“This is it, this is what our country needs,” my mom hollered through the house while watching the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. Half-heartedly listening, I happened to catch a few recurring words from the speech blaring through my television: change, hope, and promise. Words even a fourteen-year-old, politically unaware kid could relate to and feel optimistic about. Through my television I saw a tall, articulate, intelligent man promising a better future for myself and my country. There was a resounding genuineness to the way he spoke and presented himself. He was young–at least compared to his competition– and he seemed to carry all the values I found important in a leader. He was the diamond in the rough, the one politician who was inherently immune to the plague of corruption infecting politicians faster than swine flu. If fourteen-year-olds could have voted, I certainly would have made time in my teen schedule of friend-mingling and video game-playing to vote for Mr. Obama.
I was young, stupid, and naive; but my hopes and wishes paralleled those of many Americans at the time. Hopes that maybe someone really could change the unfavorable status quo. The fact that he was the first black president was an accomplishment and change in-and-of itself.
But as time went on criticism seemingly began to break through the chorus of “change” and “hope”. I dismissed this bickering early on as people wanting a quick fix to a huge, time-consuming problem. After all, the man inherited a national debt of around eleven trillion dollars. “We’re still just suffering from the damages of the Bush administration,” I would reassure friends. Some responded with concurring silence, some shot back with insulting remarks, but no response was worse than a simple inquisition: “How do you know?” These four benign words instantly entered me into a nerve-racking, brain-searching, mental disorientation. Should I admit my only reason was because my mom had told me so? Should I admit I heard a democratic talk show host declare it, and I trusted it as if it were a biblical commandment? “I’ve done research,” I usually came back, pained by the guilt of lying.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that anything changed. At seventeen years of age, it dawned on me that I would be eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election. A right that, in a democratic nation, comes with an obligation to be self-informed and knowledgeable of political affairs. I realized my fast-approaching surge into adulthood would be crippled by a dependent, uninformed mind. That if my opinion of government was simply the product of others’ rambling, I had no personal identity or significance.
So I started reading and I started listening. I tried to be as impartial as possible. When I read something clearly biased to one side, I tried to balance it by reading an account from the other side. I backtracked all the way to President Obama’s campaign speeches and promises. I attempted to objectively pair those past promises with later or present action. My findings were disheartening. Although I did find Obama had followed through on some of his campaign promises, there were many he had flatly and apathetically dropped.
Civil liberty promises such as closing Guantanamo Bay have not only been cast aside by the President, but he’s now sending September eleventh terrorists to be tried in their fake, unconstitutional trial system.
Amidst a current national union rights battle, I recollect on the words once spoken by our president. ”If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America,” he promised during a campaign speech in 2007. But it has yet to be seen and it is years later.
“I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said in a press conference on Dec. 7, 2010. “In the long run, we simply can’t afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them.” Unfortunately, when the time came as president, Obama extended the tax cuts for two more years. America is waiting, perhaps hoping, but not changing.
It was a personal betrayal I felt with Obama. He was the only politician I ever trusted, and I was punished for opening my trust with such vulnerability. The political system took a beloved revolutionary; a savior; a personal hero and stripped him of his ostensible, distinguishing integrity.
I have closed the once open door of free flowing trust and admiration for Obama. I have perhaps locked it because of still-lingering pain, but I have not thrown away the key. I will continue to watch, listen, and read as objectively as possible.
As re-election day draws near, Obama has once again begun making crowd-pleasing promises. Promises that address many of the fundamental concerns people have for our country. Promises that tempt my inner ignorance to scream, “Yes! he’s changed!” But until I see definitive action from our president, and the integrity to materialize what he says, I cannot vote to re-elect Obama.