I never bought into the whole Obama hysteria thing. I probably should have. I was his target demographic back in 2008. A naive, idealistic, first time voter who despised Bush and was totally in love with some version of the 1960's that only really exists in the hearts and minds of the very young. Obama's whole song and dance seemed to be designed with me in mind but I just wasn't buying it. Something just didn't quite smell right. Maybe it was the way he could say so much, so beautifully, without really saying anything at all. Maybe it was the fact that his voting record as a first term senator was suspiciously non-existent. But mostly I think it was the way he used antiwar rhetoric to condemn Iraq while simultaneously pushing for intensified involvement in Afghanistan, as if a "good war" could somehow cancel out the acidic karma of a bad one. I tried explaining these things to others on the left to no avail. I vividly remember trying to convince my 12th grade journalism teacher, one of the smartest men I've ever known, that voting for this smooth talking used war salesman would blow up in his face like a firecracker and I remember the totally blank look on his face, as if I was speaking to him in Swahili.
I dearly wish I could tell you I was proven wrong but not nearly as dearly as I wish I could tell you that my generation of left-wing voters realized that they were. But people only see what they want to see and presidential legacies are a lot like presidential campaigns, all smoke and mirrors and malignant mythology. A great example of this phenomenon is the collective memory of former president Jimmy Carter. Regardless of whether you consider yourself left or right or somewhere in between, you likely see old Jimmy the way most of the rest of the country does- as a soft-spoken, ill-equipped but well-intentioned peacenik. The facts however don't represent this illusion.
While Jimmy made a few peace deals to fill his otherwise bleak presidential library, his most lasting impact can be felt from his decision to back Zbigniew Brzezinski's plot to send Islamic mercenaries into into the newly secular republic of Afghanistan in order to suck the Soviet Union into a brutal and unwinnable quagmire. This plot became the still ongoing Afghan war and these mercenaries, dubbed Mujaheddin, would become the founding fathers of the Islamic terrorist menace that haunts us to this day. This was hardly an isolated misstep for President Carter either. He also OK'd the use of American Army hardware for South Korea's Kwangju Massacre, which gave Tienanmen a run for its money, resulting in the deaths of as many as 2000 peaceful student protesters and similarly kept weapons flowing to Suharto's Indonesia during the height of the East Timorese Genocide which cost the tiny island nation nearly a third of it's population. But this isn't how America remembers Jimmy Carter. Instead he's nearly universally revered as a Nobel Peace Prize winning elder-statesman. I fear this wholly undeserved fate of illusion is also what awaits soon to be former president Barack Obama as well.
Much like Mr. Carter, Mr. Obama is responsible for a couple of outstanding peace deals, namely with Iran and Cuba, but those achievements are largely legacy projects designed to boost the president's flagging international PR. They stand alone as exceptions to a very violent rule. Also like Jimmy, Obama's largest impact will undoubtedly be his contribution to the proliferation of international terror. Aside from his promised bloodbath in Afghanistan (ironically the one promise he kept), the Nobel Laureate vastly expanded the playground of head-chopping Salafist psychopaths with his gruesome regime change experiments in Libya and Syria, the ripples from which are only beginning to expand, from the empowerment of Boko Haram to the European Refugee Crisis. All over gold-backed Dinars and strategic oil pipelines.
Obama has also built on the Bush legacy of constitutional degradation and executive authoritarianism by awarding the presidency all the powers of judge, jury and executioner with his grossly expanded use of homicidal drone warfare, checking off the names of civilians to be slaughtered one by one from a list delivered to him by the CIA weekly like the Sunday paper. He's also approved the expansion of the surveillance state to damn near Orwellian proportions and hunted down any soldier or civil servant brave enough to expose these crimes against democracy like dogs, even if he did decide to let a couple of them go. All this from a man who promised my generation a new era of transparency. It almost sounds like a sick joke in retrospect.
But this isn't how the 44th President of the United States of America will be remembered. Just turn on CNN and listen to an endless procession of putrid homilies to the historic legacy of America's first black president, as if his race automatically transforms the man from LBJ to MLK. And the saddest thing about this whole gross spectacle is that I still feel like the only leftist of my generation who's not fucking buying it. Seemingly righteous kids from Occupy to Black Lives Matter gather in mourning of the election of Donald Trump as if it were the end of a second Camelot rather than a simple changing of the guard. But people only see what they want to see and until children grow up, they'll always prefer the comfort of illusion to the sobering harshness of reality.
Peace, Love and Empathy- CH