I couldn’t watch it all. I’ll admit it. It was too sad. For all the reasons you expect. The world says goodbye to an ethical, rational, even-tempered leader who feels deeply the responsibility of his office. Too soon, we will say hello to an unethical, narcissistic sexual predator who does not even know the responsibility of his office.
I could practically feel the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yes, he feels responsible for everything. We know it keeps him up at night. Aleppo, Sudan, the plight of his own fellow-citizens, soldiers at home and those sent far away, their families, the lives of children around the world.
Meanwhile, the new guy stays up at night worrying about SNL. Worrying about himself. His own image.
The contrast could not be more stark.
Although we might not have always been in agreement, expecting to be is irrational. I’m not always in agreement with my own husband, let alone the leader of the free world. I’m not even American. He made unpopular decisions. It is an inevitability of the job. Yet, I have faith that he did his best. I have faith that he put the smartest people he could find in the room and listened to them.
It was sad to watch him, repeatedly, lay out a series of facts and then ask the press to draw their own conclusions. But that wasn’t good enough. They wanted hyperbole. They weren’t going to get it. They tried again. They wanted him to name and blame Putin. Nope. He wouldn’t do it. Well, they’ll have their hyperbolic president soon enough. Let’s see where it gets them.
But even all of this is not the real reason for my sadness. The real reason is that I felt Obama was talking to a nation that isn’t there anymore. The rational, the bipartisan, the people who talk to each other about their own lives, about politics, about important national and international issues over the mythical back fence, in the apartment lobby while picking up mail, or while waiting in the car-repair shop or in line at the grocery store—these people don’t exist anymore. They’ve been replaced by—what? By something else. And I felt myself as part of the past, a relic of a progressive era that was already dying when I was in high school and Reagan was elected. I felt the hopelessness that Obama warns against.
He says not to curl up in a fetal position. But I think I’ll have to. I’ll need to stay on the couch a little longer and think about it all, feel the truly existential angst of it.
I’m sure I’ll get up. Sure of it.
Meanwhile, I’ll re-read Ta-Nehisi Coates beautiful elegy to Obama. That is some writing to love.