The late, great Leonard Cohen wrote, on the topic of the second world war in America, “Here we grew up with toy whips. Early warning against our future leaders, the war babies.”
Obama’s farewell speech, which was truly American in all it’s open, heartfelt honesty, created a stir in those that look, terrified, into the glowing eyes of Obama’s successor. The speech was touching, the President reminding us one last time that democracy is our own, individual power. For real change, you have to look to yourself. Like a sixteen-year-old girl on Instagram, pleading to her bae, Obama claimed that,”Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change.” Very candid. Good on you, may the rest of your days be happy, Mr. O.
There’s just one thing.
Obama, revered here in the U.K for his intelligent wit and open emotions, continued – but did not escalate, his fans scream! – warfare. (The joke is that he did, in fact, escalate warfare: Bush authorized 50 drone strikes, Obama…500.) Not the kind of chivalrous warfare that might befit someone of Obama’s kind and loving nature, but the kind of warfare where innocents are regularly slayed by unmanned drones with rockets called things like “Predator” and “Harpoon.” These were not mentioned in Obama’s speech.
If you want the facts, Obama’s administration claimed that between 2009 and 2015 there were anywhere between 64-116 civilians killed. That’s a large margin when it comes to people’s lives. Even more worryingly, it shows the large discrepancy in the administration’s estimates on civilian casualties. In a world fraught with fake news, isn’t it distressing that the facts we hoped might be solid, the hope that a country that sports the Kardashians and the ideals of democracy can keep a track of who and who it hasn’t killed, could be as fake and as estimated as a Daily Mail article?
Trump is a tyrant who enjoys getting pissed on in sick power-plays, and Obama ran an administration that found it hard to discern between terrorist and civilian. The thick-mustached generals, heavily laden with medals, on the phone to Big O, cough over the shoulder of their drone operators, chuckle, and say, “Why, old Bo, they’re one and the same.” Pictures and videos of children covered in blood and rubble haunt our news-feeds, day in day out, there’s another hospital flattened, another home destroyed. And it makes you realise that the answer to the question, why is it that extremism has gripped the Middle East? is very close to home. The problem lies in the mother on the computer, the daughter on her phone, the son talking at work about the child in the ambulance, the one covered in blood and tears, and feeling…feeling what?
Then the day ticks on. It’s four o’clock. Bowie’s dead, we might reach Mars and Kanye could be a homosexual. “More at ten about the child in the ambulance,” but no one is listening, no one is watching. Like Obama, we’ll forget the horrors and remember the charming grin. It’s nothing to do with Obama. He’s as much a part of the American Dream, of Exceptionalism, of ignorance, as anyone else. Sat at home with his fluffy little dog and beautiful family, he too probably forgot that somewhere his drones rained on.
For what it’s worth, Obama held true to the target of taking in 85,000 refugees he announced at the start of 2016, with 12,000 of the number being Syrian. “America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened,” Obama said in his speech. It fits the idea. There’s 12,000 Syrians on their way right now, that’ll do. It’s difficult not to be cynical when the President talks of the nation’s “creed”, a nation that just voted in, albeit not by popular vote, a man who marketed wheat-free Trump Vodka to Israel, as wheat is kosher during pass-over, only to later reveal that the Vodka did actually include wheat. This is synonymous of the nation’s greater misunderstanding of the world.
Germany has taken 50,000. Turkey, 2.7 million. Egypt, 115,000.
Although Obama may have forgotten time to time, the havoc his administration was wrecking, he tried hard not to be forgotten. He did try. I can’t fault him for that. Obama took action, after realising how damning these vague figures about civilian death actually looked, and sent out an executive order by horse to the knights of the states that said, “No matter what happens, I’ll try and bring order to this mess, and hopefully the next administration (then presumed to be Clinton) can stop killing civilians.” Now we’ve got Trump and no one is quite sure what’s next for the wars America finds itself in. Pakistan, Afghanistan, the war on ISIL. Russia is strutting around, Trump is tweeting, Europe’s in disarray, and across the sea, far away, people will continue to die.
We’ve voted, we don’t want the ghosts on our shores, arriving by capsizing boat by capsizing boat. Here they come, angrily looting and raping our memories. Leave us alone, we yell. Get out. Like discerning between terrorist and civilian, we struggle to discern those who truly need our help. So the gates are shut before questions can be asked. We assume, because to assume is to forget, to move on. To assume is to displace guilt. On and on. Endlessly.
Farewell Obama, you’ve been smashing(ly inadequate.)