BY: ALEXIS ARNOLD
The 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama, is not your negro. That is to say, only he defines himself and his legacy. We the people do not have the power to define who he is, and yet, we all try.
We Try Make Him a Hero
Obama did many great things with his administration, such as passing healthcare reform, getting unemployment down to 4.7%, and taking out Bin Laden. He is well-spoken, charismatic and entertaining. His legacy is one of inspiration. Electing the first black president was a big step, but it was not a switch that turned America into post-racial society. It took us three-hundred years to end segregation and slavery, and it is probably going to take at least another hundred or two to undo all of its remnants. The United States was founded upon the abject exploitation of black and brown peoples. Therefore, it is unlikely that one man could change all of that, but he gave us hope that change can happen and that we can do so much more.
We Try to Make Him a Villain
From the day he announced his bid to run for office, Obama was criticized and attacked for an absurd amount of things. People claimed he was an islamic terrorist in disguise, that he was not a citizen, that he was always on vacation, and that he, like the claims made against many before him, was going to "destroy the country." (Fun Fact: no president has ever actually dismantled the entirety of American society). There was one time he was even called an elitist just for talking about arugula. Don't get me wrong the man was not perfect. His seemingly strong energy stance was more like a political tool, and he continued to authorize remote airstrikes that repeatedly killed civilians in their attempts to take down terrorists.
He's not perfect, but did not deserve to be demonized for every tiny thing. As difficult as it is to admit (whether you adore him or despise him), President Obama is only human. Nothing more nothing less.
For some, he is too black. For others, he is not black enough.
For some, he is too far to the left. For others, he is not progressive enough.
For some, he is too much like a dictator. For still others, he is not strong enough.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what we think. Barack Obama was simply a man who spent eight years making the hard decisions required of a leader. He carried the weight of this country on his shoulders gracefully and imperfectly. He did the only thing he could do: what he thought was best. Maybe he wishes there were things he could have changed. Maybe he would not change anything at all. But it's over now and we will have to wait and see how his legacy will stand the test of time.
Then again, maybe it is what we think that matters the most. Other presidents, like George Washington and Andrew Jackson, are thought of much differently now than during their times in office because we decided how we wanted to remember them. Like Ronald Reagan or Martin Luther King, we will make and remake President Obama into this mythical figure that fits our ideas about him, rather than seeing him for the man he was. At times he will be hated and at other times he will be revered. His presidency will always be a part of history, but that does not mean his place in the minds of Americans will always be the same. It has happened before, it will happen again, and that's just the way it is.