The opportunity of a country’s lifetime – missed by Barack Obama

The final round of the British Open was held on Sunday. Played at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, the tournament was won by a man from South Africa named Louis Oosthuizen. His given name is Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen, but “Louis” will be on the Claret Jug, much to the relief of the engraver, I would imagine.

As he walked up the 18th fairway, with his drive on the green and an insurmountable lead, he smiled and put his arm around his friend and caddie, Zack Rasego. Rasego happens to be black. Oosthuizen mentioned in his interview after the tournament that he was thinking about Nelson Mandela as he walked toward victory – it also happened to be Mandela’s 92nd birthday – and I would guess that Zack was probably thinking the same thing. Imagine that – a white South African golfer, with a black caddie, mentioning Nelson Mandela in his victory speech in the championship of the former colonial power, the United Kingdom.

The scene made me wonder what made it possible – how could this happen, given South Africa’s well documented race issues? The answer, I believe, lies with the man who celebrated a birthday today. Held in prison for decades, brutalized but never bowed, Nelson Mandela went on to become the leader of the country which had at one time despised and imprisoned him. With every reason to be vindictive and petty, Mandela instead chose to be magnanimous. Instead of unleashing violence against whites, or turning a blind eye to it, he did his best to create an environment that could produce a scene like the one we saw today. There are legitimate criticisms of Mandela’s tendency toward Communism, the violence that plagues South Africa to this day and the continued imperfection of race relations there. I doubt, however, that Mandela can legitimately be criticized for fanning the flames of racial hatred or intentionally being divisive.

“I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”

“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”

Nelson Mandela

Another country comes to mind when the issue of race relations is mentioned, and that is the United States. The first black leader of this country is Barack Obama, elected in a near-landslide, with support not only from blacks but also from whites. A man who enjoyed over 60% approval when inaugurated and a leader who promised change and a new direction for this country. A man who could, once and for all, turn the tide of race relations in this country forever.

What an opportunity. What an opportunity missed.

Instead of using this chance to be President of all people, Barack Obama has instead not missed an opportunity to be petty and divisive. He could have challenged us all to be better than we would have been before – to put away centuries old grievances and attitudes and work together for the good of a country which is still the beacon of freedom to the world. Instead, attempting to put himself as above the fray, he has allowed reasonable people who disagree with his policies to be called racists-and worse- by those closest to him. Instead of taking charge and asking for support, he has spent the majority of his time blaming his predecessors and whining about what he inherited. Instead of facing our racial issues head-on, he has taken the “coward’s” way out (h/t Eric Holder), and refused to take the African American community to task about the rampant crime, addiction and broken families that are so prevalent there. And worst of all, he has allowed a situation in Philadelphia that strikes at the very core of our representative republic to be swept under the rug, apparently because the perpetrators are black.

He is the only President who could have made a difference in the ways that we so badly need a difference to be made. He has chosen not to.

He has used the power of the federal government to reward blue states and penalize red states. He has declared war on business – the insurance industry, the oil industry, Wall Street, banks and anyone who dares make a profit – with more that could be named, and more surely to come. He is taking a state to court – fellow Americans – for daring to write a law which exactly mirrors a federal law, then refuses to enforce the federal law to further inflame the situation. He uses crisis when it occurs, and creates crisis where none exist.

In short, he is not the leader of a country. He has chosen another path. He is the leader of a group of narrow special interests, bound together only by selfishness and a desire to extort as much as possible from groups which they deem undesirable, oppressive or historically advantaged.

He desires to split this nation apart, like a jeweler would split a large, beautiful diamond into little chips for trinkets. He divides us, with his words, with his policies and by proxy.

What an opportunity missed. Forever.

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