It won’t be long now and Barack Obama will no longer be the President of the USA, an office once seen in certain quarters as that of the most powerful man on Earth. Recently two friends (separately and surprisingly) posted something on their Facebook page praising his achievements. Soon the people of the USA will be choosing who to replace him, although personally I don’t relish the choice between what may seem the two front runners: Hilary Cinton and Donald Trump. This all got me thinking as to whether the legacy he will leave should be seen in mainly positive or mainly negative terms.
I confess that I am not qualified to give a definitive answer in trying to balance and evaluate Obama’s successes and failures and even if I were more knowledgeable regarding the issues it will still to some extent come down to how far his values align with my own. But I know something having been an America watcher ever since I was an avid listener to Alistair Cook’s “Letter from America” in my youth and been a subscriber to Time magazine from around that time. I still subscribe to the adage “when America coughs, Britain catches a cold” that was instilled in me from around that time. Having said that, I have never been to the USA and my attitude to things American is a mixture of admiration and disdain.
As many who read my blog know, my own religious position is that as a conservative (small ‘c’) Christian with a twist, given I deem many of the social justice issues currently before us as important. This is partly relevant in the USA as conservative Christians tend NOT to support Obama and given the polarization that seems to be taking place they tend not to support his social justice agenda either. Around the time Obama came to office something called “the Manahattan declaration” arose. I must confess, I supported its core beliefs around religious liberty, the right to life (of the unborn) and (only) mixed sex marriage. It became evident then, and even more so now, those beliefs were not something that Obama subscribed to.
I recall an amusing conversation, but also a serious one, at the time of the USA election campaign that brought Obama to office, while I was out on Street Pastor duty. It was with a mature Christian who I respected and in the course of our discourse we reflected on the US presidential hopefuls. My friend declared he supported Obama as he liked his values. I turned round and said words to the effect: “you support infanticide then?” My friend was horrified but I pointed out that Obama’s previous voting record included allowing babies born after a botched abortion to die. I recall some of the concerns and hopes that was to sweep Obama to power, of those disillusioned with the previous incumbent. He would be the first black president. He had an agenda for radical change and a catch phrase “Yes we can”. My skeptical retort was “wrong black man, wrong change“.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and history is yet to pass a verdict on the Obama legacy. The world has changed considerably during his time of office and America’s status in the world has dwindled. I suspect as with any president Obama has been as much influenced as he has been an influence and his achievements are mixed. While there is much about what Obama has done that (unsurprisingly) I would take issue with there are aspects (maybe surprisingly) especially in the area of making changes in the interest of bring about social justice that on balance I support. I need to think about this more and come back for part 2.