It was a bit of a prescient moment.

It came after Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States in 2008.  I took a break from my work to walk outside and talk on the phone with a friend of mine, a black man possessing keen common sense and thoughtful observations on many things, including current events.

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...
With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He had the opinion that Barack Obama may not make it out of his presidency, at least not alive.  He thought that someone would end up taking a shot at him, in a literal sense.

So far, that literal sense hasn’t come to pass.  That’s a minor miracle, though, seeing as how there’s been a sharp rise over the last five years in gun nuts appearing in public places — even when the President has been in the same general area — with straps over their shoulders and holsters on their hips and legs carrying weapons of various calibers and capacities, talking about the need to water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.

No, Barack Obama hasn’t had anyone take a literal shot at him yet.  Instead, he’s been on the receiving end of more figurative shots than any U.S. President in recent memory.  The opposition is doing all it can to make my friend’s prediction that Obama wouldn’t last through his presidency come true, one way or another.

Meanwhile, the moral and civil fiber of a nation is eroding.

Remember Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher?  Sure you do.  He gained a measure of fame in the 2008 election as a Sarah Palin-like conservative darling, someone held up as an “Everyman” who simply asked Obama on the campaign trail about his taxation plans and whether raising taxes on the wealthy would hurt him and his business.  A few weeks ago, he published an article on his website that was taken from another conservative website — an article written by a conservative black author — making the case that “America needs a white conservative President” because we just can’t seem to handle the thought of having a black Democratic President who’s actually much more moderate than most conservatives would care to admit.

UPDATE:  Here’s the latest from Joe The Plumber.

With a government shutdown going on and fingers being pointed in all directions (even by the people most responsible for it), the race card was being played in a much more bold and open way.  It hasn’t lightened up since then, it only seems to have become more intense now that the struggle with this latest shutdown is over and Republicans have come away looking foolish because they haven’t gained a single damn thing out of their efforts to extort something from the opposition.

Disagree with a U.S. President — fine, believe it or not you still have that right in this country and that alone doesn’t make you a racist.  I have conservative friends who strongly disagree with Barack Obama on a variety of things, and I would not call them racist because in their case there hasn’t been any hint of his race entering the discussion.  Their disagreement is on political points alone.

But we’re seeing something different coming into the mix now, especially after the shutdown fiasco.  What once seemed more veiled now comes across more blatant.  And it’s putting the ugliest face on American politics that I’ve seen since the fight for civil rights in the 1960s.  I can even remember what it was like then from personal experience as a 7-year-old, having to avoid the monuments in Washington, D.C., and listening to a police scanner filled with the chatter that was going on when I and my family visited relatives there in the summer of 1968

Joe The Plumber sharing the article about the need for a white conservative President reminded me of a thought that had crossed my mind a time or two before.  Now, there are examples of that same kind of bigoted thinking thinking popping up on a daily basis and it’s getting hard to ignore.

Think about this:  What other President in our history has been part of an accusation involving a U.S. Congressman with a key position in the House of Representatives — in this case, reportedly being Texas Republican Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Rules Committee — looking a black President in the face during budget talks and saying, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois mentioned it on Facebook.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has confirmed it.  The White House has denied that it happened, and — naturally — Republicans have demanded an apology from those making the accusation.  But Durbin is sticking by the story.

Sessions himself only seems to be denying it by playing typical political word games.

English: President Barack Obama speaks to a jo...
English: President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress regarding health care reform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does anyone remember a sitting President being told something like that by a person in power, anything quite as personally cutting?  Whether you like Obama’s politics or hate them, the office still demands some sort of respect.  Joe Wilson yelling out “You lie!” at Obama during a State of the Union address is one thing.  Now, it’s being taken to a new level of personal slime.

And then there was this gem that came over the web Thursday.

“Even if some people say, well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that, they will hold the President responsible.  Now I don’t want to even have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get, you get it, you know … you are stuck and you are part of the problem now and you can’t get away.” — Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

For anyone who wants to continue to turn a blind eye toward the fact or just deny that racism is returning as an unwelcome part of American politics, all you need to do is watch an interview from The Daily Show a couple of nights ago to see that it’s still alive, and it’s getting louder and more blatant with each passing day.

It’s gone beyond simply disagreeing with Barack Obama’s politics with way too many people.  Not all, but way too many.  Whether you like his politics or despise them, no sitting President deserves the kind of disrespect Obama gets, the kind that gets as personal and cutting as it is now.  And it’s interesting that we’re seeing it becoming as blatant as it is now that the shutdown is in the past and Republicans who helped force it have been dealt such an embarrassing setback.

If the trend continues, we may see more moves like this one made by Judge Carlo Key.

What we’re seeing more now with Barack Obama — from Joe The Plumber and the allegations regarding Hastings and the “tar baby” statements made by the Colorado representative, and looking back on the outright obstructionism and hatred that’s been seen in the entire five years of the Obama administration — is reminiscent of another ugly chapter in American history that lasted way too long and was endured beyond measure by the man who suffered the most from it.

It’s 44 vs. 42.  Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and the first man with black skin to serve in the office, vs. Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, wearing No. 42 on his uniform.

Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey as Robinson signs his contract, becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball history.
Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey as Robinson signs his contract, becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball history.

The things that Robinson put up with in his historic role in history are being brought into clearer focus with the actions that we’re seeing today with Obama.

The White House may be denying that the incident with Hastings ever happened.  Even if it didn’t, it’s not all that surprising to hear about it.  Surprising?  No.  Disgusting?  Yes.  It only goes to show that a lot of people still have some “growing up” to do.

The White House may be denying that the incident with Hastings ever happened.  Or, if it did happen, they may be denying it to take the higher ground — much the same way Dodgers president Branch Rickey advised Jackie Robinson before he suited up for Brooklyn’s Montreal farm team in the 1940s.

We may not be seeing Obama’s ankle getting spiked by an opposing player as he’s catching a defensive throw, but we’re seeing a bit of the same viciousness in a different, more subtle way.

It would be nice if we could see more people “grow up” the way Dodger great Pee Wee Reese did back in the day — putting aside his own prejudices, disliking what Robinson was being subjected to, and — in front of a stadium that included members of his family and friends down South, with loud choruses of boos raining down on the field along with hurled insults — exhibiting a gesture as simple as putting his arm around Robinson’s shoulder for everyone else to see.  It was a way of showing that — regardless of Robinson’s skin color — they were all part of a team.

We need more “grown-ups” these days when it comes to the fact that we have a President with black skin.  Not a “tar baby.”  A President, of states that are supposed to be united here in America.

Do people really hate Barack Obama more than they love the United States of America?


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