A pal of mine, whose political views are to the left of my own, is not very happy with President Obama. He dislikes Obama’s continuation of many of President Bush’s policies and he is disillusioned with Obama’s meager leadership skills, but his criticism is fairly low-key, characterized by a sense of quiet restlessness.
Nevertheless, if I dare to criticize the president—on the policies, the passivity, the professorial condescension, the pea-eating lectures or on the general over-ratedness that I and many others counted, in 2008, as weaknesses rendering him unsuited to the Oval Office—my friend becomes “concerned” about me; my complaints “trouble” him in unspecified ways, but he no longer flings the cheap, easy and inaccurate epithet of “racist” my way, because he has learned that one can legitimately find Barack Obama underwhelming in the extreme, without any underlying motive.
Still, he accuses me of “hating” President Obama, but that too is inaccurate. Being Irish-Catholic, I hold no pious illusions that in merely professing Christ I am somehow immune from the temptation to hate, but I know that I do not “hate” Barack Obama.
I know this because for all I may not understand about the mysteries of God or prayer or love or hate, I do know this: it is impossible to hate someone if you are sincerely praying to Almighty God for their sake.
I pray for President Obama every single day—for his safety, for his growth in wisdom, and most especially for his salvation, which is not as arrogant as it sounds. Believing that God wants everyone to be reconciled to heaven, praying for someone’s salvation is not a judgment on that individual’s soul but a plea that the soul may be ever more open to the love of the Creator. A soul so-directed cannot help, then, to be one that is attuned to a frequency of justice tempered by mercy, and mercy constrained by justice, which is the balancing message of the Cross.
But lately, it is the president’s safety that has taken precedence over the rest of my prayer.
The last Bush presidency saw a peculiar rise in “assassination chic” merchandise and art. Books, movies and plays were disseminated and discussed with offense taken only by the so-called “wingnuts” of the right who, though disgusted, understood that these extravagant fantasies were simple, immature venting: in truth, the left knew that such a horrific event would martyr Bush, place Dick Cheney in the Oval Office and solidify, not weaken, Republican power. The saner among them were even capable of looking beyond politics to the humanity of the president, and urging their friends to back down from the fringe-madness, however cathartic.
Just so, Obama, Biden and the American right. Except for the absence of gleeful Assassination Arts and Crafts, the situations mirror each other to a remarkable degree, and the administration has little reason to fear anything from the right except for their boisterous opposition and the possibility that the more spiteful among them might sing “na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye” as Marine One carries the former President Obama to Andrews Air Force Base.
If it’s true, then, that the opposition never wants to martyr the object of their animosity, thus handing sympathy and myth to the other party, why do I pray for Barack Obama’s safety and salvation?
Because our times are confusing; our understanding of ourselves as a people has become fractured and events are unfolding about us with an abruptness that challenges comfortable assumptions about everything from our safety (are our immediate threats to personal safety coming from fanatics or from flash mobs?) to what constitutes authentic leadership and whether that even exists, anymore. Yesterday, President Obama took to the podium and proclaimed, “. . . we have always been and always will be a triple-A country,” and it sounded like empty sentimentalism from a man at a loss for words and for meaning—the kind of helpless, grasping-at-straws thing you say to a defeated friend you are trying to buck up, even as you know you lack the answers, or the resources, to offer either consolation or solutions.
A president grasping and at a loss is a president at risk in a thousand different ways. And regardless of ideology, he is a president who needs our prayers.
Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for "On the Square" can be found here.
The Hate is only about Power
"Bush will declare martial law, suspend elections"
Obama Suspend Elections
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Obama: American Still AAA
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