I have not watched or read a (contemporary) Presidential Farewell Address before, not for certain–I know I caught one of GW Bush Senior’s near-the-end speeches but am unsure if it was the official Biting the Big One. Born in the late 70s, I am in no way able to claim a lack of opportunity. Earlier ends of Presidential terms were overshadowed by different priorities–and no, given that the world lost Jim Henson too son, I’m unlikely to regret passing up Carter or Reagan’s goodbyes for the Muppet Show. I was doing a post grad year after college in the UK for Slick Willie’s Happy ending (the one he was allowed to televise) and while I would have relished W’s Farewell above all, I could not stand the sound of his voice and anyway, I was likely having sex at the time. Given how few years I had with my late husband, that exchange would have been something of a no-brainer (and I am not referring to Curious George) as well.
I will not be watching President Obama’s Farewell tonight, but my reasoning is a bit different.–And alas, it will NOT be because I’m having sex. (Volunteers wishing to correct that lamentable situation are encouraged to text to IMAWIDOWIMNOTFREAKINGDEAD#unlikely solutions to Laura’s Dry Spell)
A lot of this has to do with emotion, in particular, my feelings around the completion of the President’s second term and indeed his entire time in office.
I had initially, before November 9 no compunction about watching President Obama’s address. I had some hope that even though a candidate I had wanted too see in office as much if not more than Obama (Bernie Sanders) had been cheated out at the Primary because Antisemitic Classist Priggery is alive and well in our country’s “Liberal”Elite (and a candidate who had the same name as a less than august Revolutionary War General) that at least our President would be giving way to someone less likely to blow up the Planet. I may have found myself with only one responsible option as an American woman on November 9th and that was to give Clinton my vote but I prayed very much to be wrong in my fear that I was throwing that vote away. And reader, this is my sixth attempt at a charitable redraft of this paragraph. What I can say about Former Secretary Clinton is that she is neither stupid nor careless and would have been smart enough to commit to a legacy that did not involve World War III, public pussy grabbing (on her part; and I’m sure Bill would not have been permitted dates in the Oval Office), or Hitlerian crusades. So before the 2016 Former Soviet Extravaganza (too soon?) I was not precisely looking forward to President Obama’s Farewell Address but I had hope that it would be a good experience for a Druid, a historian and one of his (not blind to the many issues of his policies but yes, committed) proponents.
That changed early in the morning of November 10 when less than the popular majority of our country, aided by Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Nazi wannabees and, in a truly novel combination, Vladimir Putin elected the Pusillanimous Malfeasant–Trumperdink. Indeed, all cliches aside, no he is not my President. I will not watch a man I daily and increasingly fear could be our last President deliver his formal Farewell. I already know what his leaving will cost me and us all and what it may cost us down years to come.
But I’d like to say a few words about what his leadership has meant to me. I’m afraid many of them are rooted in emotion. (Because the rest of this post is so stone cold academic, I know, but bear with me?). Barack Obama is the only Presidential candidate I have willingly voted for in the genuine belief that he was the best candidate for the job in my lifetime. He is also the only Presidential candidate that I voted for with my late husband Steve. Steve died in January 2010 very early into that historic First Term. It was unexpected and horrific and it changed my life in a myriad of unpleasant ways. But during that first Steve-less year there was one thing I had not expected–no, not enough to make it at all all right. There was someone in office that I trusted–not blindly, not unquestioningly but someone I trusted a thousand times more than I would ever have trusted Clinton–either of them–and beyond charting the current mis-elect. There was someone in office who I believed should be there, who was exhibiting a sincere commitment to improving and recovering our country, not just the absence of screwing it up more, actually fixing things. If I needed to spend whatever given amount of time I needed (or still on occasion need) in a room with the curtains down trying to avoid PTSD and crying until I yakked at least I knew I was not living in a country run by a functional illiterate and the high lord of the Sith.
I make no attempts to conceal my sentimentality and naivete. I freely admit that it is and has been quite probably ridiculous for a long, long time to view a politician as caretaker and protector of the helpless. I do not care. I may never, now, in my clever guise as a responsible adult, be able to look at a President and First Lady that way again. But for eight years, seven as a widow, I felt that the country had a protector–not an infallible one. Certainly one where I occasionally questioned the intelligence of his decisions (his No DAPL inefficacy to protect and support the Water Protectors, anyone? In fact, his lackluster track record on the Environment–in proportion to what we NEED?) And that faith was made good in watching President Obama slowly change and grow into an ally for Marriage Equality. It was made good in his Supreme Court nominees, Sotomayor and Kagan.
If anyone is waiting for me to back these sentiments up with more specifics, or some kind of “greatest hits” that is not the kind of post I am writing tonight. Backing up opinions is important, we’ve learned that the hard way, but tonight is about emotion. Having said that I think that yes, Marriage Equality and the two newest Supreme Court Justices are a great deal more solid and worthy of sentiment than the kind of things the howling McCain/Palin/Mitt the Twitt/whoever he ran with fanatics were weeping over on election nights 08 and 12 respectively.
This post has been about emotion, I have made no attempt to claim otherwise because the Obama Presidential Terms have been about emotion for me–in a way that no other Administration ever has been before.
What is coming is dark and unjust, truly frightening and full of lamentation. So those are all emotions too, I’m quite aware…