While sitting for an interview, President Barack Obama, a comic book aficionado, was asked to name his favorite superhero. He responded to the question with a reference to Spiderman and…Conan the Barbarian.
Really? I thought. Conan the Barbarian? Well, to each his own I guess.
I wished that I was the one who’d asked him that question. After he’d have put forth his choices I would have asked, “Do you think you are a superhero?”
Because that what he was for me and millions of other citizens of the world, a real life superhero. Outsized expectations had been placed upon his spindly shoulders, some of which he would not be able to live up to. And as is the case with any superhero that steps forward, there would be interesting villains emerging from the shadows to respond.
On election night 2008, a fresh faced Barack Obama took his spot behind the lectern as the President Elect of the United States. Obama’s ascension to the highest office in the land was a powerful symbol for progress, the realization of a dream held by millions of people past and present. His rise to prominence was beyond inspiring and unlikely, as not too long ago an individual like Obama — a product of a white mother and an African father — would have been deemed as an illegal, or unworthy of being born — anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1967, six years after President Obama was conceived.
Obama is an American original, a trailblazing pioneer, special in a way that only a handful of people in the history of the entire world have ever been. He was the first black man in the history of the world to lead a multiracial western democratic country, and it seemed like a majority of American citizens wanted him to succeed. Polling surveys were administered to the public soon after Obama was sworn into office, with these polls indicating that close to seventy percent of Americans approved of Obama’s performance.
Still, Obama, an astute observer of history, wasn’t under any illusion that his initial popularity would persist beyond the first couple of months. The previous administration had driven America into a ditch that would take years to dig out from. Eventually, the incandescent halo surrounding Obama’s head would dim for many.
President Obama assumed Republicans in the Senate and House would assess the gravity of the country’s dire situation in 2009, and thereby put aside their petty grievances. He thought that the conservative republicans would be willing to work with him.
Ha. Ha. No.
Conservative — this party is for keeping power in the hands of the few — Republicans, abjectly fearing that America’s first black president would succeed, huddled together in some dark room and conspired. And conspired some more. Although thoroughly mired in the minority status — Republicans lost both houses of Congress to the Democrats in 2008 — these Republicans would apply any means necessary to stop Obama from accumulating any legislative achievements.
When it came time to make the sausage (sausage is metaphor applied to the crafting of legislation), Republicans feigned cooperation at the beginning of a negotiation, extracted concessions from Obama’s negotiators in the name of bipartisanship, and then ultimately voted against the completed legislation when it was put before the congress. The Republicans employed this tactic when it came time to negotiate the economic response bill — removed of many of its teeth — and the Affordable Care Act.
Unable to hide their contempt for the first black president, racist to the core Republicans scowled and snarled like rabid wolves when they spoke ill of Barack Obama. As their eyes bulged, faces reddened, and spittle flecked, Republicans launched into protracted and baseless diatribes, accusing Obama of plotting to incite violence and other forms of devilry. As Obama stood before a joint session of congress, articulating his vision for the United States of America, his country of birth, a Republican called out : “You lie!” The accusation reverberated around the chamber before reaching Barack Obama’s considerable sized ear. Obama, surprised and slightly perturbed by the unprovoked, unprecedented, and asinine interruption, clipped his next sentence short as he processed the blatant disrespect being hurled at him like a gob of spit. Obama would wait for the murmuring audience to quiet, and then brush off the allegation and say, “that’s not true.”
Months prior to the 2010 midterm elections, corporate sponsored anti-Obama protests sprung up all over the country, mixing with the outrage over the Henry Louis Gates controversy. These protesters referred to themselves as Tea Party Conservatives, mostly white and extremely regressive individuals who questioned Obama’s veracity, accusing him of fudging the details of his birth place. Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, sharks sniffing opportunity in these protests, cashed in their chips and engaged in the politics of fear and resentment. Republicans would retake the House of Representatives and cut into Democrats’ advantage in the Senate in November, 2010.
Real Estate scion and reality game show host Donald Trump, the eventual President of the United States, fanned the flames of hate and suspicion. He was allowed to openly question the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate, espousing lies and conspiracy theories. Trump claimed that he’d sent investigators to Hawaii to investigate his false claims. “I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” said the cynical Trump during an interview on The View television show. Sensing the groundswell of skepticism in the American populace, Obama capitulated and revealed his authentic birth certificate to the world.
A group of about forty House members formed the Tea Party Caucus after the midterms had concluded. Drunk with power, ignorance, and rank stupidity, these forty “gentlemen” led the movement to hold the debt ceiling hostage until they received concessions from Obama and the executive branch on spending. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the debt ceiling, it is the upper limit set on the amount of money that the government can borrow. If the debt ceiling is not raised on time, the government will default on the current debt, and the world economy collapses. The republicans let the clock run until the final few hours before choosing to release their stranglehold on the viability of the world economy. I let out a sigh of relief. My father and I were watching Obama handle the aftermath of that struggle when I turned to him.
“Do you think he should run again?” I asked.
“Who? You mean Obama?” asked my Dad.
“Yes,” I said. “Their putting him through hell, you know. The Republicans. They’ve threatened to crash the world economy, they’ve called him the devil and every other disparaging name, questioned his intelligence, complained about every single thing he does. He can’t even breathe without someone sticking a finger underneath his nose to see if the breath is real.”
I waved both of my hands into the air, let my bottom lip hang toward ground and said, “Uh oh. Obama is breathing the wrong way! Call the police! Obama is breathing the wrong way!”
My dad laughed. “Of course he should run again, Eze.”
“And you know some of the democrats have stabbed him in the back too. They’re cursing him. I read an article, and in it a Democrat in the House of Representatives was quoted as saying something really nasty about Obama.”
“Yes, I know that.”
I shook my head, sighed, and said “I don’t know. I think I know what he is going through, being a black man in any professional leadership position is tough, especially when some of the people under you don’t think you deserve it. If I was him, I would probably say forget everybody and move on. It doesn’t seem like being president is worth all of the headache.”
“He’s not as progressive as I would have liked,” said my father. “But he’s doing a good job and we need him.”
“A lot of people don’t see that though,” I said. “His approval ratings are in the forty’s right now. I mean, gosh, the man killed Osama Bin Laden! That should have been enough to notch at least sixty percent approval. See, that is what they do. They act like you are welcome, but then they find out that you’re not Superman, they start snapping at you.”
Obama ultimately decided to run for president again, and after surviving a shaky first debate performance against Mitt Romney, who interrupted Obama’s concentration by spouting off a litany of falsehoods, Obama would lure the unfortunate Republican into a trap during the second town hall debate. “Please proceed,” said Obama expectantly. Romney, thinking he’d caught Obama, did proceed, prompting Obama to put a fist through his chest.
“Get the transcript,” said Obama, before the debate moderator affirmed Obama’s recounting of the aftermath of the Benghazi debacle.
Romney’s face drained of all color after Obama had taken his heart. It’s an historic moment in time, not likely to ever be repeated again. The battle for the presidency was essentially over then. Obama would use the next superfluous debate on foreign policy to finish the job.
Oh how I have longed for the exact same moment in my life.
The United States government was divided after Obama’s second win, and with Republicans controlling a branch of government, the likelihood of Obama achieving enormous legislative wins was close to nil. Republicans would have probably preferred that Obama throw up his hands in exasperation. But Obama did not need Republicans’ consent to conduct foreign policy, and he also knew that he had the power to instigate policies through the executive order, a power reserved for the president alone.
So, Obama used his power to spare more than a million young people from eventual deportation. By issuing DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Obama removed a hanging black cloud from the lives of immigrants who are willing to step out of the shadows. DACA recipients were brought to this country by their parents when they were young children. They were raised in America, learned to speak English, attended American schools, and become ingrained within their adopted communities. They would be issued permits that were renewable every two years, giving them the power to enroll in college, secure viable employment, and raise families without fear of being uprooted from their lives in an instant.
I didn’t grow up as undocumented, although I am the son of African immigrants. I was lucky enough to have been born in Denver, Colorado in 1976, and granted birthright citizenship. I’ve never had to fret over being suddenly deported to a strange country, bereft of my family and friends. I was so elated for those kids.
Ted Cruz, the ambitious Republican Senator from Texas, was eager to make a name for himself. He saw an opportunity in late 2013, when it came time for the government to pass a spending bill. Cruz, along with some House Republicans, threatened to hold up funding the government if the implementation of Obamacare — Republicans meant this to be a slur for healthcare reform — was not halted. My father was in the hospital bed then, wasting away from multiple myeloma and kidney issues. He continued to watch cable new despite it all, because he loved to watch Obama on the news.
“They’re always trying to get him, but they never do,” said dad. “They never ever do. So stupid.”
“They’ve had five years to get to know him dad,” I said. “And yet they still keep coming at him like he is some scrub . They think that he is weak and stupid.”
“When it is the other way around,” said dad, smiling. “Obama is not going to get rid of the ACA and the Republicans can’t keep the government closed forever.”
Dad died about a month later, surrounded by family and friends. I was glad that he was able to live to see the first black president.
Obama would go on to accrue other accomplishments, crafting the Iran Nuclear Agreement and the Paris Accords with international allies in 2015. However, as he neared the end of his presidency, certain events afforded Obama the opportunity to delve deeper into issues having to do with race and racism.
Dylan Roof, a white supremacist sporting a bowl haircut and barely removed from his teen years, walked into a church in South Carolina to massacre nine church goers, shocking the nation in the summer of 2015. A no longer fresh-faced Obama, his hair graying and his face full of lines, traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, to deliver the eulogy. At a point during the eulogy, an emotional Obama paused before breaking into a famous song: Amazing Grace. And as Obama sang, the people in the audience, clearly moved by Obama’s gesture, stood up and sang along with him. And in that moment of spontaneous synchronicity and spiritual exultation, Obama became one with those mourners. My heart swelled as my eyes misted.
In 2016, Obama tapped Hillary Clinton to build upon on his legacy, but Hillary lost the election to Donald Trump. My heart was cleaved into two jagged parts. I cursed Trump’s voters, calling them racists and goons before throwing my shoe at the television set. I went to bed thinking, What are we going to do?
After a fraught four years with Donald Trump as president, Obama’s legacy was saved by the ascension of Joseph R. Biden to the office of President of the United States. Obama can now rest easy, knowing that the work he put into creating a better country would not be wiped away by the nihilistic Donald Trump. So, running for a second term as president turned out to be worth it after all.
Obama has published one-half of a two-part memoir, and I hear that it is really good. I think I’ll purchase it after receiving my fourteen hundred dollar check from Joe Biden about a month from now.