[commentary] Unsettling


[commentary] Unsettling

April 2017

I was sitting on the steps in front of MLK waiting for a friend to arrive, when I heard the long haired man loudly exclaim to his perpetually passing audience, “Both Obama and Trump have supported the mass deportation of Mexican immigrants, and that is a violation of their human rights. Both Obama have Trump have torn families apart.”

I felt myself slightly disoriented as I generally do not couple Trump and Obama together when making a critique. I tend to think of one as authentic politician and the other as a ridiculous, undereducated populist. Yet hearing the long haired man, I am forced to consider Obama’s record on immigration, and I find myself thinking that perhaps his legacy is a romanticized one.

We generally think of the Obama years as progressive and a move in the right direction. How then can one reconcile this notion with his record on immigration?

I think it’s important to remember that Obama himself wrote that ’politics is the art of the possible’ and the ‘art of compromise.’ It’s also necessary to keep in mind sociologist Doug McAdams observations that any type of social change requires resource availability, political opportunity, and a spark event.

Perhaps with these ideas in mind, we might better understand individuals and their varying records on pressing issues of our time. Perhaps Obama was not able to reform immigration as he faced too many political obstacles and a lack of resources. Maybe he was forced to compromise his own ideals and deploy his resources on fronts that were more feasible.

Of course, this line of thinking introduces conundrums of its own. Did Lyndon Johnson sign the civil rights act of 1964 out of a moral imperative, or calculated political expediency? History and biography grows ambiguous, protean, and unknowable (to an extent) very quick. How unsettling.