Commentary: It's time to move past Obama's skin color

President Barack Obama gestures as he delivers a speech about education, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009, at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama gestures as he delivers a speech about education, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009, at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP

Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States of America.

As such, he is due the respect that the highest office of the land commands.

Spew rumors, falsehoods and outright lies about his policies, about his birth place, about his intentions. That's freedom of speech.

Attack his wife's clothing choices, his children's pet, his mother-in-law's room in the White House. He is a public figure, and this is America.

And by all means question his health care agenda, the stimulus spending and his increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan. That's government of the people, by the people.

But to have public figures in Kentucky, representing conservative views, use the word "creepy" to describe Obama's plan to speak to all the nation's schoolchildren today is nothing but embarrassing.

Their attitude dishonors the office of the president, not just Obama himself.

Several years ago, I interviewed a Liberian couple who were living in Lexington with their son and who were hoping to live out their golden years in a country that provided a sanctuary from the wars they had fled back home.

They told me that the difference between Liberia and the United States is that here, there is a peaceful transfer of power after an election. In Liberia, they said, the loser wouldn't relinquish power, choosing instead to start a war or kill his opponent in defiance of what the voters had wanted.

We are doing the very same thing with words in this country since Obama became president.

I was not a fan of George W. Bush's presidency. I didn't think he had a good grasp of what the ordinary citizen needed. He seemed to prefer to go along with the big oil companies, with big business and with policies that kept them happy.

I never approved of his push for war with Iraq and thought we should have stayed focused on finding Osama bin Laden.

Still, never once would I have characterized him as "creepy" because he wanted to talk with schoolchildren. He was the president. My kids needed to listen to what the commander in chief had to say.

It's respect for authority. It's respect for the president. It is respect for our upbringing.

For reasons that every black person knows and many white people are learning, this president is receiving 400 percent more death threats than then-President George W. Bush, according to the Secret Service.

It's not all about Obama's desire to bring equity and compassion into the health care reform debate, although some people couch it that way. President Harry Truman tried to get health care reform several times, but he failed. President Lyndon Johnson signed a socialist program called Medicare into law. Neither drew as much ire as Obama.

It's not his pro-choice stance on abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court has had numerous opportunities to overturn Roe vs. Wade. In 1992, the 20th anniversary of that law, the Supreme Court had eight members who were appointed by Republican presidents who were opposed to abortion. Those justices decided to let Roe vs. Wade stand. They are the ones who can change the abortion laws of this land, not a president. But they didn't. Did the number of death threats they received go up 400 percent?

If it is about the deficit that the Obama administration has dug out in this economy, then there should have been a similar outcry and similar death threats for Bush, who quietly used a bulldozer to get the hole started.

But it is not about that.

Obama has been a magnet for these unfounded fears, these innuendos, these lies because he is black.

He has not done anything that would justify the outrage we are seeing in factions across this nation. Nothing. He hasn't had time. He has been in office less than eight months.

What this is about is that there are too many people who are afraid of what a black man might do because they have no idea what a black man is all about. The fear is unfounded and insane, fueled by our inability or lack of desire to interact with folks who are different.

I hear he'll lead this country into socialism or Marxism, as if he has the power to do that all by himself. When did the Constitution change?

Brainwash our children into voting for health care? When did we give children the right to vote?

Get them to persuade their parents to vote for Obama's policies? When did our children become the decision-makers in our homes?

What has happened to critical thinking in this country? Why are we following along with the first Pied Piper who blows an unreasonable note?

President George H.W. Bush spoke with schoolchildren in 1991 and advocated his educational policies. I didn't see a single parent, black or white, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, pass out from fright.

So you tell me why this president is so different, why people carry guns to his rallies, why ministers call for him to die and go to hell. What God do they serve?

Obama is talking about staying in school and getting a good education, and I hope the kids watch and listen.

The more they see a black man in the Oval Office, the less likely they will be to imitate the head of the Republican Party in Kentucky or a conservative talk-show host.


Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or mdavis1@herald-leader.com.

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