Michael and I have been watching The West Wing. An old co-worker of mine highly recommended it and every few months since then I’ve checked to see if Netflix had added it to instant streaming. They finally have and we are growing quite fond of the show (although I often disagree with the politics).
It has got me thinking a lot about the president.
Not necessarily President Obama. All US presidents.
As far back as I can remember negative characterizations about the president have been a part of my social landscape.
On a recent road trip with my family, my sister reminded me that when we were kids we would close our eyes and duck our heads when driving through Clinton, OK, refusing to even look at the town in protest of the president. On that same trip, we drove under an over pass where a man was holding a huge sign that said HONK IMPEACH OBAMA. (I’m not sure how many honks it takes to impeach a president, but I will be looking that up on Wikipedia today.)
I don’t even need to share an anecdote about old George W, I’m sure you can think of your own.
We live in a country where free speech is a right and a value and we put it to use.
Now, I would like to pause at this juncture and say that I love free speech. I also believe that all publicly elected officials need their fair share of criticism. Everyone needs to be challenged in their thinking and debate on issues is healthy.
That being said, maybe we should stop complaining so much about the president.
Now, I’ve never personally been president, but if the visible aging that seems to happen to all of them is any indication it is a really hard job. The weight of responsibility, the magnitude of decisions that have to be made, the number of lives in your hands. I don’t think that anyone who hasn’t been president could ever understand.
Like I said, I’ve never been president. And that is exactly why I’m am very careful about my attitude toward him (or maybe her, someday). It’s very easy to sit back and and point out everything you think is wrong about the way someone handles something that you don’t have to deal with. Being president is hard. I’m sure there are plenty decisions they each face that they wish someone else could make for them. Many, we may never even know about.
The other thing is, the president is just that. A president. We don’t have a dictator. We don’t have a king. We have a president.
If you are mad at the president for not doing everything they said they would during the campaign then you may have had unrealistic expectations. Presidents don’t get to do whatever they want.
It’s like when a candidate for high school student class president tells you they are going to eliminate math class and make lunch twice as long. You know they actually can’t do that, right?
Don’t get me wrong, the President of the United States is important and they do influence policy, appoint judges, command the military and decide which Thanksgiving turkey gets pardoned, but they just can’t do all the things they said they would in the campaign. There are those two other pesky branches of government after all.
So here is the deal. You don’t agree with the president? Fine. Tell anyone you want. You think the policy he is pushing for is ill advised? Great. You should say that. You have ideas on how things could be handled better? Please, tell everyone you can.
But, do it with respect. Debate ideas, challenge policy, advocate for your views but don’t trash people.
Usually, if someone disagrees with you it’s not because they are a bad person. There is no one right way.
Maybe the guy you think wants to reward people for not working is motivated by the real suffering of families where all able bodied adults do work as hard as they can in jobs that just don’t pay enough to keep up with the cost of living. Maybe the guy you are mad at for wanting to control women’s bodies isn’t a woman hater after all but just honestly believes that a fetus is a separate life that deserves protection as much as a newborn. Maybe the president you think is anti-Christian because he doesn’t support prayer in schools is actually passionate about religious freedom and knows that you wouldn’t want your child to have to participate in school prayer in an area that was predominantly Mormon or Muslim. In fact, maybe that guy feels that true prayer in schools happens when students of faith pray individually or with a friend and not from and empty government mandated ritual.
The next time you open your mouth to criticize the president please remember that he is a person and is worthy of all the respect that entails. You may disagree with his actions or ideas but you simply cannot judge his heart.
So, if you want to tell me why you disagree with the president, bring it on. Want to vote for someone else? Great.
But I swear to you right now, send me an email forward or post on Facebook an article, full of unrelated pictures taken out of context, that claims President Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer and then invited Muslims to pray at the Capitol (and in fact joined them), and I will never respect anything you have to say about the president again.
Thank you, Mr President, for doing a job I wouldn’t ever want to. I don’t agree with your approach to several major problems we are facing, but I trust that your motives are not to ruin the country. If I am dissatisfied with your actions I will respond by engaging in political discourse and voting to reflect my views. I pray that God would lead you in your decisions today and that you don’t end up in the situation room. May God bless America.
[If you, by chance, actually thought that National Day of Prayer story happened, please know that not everything on the Internet is true and then take a moment to read this article. Oh, and by the way, the new gold dollar coins actually do have "In God We Trust" inscribed on them. You can stop throwing them away.]