One of the most absurd charges leveled against President Obama is that he is a socialist. Even by its widest definition, socialism is not evident in the president’s policies. What’s evident is care – as in Obamacare.
Raised by a divorced mother (photo above), he witnessed suffering and injustice in his own life, and he wants to save others from such hardships. Sometimes, it takes a government to do that.
That’s what his opponents seize on to support their charge of “socialism.”
They claim that governments should turn a blind eye to the suffering of their citizens, that the churches and the local communities can handle it.
They seem to suppose that neighbors and congregations can and will come to our rescue when things go awry. And we all enjoy stories of communities rebuilding barns that burned down, churches coming to the aid of impoverished widows, and relatives or neighbors taking in orphaned children.
Such stories are heart warming, and, of course, you can still find many examples of charity and mutual aid today. But as a support network, it certainly does not suffice – especially in the big cities.
I remember walking down a city street in North America back in the Fifties and seeing a derelict collapse on the sidewalk. Nobody even paused to look at him. Some calmly stepped over him as they went on their way. It was up to me – a young visitor from Jamaica – to call the paramedics.
I wasn’t being a socialist when I phoned the authorities for help. I was just being human.
And that’s how I see Barack Obama.
I don’t agree with his hawkish commitment to the war in Afghanistan or to the cold-blooded extermination of suspected terrorists. Drone strikes that inevitably kill innocent civilians, including children, are inexcusable in my view. I imagine he must have many sleepless nights over such drastic policies, and I am sure he regards them as unavoidably necessary to the protection of American lives.
And here at home, I see him as consistently humane.
He also seems endlessly willing to compromise. That health care reform act, for example, is loaded with concessions to the Republicans. In his place, I would have fought to extend Medicare to cover all Americans without age limits.
But President Obama modified his own ideas to take his opponents’ views into account. And all it got him was a slap in the face from the very people he was trying to placate.
Yet he still pursues compromise, offering to accept whatever Republicans can agree on and put the rest of his economic recovery program on the shelf.
Meanwhile – dedicated as they are to stalling any recovery as a means of driving America’s first black president out of the White House – Republicans will give him nothing. Nothing but abuse and insults.
In the face of this relentless animosity, President Obama remains remarkably long-suffering.
I don’t believe I could endure the abuse he takes, the insults, the slurs, without being tempted to strike back.
If I were in his shoes, I might fantasize about directing those drone strikes at the racists who snicker over caricatures depicting my family as monkeys, for example.
But Barack Obama smiles and responds with undampened good will.
That’s not socialism. It looks a lot more like Christianity to me.