President Obama has been in office for almost eight years, and his administration is drawing to a close. But even after all this time, he’s still addressed with great disrespect by his critics, and many who are neutral about his leadership as well. Despite our differences, and there are many, we must maintain civility in public life. Unfortunately this ideal is sorely lacking in the current political environment.
President Obama has earned the right, as Head of State and the duly elected leader of the U.S. Government’s Executive Branch, to use the title “President.” For this reason, the media and other politicians should refer to him as “President Obama,” and address him directly as “Mr. President.” Unfortunately, many republicans, and ordinary Americans alike, refer to him as merely “Obama,” over and over again. It gets even worse, since many recite his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, with an emphasis on his middle name, as if to imply he isn’t really an American, but some foreign miscreant who isn’t worthy of true respect.
There’s no greater example of this disrespectful trend than the agonizingly arrogant birther movement, sadly championed by Donald Trump and embraced by millions of Americans. The level of disrespect, not only of President Obama as a leader, but of the truth, not to mention basic logic and accurate facts, is staggering. Their insistence, over and over again, that President Obama isn’t an American citizen, against all evidence, even when the state of Hawaii verifies and attests to his birth in that state, is absurd. Yet they persisted for years, regardless of the facts, and fairness.
President Obama’s mother was a highly educated American citizen, an anthropologist who’s job it was to study other cultures, specifically Indonesia. This is a noble calling, and living abroad for a time was a wonderful opportunity for learning and growth for a young Barack Obama, who went far, ultimately attending Harvard Law School. Sadly, though, it’s been twisted around by critics to trigger negative fear-based reactions, of xenophobia and islamophobia, that are used against him to this day.
And saddest of all, traditionally it’s long been anathema in many circles for white American women to marry African-descended men, so her marriage to an educated Kenyan triggered deep concerns and distrust among large segments of the American population, which lingers to this day. They express their fears and loathing with vitriolic comments, racist internet memes, and shameful attacks on the President’s family.
There can be no other explanation for the profound level disrespect shown to the President, and the entire First Family, other than racism. The First Lady Michelle Obama should be addressed as such. Just as with the President himself, it’s entirely appropriate to address her with her correct title, “First Lady,” not merely “Michelle Obama.” In addition, it’s clear that she is the victim of countless inappropriate and unfair jabs and comments, about her appearance, and many are racial.
What other President and First Lady have faced such open disrespect? Despite political and ideological differences the U.S. Congress has treated visiting Presidents, and their families, with basic courtesy for centuries. But even early on, during an address on health care, President Obama received that astoundingly shocking shout from the floor, “You lie!”
And what other President has faced such obstructionism from Congress throughout his term? Even though clear differences between the parties exist, surely there are many vital projects that cry out for bipartisan support, like improving the Veteran’s Administration, fixing roads and bridges and other much needed repairs to our crumbling infrastructure, and much more. But the President has been blocked and shunned at every turn.
It’s time for the nation to lay aside antiquated notions about race, and to step up to the plate. It’s time for the media, including Fox News, and the U.S. Congress to give the President what he deserves–respect. It is the patriotic thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is the American thing to do.