Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America. He was duly and honestly elected to the office by a majority of those Americas who voted in the 2008 election. And, as provided in the Constitution, received a majority of Electoral votes.
Frankly, I like what I've seen of the man. It's said that in his youth he wanted for a time to be called "Barry." With maturity he accepted who he is, with all the complications such self-acceptance holds for humans. He impressed me with his speech to the Democratic convention in 2004 as the first political figure since JFK who could motivate -- for good or for ill -- with the power of the spoken word. My intrigue with this guy with the hard to remember name was cemented when a campaign worker said the President had never missed a parent-teacher conference in all the time he'd been in politics.
In the interest of full disclosure it must be here stated that I have always considered myself a Republican voter; having voted so since 1964. Also in the interest of full disclosure, liking a man does not imply, explicitly nor implicitly, that one agrees with everything (or anything) that man says or decides.
However we may have voted, in America we have a long tradition and history of treating the man who holds the office of President with honor and respect. He is addressed as "Mr. President," gentlemen and ladies rise when he enters the room, and he is allowed to speak without interruption -- these courtesies being marks of civilized people.
In America we also have a long and cherished tradition of vilifying whoever happens to be President at the moment -- these discourtesies also being marks of civilized people. A certain percentage is going to hate any President (even if they did not vote). There are no official figures available, but it is reasonable to postulate the percentage of haters has not varied since George Washington.
We expect Presidents to do certain things. We expect them to stand up to the Soviets in the face of thermal nuclear war, we expect them to grieve when the nation grieves, we expect them to do photo ops with 4-H Queens.
And, from time to time, we expect our President will use for good that honor and admiration accorded by children to whoever is President of the United States. Every President in my lifetime has done something like this. With whatever faults he may have or which may be attributed to him, Barack Obama is a very good motivator and has the admiration of a great many young children.
Certainly all Americas have the right to disagree with and personally dislike anyone in political office. It is not at altogether clear, though, whether I have the right to teach my children to disrespect the President of the United States because I don't like the man. It is not at all clear it is an American value to keep my children home because someone I don't like might use the office of President to influence kids to do good things. Speaking for neither God nor man, for me to teach any American child to disrespect the office of President would seem an act lacking in "American values."
I have always thought myself a political and pragmatic conservative, proud as such to have voted Republican. Lately, though, the image "right-wing conservatives" seem to be projecting is vilification, revulsion, and fabrication. If that is the best they can do, maybe I should find a more constructive, positive, and honor bound Party for which to be proud?
Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America. If I ever meet him it will be an honor and I will address him as Mr. President -- even if Barry was easier to remember.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.