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No Cheeks Left to Turn To

Earlier this week former (or forever, depending on who you ask) First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama’s book entitled “Becoming” was released. Many people have been anticipating the arrival of her memoir, so it is with no surprise that it has been intricately delved into in recent days. One of the fascinating portions, among others, of the intimate memoir that I was intrigued at by the opportunity to delve into was her discussion of the current president of the United States. This is an almost insignificant portion of the book, in terms of size, which is understandable considering she has so many better things to talk about. But what I found most revealing, especially in light of how the Obamas have been relatively silent concerning this current president, was how personal her lack of affection for Trump truly is.

As a political scientist, I have a large mental inventory of political and cultural history and the ramifications that history has for us currently. You don’t need to have that brain bank to understand and remember where the genesis of First Lady Michelle Obama’s discontent with the current president comes from. Yes, birtherism precipitated not only Trump’s viability (in some people’s eyes) as a national political figure, but Michelle Obama’s ire as well. Trump crusaded across that national airwaves that for what seemed like years, after Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He untruthfully claimed that he was born in Kenya, and therefore he was disqualified from even being president. This was nothing more than an attempt to appeal to the racist, bigoted, xenophobic, and hate filled people and elements of United States society. President Obama got the last laugh (in this situation) as he proceeded to embarrass Trump with a barrage of jokes at the Annual White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011.

While Trump was embarrassed and nationally humiliated, Michelle Obama still remembers. In her memoir, she writes that she will “never forgive” him for the entire birtherism circus sideshow. She writes, “The whole thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks. … Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this, I’d never forgive him.”

Michelle Obama recalls how this whole episode put her family in grave danger. It put them in the type of danger that we are reminded of when a Dylan Roof can walk into a historic African American church and kill nine innocent people, including the pastor, simply because they were Black. She is saying that the same tired dog whistles were being used to discredit her husband but could have resulted in the death of not only her husband, Barack Obama, but she and her two daughters, Sasha and Malia, as well.

That was revealing for me because we often talk about forgiveness in the Christian context, after all, that’s what Jesus instructed us to do. He also instructed us to turn the other cheek, which Michelle Obama echoed during the 2016 election when she famously said, “When they go low, we go high!” So, I don’t see Michelle Obama writing she’ll “never forgive” him as literal forgiveness, as if she is holding on to hate and resentment in her heart. I trust that she hasn’t given that “man” that level of her energy. I do take the statements in her book to mean that there are instances in our lives where people take things too far. There is no negotiation at that point. There is no kumbaya to be had. All bridges and olive branches have been burned.

Her statements also speak to the fact that the current occupant of the white house is cowardly. He not only appeals to racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and all forms of hate, he is racist, bigoted, xenophobic, and hateful himself. We saw it with birtherism. That was the warning. And now that he occupies the white house, we have seen it in his policies. We must not be willing to compromise with evil but oppose it. Michelle Obama is speaking to that. And if the midterm elections on last week were any indication, a wave is continuing to grow and sweep the country. This means that racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and hate have their days numbered. Trump and those who embody these evils know and understand this as well. It is up to us to oppose them and these evils with all the vigor and sincerity that were present in statements taken from Michelle Obama’s memoir.

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