In separate essays, two UrbanFaith contributors take on the critics of President Obama who believe he needs to “raise up” and get ugly with his Republican opponents, who seem bent on sabotaging his leadership. Jelani Greenidge says, wait, Obama’s meekness is not weakness. And DeVona Alleyne suggests that Obama’s quieter, less-flashy approach may be exactly the kind of change we need in Washington.
With President Barack Obama’s approval rating sinking to new lows, it appears that many of his supporters may soon go from singing “The Thrill is Gone” to “Hey, hey, hey goodbye” in 2012 given, among other woes, general dissatisfaction with economic recovery efforts.
Calls exist from all sides for the president to do something — something that will finally lead to more jobs at the very least and anything at all to put Republicans, Tea Partiers, and other vocal critics in their places.
He’s obviously working, but what he’s done hasn’t been enough to quell criticisms even from his supporters. And I get it. It’s not that I want to take away my own approval rating points from the president. As much as I can identify the reasons behind why progress in some areas is slow, I just wish he’d take on his loudest detractors toe to toe.
People, figuratively out for blood, want to see muscle, the presidential version of WWE-style flexing. They want to scream “Yeah!” behind their guy as he threatens his rivals. Because there’s one president against many entities of everybody else, it seems like it would be easy beef to toss around. After all, Obama is the president, the big cheese, the one with the power to say a few words to shut everyone up.
Alas, that is not Obama’s approach.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, though, considering that in his inaugural address, he reminded us then that “power grows through its prudent use,” and he has continued to demonstrate such usage every step of the way.
He could’ve taken the path of “shock and awe” to go after Osama bin Laden. A massive airstrike, for example, would’ve made an impressive statement, though others could’ve died as a result. Instead, the president sanctioned a more restrained Navy SEAL mission that happened to be successful.
In response to more recent grievances about the economy, the president launched a bus tour in which he listened — not exactly a nuclear-war move. And amid talk of creating new jobs to no evidence of such, Obama plans to address a joint session of Congress Thursday. It would’ve been Wednesday but plans changed presumably to avoid a conflict with a previously scheduled Republican presidential debate. This occurred as yet another example of Obama accommodating the very people leading the charge against him.
Seriously? With all due respect, Mr. President, what’s really going on?
More than trying to accomplish a country with a growing economy offering jobs to everyone who wants to work, Obama seems to be grasping at something even greater — a more perfect union between Democrats and Republicans. Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes too. But that’s why we elected him: That approach is one of those changes we yearned to believe in.
It’s less noisy, less flashy, and a lot more frustrating to watch. But, if a comparison had to be made, well, it’s probably pretty close to what Jesus would do. That’s not to elevate Obama to deity status; it’s just acknowledging how a follower of Christ would act in trying to be like Him.
Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that Norman Rockwell’s classic painting “The Problem We All Live With” now hangs outside the Oval Office. The painting — which shows U.S. marshals escorting a 6-year-old black girl named Ruby Bridges into a New Orleans elementary school in 1960 as an angry white crowd registers its protest — represents one of our nation’s most powerful moments of racial desegregation. In little Ruby’s simple act of going to school, we see a striking example of quiet strength.
Can we also learn something from President Obama’s repeated gestures of civility and restraint in the face of nasty opposition?
Credit must be given to the president for maintaining a commitment to peace and reconciliation while dodging mud that if one decided to “raise up” would go away so easily. How often have we heard among casual conversations that all Obama needs to do is curse out the GOP one good time to get things done? Not that that would be the holiest approach. We’re called to live holy because Christ is holy. We’re also challenged to hold one another accountable for actions; that’s one of our responsibilities to one another.
Another, as laid out by the prophet Jeremiah, is to avoid boasting in whatever power we have. As president, Obama is a card-carrying member of the bully pulpit, and membership has its privileges. Only, with it comes a certain level of responsibility particularly with the practices of being a Christian.
Nothing represents a firm execution of Christian values more than not exercising the extreme power you might have in a situation in an effort to maintain civility. If it’s a preference on the table, do we want a Christian president who just talks the talk or one who inconveniently walks the walk through hell and high water?
Not only is that change we can believe in; it’s change we already trust as we follow Christ’s example and as we hope our leaders do the same.
Exploitation said Akiba Solomon at Colorlines without actually seeing the film. “I can’t bring myself to pay $12.50 … to watch these sisters lend gravitas to Stockett’s white heroine mythology,” she said and recommended Eyes on the Prize and The Warmth of Other Suns instead.
Sappy said Alyssa Rosenberg at The Atlantic. “Stockett’s novel presented a vision of segregation in service of a feel-good story, but the film version of The Help is even more distant from the virulence of American racism,” she said. “Whether you’re black or white, liberation’s just a matter of improving your self-esteem.” She suggested Freedom Riders instead.
Both/and said a group of black professional women at The Root. “Too often, we are afraid to discuss the harsh realities of our shared American history. We all know black maids raised white children in the South during slavery and after. White people are part of that story and have a point of view,” said one. “I realized the group I went with actually had much more in common with the white women portrayed in the film than we did the black women. That’s great news about how far we’ve come, but it also made me think seriously about what we’re doing (if anything) to honor their legacy,” said another.
Get behind it, said NAACP chairman Roslyn Brock at The Los Angeles Times. “My grandmother was a domestic in Florida, and when she passed, almost two generations of families whom she had taken care of sent condolences saying what an important part she was to their family. And it never really connected with me until I saw this movie.”
Inspiration, said Mary J. Blige in an interview with ABC News about the theme song she wrote for the movie. “They’re all living proof of surviving out of a bad situation by holding onto each other and encouraging each other through all of that stuff to do better,” she said.
See and discuss, said an integrated group of 300 Christian women in Charlotte, North Carolina, who will screen the movie together Saturday and then meet at a church to discuss it, thereported.
For a plot summary, check out Terri J. Haynes’ book review right here at Urban Faith.
How about you? Are you going to see The Help?
With spectacular effects that transport audiences to the world of its characters, Avatar leads us to encounter our social and national trespasses in ways we’re often unable — or unwilling — to do in everyday life.