For three years now, we’ve heard the questions raised about President Obama’s birth certificate. The query was a Tea Party staple. Donald Trump brought it up during his aborted run for the Republican Party nomination. And just when we thought that common sense had prevailed, that the newspaper announcements in Hawaii all those years ago would suffice, that the copy of his birth certificate, confirmed by the state representatives of Hawaii as authentic, and released by the president was enough, Republican representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri brought the question back to life this past weekend.
We heard Joe Wilson call the president a liar in front of the whole world during a televised State of the Union address. The governor of Arizona was photographed wagging her finger in the president’s face. And recently, Senator Chuck Grassley called the president stupid on a twitter post.
Never before has a sitting president endured so much lack of respect over so short a time period. While some may be loathe to ponder what has caused such treatment, we must consider what is at the root of such unprecedented disrespect. Governor Brewer, she of the finger wagging incident, claimed she felt threatened by the president. Really? Threatened by what, the armed secret service agents at his side? Was he physically aggressive with the media in full view? No. Did he engage in some aggressive posturing? According to others in attendance, he did not. So what could it be that threatened the governor of Arizona so much she had to stick a finger in the president’s face?
Is Obama that different from any of his predecessors? Is he uneducated? No. He attended an Ivy League school just as many presidents before him. Was he a poor student while at school? No, in fact he was exemplary. Is he known as an imbecile or one with below-average intelligence? No, he rose to president of his Harvard Law School class. Is he anti-social or unskilled in personal relationships? All indications are that he is very much a people person. Does he stutter or fumble when speaking to crowds? No, he is known for his oratorical skills. Is he fat? No. Ugly? No. Bad breath? Well he was a smoker. He even has a wife who is by most standards attractive, and is a family man with two lovely daughters. So what would illicit such behavior? What is it that is so different about this president that his political opponents have been compelled to such poor conduct?
We all know what it is, it’s obvious that it is Obama's race. If we deny this it will simply remain the 400 pound gorilla in the room. As the first black or part-black president, there has been some uncontrollable compunction on behalf of Republicans to heap disrespect upon not just the man, but for the first time in our nation’s history, on the office of the president. And that is where the racial undertones have revealed a festering boil on the face of the Republican Party. They are so unnerved by a black president that they feel they can show such antipathy towards the office of the most powerful man (or woman) in the world. It is shameful and it must stop. How are we to expect other heads of state to respect our president when the opposing party does not? How are we to have productive political processes in the future with this as a precedent?
Like it or not Barack Hussein Obama is every American’s president. Disagree with him and his policies if you like, that is your right. Vote against him if you want, that is certainly your right, assuming it hasn’t been taken away by the Republicans yet. But do not under any circumstances disrespect the office of the American president or the sitting president. We must not allow race to undermine the majesty of what this democracy has maintained for over two hundred and twenty years. We must not defile what has been a beacon for other countries to emulate. Recent events have shown that we still have a ways to go in undoing the damage our common history has done to race relations in this country. Race is and will remain a major issue to all Americans, but is a dialectic we must overlook when addressing not only our president but the office of the presidency.