When I sat down to write tonight, I was going to tell you that everyone should go to the Women’s March on Saturday. We need each other right now, I was going to say, we need to be together in a shared moment of resistance and grief.
And I do want you to be with us at the Women’s March, whether you are a man or a woman or someone whose gender is more complicated than one word.
Just be with us, I was going to write.
And yet, when I saw this, I knew there was something else I had to say.
“I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.” – Pres. Barack Obama, in his official goodbye letter
As I write this, we have just 57 minutes left of the last day of the Obama Presidency. I’m savoring this moment, the slack before the change of the tide.
Mr. Obama made too much war to be a hero of mine, but he seemed like a mostly decent man with a very difficult job, who worked hard and made compromises.
Some of those compromises – like not closing Guantanamo Bay – hurt people.
Other compromises created a better, more humane world. The Affordable Care Act comes in first on this list, as far as I’m concerned.
But he writes about Americans like we are one people: all of us, in this together, whether we see it or not.
His words are patriotism, distilled.
“All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.”
I detest the cheap patriotism of the American Right: the red-white-and-blue chest thumping that sends our brothers, sisters, parents, and friends into danger. Soldiers’ bodies, their families, and their mental health are too important.
Real patriotism is the work of citizenship: it is biting our tongues to prevent words of anger, shouting in the face of injustice, and giving a hand when it is needed. Above all, it is showing up even when our own narrow interest is not at stake.
This work is not always joyous, Mr. President, but it is precisely the willingness to do the work of democracy that distinguishes you from your successor.
“I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.” – Pres. Barack Obama
Now, for everyone else, come to the March on Saturday. Mr. Obama is busy, but you can take care of this one for him.