.
With the surreptitious passage of the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, strategically signed into law under the cover of Christmas, he’s effectively handed Donald Trump a de facto Ministry of Truth to compliment his already Orwellian executive powers. This is an overt attempt to silence dissent and institutionalize state propaganda. With the president himself appointing the ultimate adjudicator of what news is or isn’t in the “public interest”, the abuse potential is near limitless.
Headlining the NDAA in which the CDPA was purposely buried was also the reauthorization for indefinite detention of Americans without due process on mere suspicion of “terrorist activity.” It’s worth noting that even under our benevolent, constitutional law scholar of a president, NDAA counterterrorism provisions were used to regularly undermine and repress peaceful domestic groups such as BLM, Occupy, Keystone XL Pipeline activists et al. Considering the unprecedented groundswell of dissent set to erupt once our parking cone of a president-elect drops the suffix, you don’t have to stretch the imagination to see how catastrophically chilling this will be on those who aspire to oppose a boy king with an already antagonistic view of the first amendment.
128 Billion taxpayer dollars to refurbish Trump’s nuclear arsenal? Sure, why not? It’s not like 1 in 5 US children live in poverty or the citizens of Flint aren’t still deprived of potable drinking water (while Nestlé continues to pull fresh Michigan groundwater for free, ultimately selling it back to the poisoned community at a profit).
The list goes on…
To his credit, 44 has taken a few lame duck measures to mitigate his disaster of a presidency by banning offshore arctic drilling, closing the national registry, and releasing a handful of innocent men we’ve been torturing in the offshore prison he promised to close but never did… but that’s not enough, not by a Cuban mile.
The Nation recently rolled an substantive list of initiatives he could bring to fruition with little more than the stroke of a pen that would not only have a tangible impact on the capacity of DJT to unleash hell domestically but also restore a modicum of moral currency abroad. However, if recent history is any guide, it’s clear there’s a better chance of Trump appointing Bernie Sanders vice president than BHO lifting a finger to atone for his sins in any appreciable way unless carried by a massive outbreak of popular support.
And while all them absolutely warrant such support, collectively, the social utility of the entire list still falls short of the one solitary item omitted from it. An omission that if fulfilled should and could be the redeeming act, not of his presidency — which is well beyond redemption — but his soul, and ours.
Obama, again to his credit, has shown a propensity to proffer executive clemency — more so than the past 11 presidents combined. Just recently he commuted or shortened the sentences of a few hundred low-level, non-violent drug offenders.
Commendable. Well, sort of.
However, if he truly wants to atone for the past — especially having deported more people than all 20th century presidents combined — and stave off an all but certain humanitarian tragedy from which this country may never recover, he needs to go further… A lot further.
Donald Trump has made it no secret that a priority of his first 100 days is to send upwards of 3 million law-abiding, tax-paying yet benefit forgoing, english-speaking and assimilating, undocumented American citizens packing.
These are millions of innocent men, women, and children, most of whom not here by choice, but whose migration was an existential matter and whose lives stand to be irreparably torn apart if this inhuman, historic mass-expulsion of his is realized.
We’re talking about Mexicans who have been forced to emigrate due to insidious, unilaterally imposed trade agreements like NAFTA that have, by design, obliterated their economy (it’s no coincidence that Bill Clinton militarized the border immediately after enacting it into law). Nicaraguans and El Salvadorians, still suffering from the vicious gang violence, violent crime and corruption left in the wake Reagan’s terroristic, genocidal wars in the 80’s. Hondurans fleeing the brutal military junta effectively installed by Hillary Clinton’s State department (with our overthrow of the democratically elected president in 2009) and Haitians, a nation tortured by white men with impunity since its inception, whose sole democratically elected president we unabashedly ran out of town in order to preserve our colonial outpost of cheap sweatshop labor and exports. I could keep going.
This is the seedy underbelly of the immigration debate that has long been evacuated from the discourse — on both sides of the political spectrum — in favor of superficial screeds and race politics.
But even if we as a country aren’t ready to accept the immutable truths of our colonial past and present, to allow a demagogue and his disciples to condemn our victims as false enemies and to strip them of their humanity is effectively to surrender ours. To permit this would be to indelibly sow the seeds of fascism into the already frayed fabric of this nation, because let’s not mince words, what Donald Trump is calling for is straight-up ethnic cleansing.
He’s not trying to “Make America Great Again”, he’s trying to “Make America White Again” and I’ll be damned if there’ll come a day where I’ll have to look my kid in the eye (not yet, Mom) and admit that I sat back and said nothing while he did.
Which is why, in my opinion, the preeminent moral obligation we face as a citizenry is to compel our Nobel Peace Prize president to launch the first salvo in the impending war for this country’s tomorrow, by irrevocably safeguarding what should be inalienable rights to millions of human beings who are perilously close to being stripped of them today.
Barack Obama, through the executive powers bestowed to him — and only him — under the United States Constitution could do this with a few words and a signature.
And not just the 3 million facing deportation but all 11 million undocumented citizens demonstrably serving as a positive force in American society and culture. By doing this we also realize the ancillary benefit of completely eliminating the primary scapegoat through which so many disillusioned Conservatives park their insecurities and funnel their frustrations for what they’re told is the root of their misfortune.
As succinctly stated by Noam Chomsky:
“It would be a horrible humanitarian tragedy, a moral outrage that can be reverted by a general pardon, and we should join to urge (Obama) to carry out this necessary step without delay.”
We owe it to them, and in light of Barack Obama’s inability to fulfill even of a fraction of the promises upon which we voted him into office for, I think he owes it to us.