A Union to Address: A Few Thoughts on the State of the Union

great seal

By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.

 

Just two days ago, the nation heard the final State of the Union Address of our 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama II.  It has truly been a memorable presidency for our nation.  I remember, as some of you do, the historical ecstasy that I felt just seeing the man being sworn into office…as well as the rest of the events that occurred that day for me.  I remember thinking how I still disagreed with the new president over some crucial topics, yet also how I awaited the coming days when they would be resolved by the democratic process further down the road.  I had just taken some government courses in high school, and also engaged in a bit of American democratic studies, so my expectation for those days was fueled by the American legal process…by democratic ideals.  Sadly, I am still left waiting for those days, days which may never truly come.

We all remember this presidency in whatever ways that we do because of our own personal reflections of the deeds done by our president, those most memorable and those which affected our American experience the best.  So, it should stand as a flag to all of us that for the majority if not the entirety of his address, the last formal address to our nation, the President did precious little to reference what he actually got done in American policy.  President Obama neglected to provide ample reasoning for how his eight terms could be defined by more than 1) the successful executive manhunt for a two-decades long political fugitive, 2) the passing of questionable legislature through a very questionable edict involving marriage laws, and 3) the ebb and flow of international and national economic stability.

The third one is perhaps the strongest of his justifications– until we look at the hard evidence.  The eventual rebound of some economic markets in America and the world was inevitable given how economic history has flowed.  By comparison, what we are experiencing is a far shot to what our 18th century ancestors went through on a generational basis or what many of our grandparents went through in the 1930s.  A good deal of our economic woes throughout modernity are usually due to people trying to predict inflation rates for profit, but some of it is the natural bending and rising of our economy every 25 years or so.  In short, every generation dealt with an economic crisis of some sort.  It’s inevitable.  But the measure for how each generation handles the crisis makes all the difference.  Seeing that our President was quick to say how great our economy is, but how he was slow in making specific and conclusive allusions to any laws that he had researched and mandated to make an economic impact, then we can assume for right now that it was the encouraging language of our president to maintain the public morale and the otherwise “natural” economic balances of trade that have caused the economic shift we are purported to be witnessing.  (Change in our energy sector doesn’t measure up because even now we only have future projections of those apparent changes and not any current results: see sources 1, 2, and 3.)

Yes, it was under the Obama Administration that Osama bin Laden was executed.  Yes, it was under the Obama Administration that the Judicial (by slim margin) and Executive Branches of the Federal government fundamentally changed the meaning and exclusivity of marriage for all American public sectors.  That is, at best, 2 out of 3.

I’m not going to get into the particulars of the President’s speech.  I just want to say that we need to keep an eye out for a president that cites solely 2 major landmarks of his presidency, aside from his own historic election, that can be verified.  I mean to say that we need to be a bit more savvy and a bit less impressed.  Because when President Obama goes against himself in his last major address to the nation by stating that ISIS poses a major threat to the American people precisely because ISIS has the capability to recruit a handful of people via internet airwaves who then can do major infrastructural and mortal danger to our lives…then we should all have a pause for reflection on his words.  If not only just because it is the same man giving these very words who is contradicting himself just last month or the month before that (see my earlier posts for how ideology works in influencing society and the threat of ISIS as evaluated by our president).  This goes even for those of us who hold the highest esteem for our president as his last year wanes.  It is a respectable thing for a person to be the fan of a president, but when his game is off, the best fans will be able to admit it.  True fans know that they can (and should) allow for their icon’s lesser performances to stand apart from his more stellar performances.  The same standard of judgment goes for the critics of our president.  President Barack Hussein Obama II is still our President.  Like the military says, and like the Joint Chiefs of Staff exemplified, respect the position of authority even if you don’t always respect what the man does within that position.  And if you are Christian, this is the true essence of Romans 13.  Paul still respected the Roman Caesar, even while writing what he wrote in the illegal epistle that I am citing; and Paul also respected God, resulting in his death at the hands of Caesar.  It is up to our maturity to determine how to appropriate those two respects in the order of their authority over our lives.  And we are still called to respect the earthly rulers as we work those things out.  So respect our president even while you disagree with him, and acknowledge his positive successes when they occur.

One of the most crucial things that President Obama spoke on was the need for immigration reform.  I remember the speech he gave in November 2014.  

I even asked several of my friends who were most affected by the speech if they were going to watch it.  All of them said no, and a few responded in downright pessimism or disgust.  Why?  Because this speech was given in 2014, but my friends had been waiting since 2008 for reforms they had not seen happen.  Even worse, a few were still working on getting their temporary residency accounts, and it had been nearly a decade in their so doing.  And even as I watched, with horror, as our president chose confronting his political opponents over bipartisan language in order to give his last address on immigration policies to the American people, I myself was confronted with the same pessimism.  For me, it was a stark example of how President Obama put his personal political beef over the lives of hundreds of thousands of genuinely vulnerable people.  That pessimism was not missing as I heard his final State of the Union Address.  And in speaking on immigration, we should note that he spoke of what Americans should do moving forward and not what he himself had done.  Such was the language used.  And such characterizes his candidacy, if this speech was intended to have done so for him.  Will people look back with glossy eyes on this speech and remember the President as he desires to be remembered?  Who knows.  I would say no, but I can be wrong.

As usual, I sat long enough to listen to the response from the opposition leaders, this time from the Republicans via Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina.  I must say, if this was a Republican response, it was one of an apparent maturity that I wasn’t really expecting from the party given how it played into the partisan warfare game of pettiness.  But Gov. Haley said many things that caught my ears, and all of them directly contrasted with President Obama’s speech.  For one, Gov. Haley pointed out, as I have, that the President’s speech contained much ado to his future successor but precious little about what the President himself had done with nearly 8 years in the Executive Oval Office.  Then Gov. Haley mentioned the following:

  • Republicans and Democrats share the blame for how our nation is seen internationally and for the political debacle that has raged on Capitol Hill for the past decade
  • We need to reform our immigration policies to be safer in the face of terrorism and maintain that they still be as egalitarian as they have been
  • We need to respect modern families as defined by the new marriage definitions and also respect the right of religious liberty for all Americans at the same time
  • As a child of Indian immigrants who grew up in the rural South, she knows the American ideal is reachable as long as citizens are willing to work for it, regardless of whether we all look like our neighbors or have the same advantages starting off
  • She unabashedly called Dylan Roof a domestic terrorist

Now, for a sure reason Gov. Haley was selected by the Republicans in part because of her state’s association with the legal fallout caused by the individual in the last bulleted statement that I have listed.  The removal of the Confederate flag (which is really the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) over South Carolina’s capitol hill gave some Americans hope that symbolic racism can be defeated by legislation.  But her words stated in her address are nonetheless grand.  People can surely hear how she has challenged certain Republican presidential candidates for a reshaping of the language and the rhetoric used in discussions within the current election race.  And her shade thrown at a certain Republican candidate’s well-televised (*thanks, CNN) statements on immigration policies and his apolitical rants against his opposition have been noted and verified as intentional.

When you click that link, realize whose site it is that you are reading and look at the parenthetical quip just above this sentence.  It should convince you of the shade that I am throwing.

Still, what we have on Capitol Hill now is a deeply divided, partisan-led Legislative Branch of Federal government.  Regardless of what was stated by both sides, the Republican-Democrat divide has created a crippled Legislative Branch.  We have a Legislative Branch that is so inept to get things done that President Obama can literally, and unconstitutionally, give away its job to another branch of federal government in order to get legislation passed that he himself desired (read about that here).  Well, by “desired” I mean what he desired at the time before he ran for president, but abhorred when he first ran, and what he desired again when he chose to run again for president after winning the first time.  His “evolution” on the subject of marriage was a bit of a closeted experience turned regressive devolution, and then a massive Pokémon-level jumpstart back into the Cambrian Period.

Our president says that he regrets this political and ideological divide that he helped to create, but does he really have regrets given his divisive remarks even during his State of the Union Address after those regrets were stated?  It’s sort of been his trademark language since the beginning to cite partisan divides for his ineffectiveness, especially when such important national issues like immigration come up.  Serious issues like immigration have been shown to potentially jeopardize our national security, make life a legal hazard for hardworking families and ex-patriots, and mean life or death at public marathon races or angry workplaces.  Nevertheless, the political divide is his stalemate, and a stalemate that his supporters (such as CNN, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times) have cited for his inability to pass any legislation (…except if it involves marriage laws and military code about workplace appropriateness and sexual/religious conduct).

But as we look at the political stalemate that even the President has admitted to enabling, we take a hard look at something that should rock us all as countrymen and fellow citizens of the United States of America.

This deep and widening political and partisan divide that has us all tearing at each other’s throats; this is the state of the Union.

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