Monday, October 5, 2020

A Soulless White House

 A group called Dog Lovers for Joe put out one of my favorite ads of this election season.

But it isn't just dogs that have been missing from the White House for the last four years. Let's take a walk down memory lane and remember what used to happen there.

The Obama White House wasn't just a place where the president lived and conducted business. I remember noticing that things were going to be different in February 2009 when Michelle Obama hosted an event for middle school children to celebrate Black History Month, which featured a performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Here's what she said at the time:

As President and First Lady, Barack and I are just the caretakers of this house.  We're just borrowing it for a little bit.  But while we live here, we're your neighbors, okay?  And we want you to feel welcome here at the White House, which really is, as the Admiral said, it's the people's house that belongs to all of us.  So just remember that, okay?

And as the people's house, we believe the White House should be a place for learning and for sharing new and different ideas, sharing new forms of art and culture, and history and different perspectives.  We want you to visit and we want you to take advantage of these opportunities and maybe see something for yourselves that maybe you never thought you could do or be.

Events at the White house ranged from their annual science fair to campouts for Girl Scouts on the front lawn.  Did you know that the first time Lin Manuel Miranda performed a piece that would later become part of the musical "Hamilton" was at an event sponsored by the Obama's at the White House? It was part of a musical series that included a night dedicated to the Blues, where this happened. 

The Obama White House was a place of joy, family, culture, music, art, science, and laughter...but most of all children. I was reminded of all of that when I read a Facebook post by Elayne Griffin Baker.
There is no art in this White House. There is no literature or poetry in this White House. No music. No Kennedy Center award celebrations. 

There are no pets in this White House. No loyal man’s best friend. No Socks the family cat. No kids science fairs. 

No times when this president takes off his blue suit-red tie uniform and becomes human, except when he puts on his white shirt- khaki pants uniform and hides from Americans to play golf. 

There are no images of the first family enjoying themselves together in a moment of relaxation.  
There are a lot of reasons why these last four years have been difficult for all of us. But on top of everything else, the White House has become a soulless place. 

Back when Obama was first elected, Alice Walker counseled the new president about his primary responsibility.

A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on...Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies.  

It seems pretty clear that Trump's soul died long before he moved into the White House. The place has felt like a mausoleum since he's been living there. While not the biggest issue we face these days, it is worth remembering how things used to be and look forward to the day that a new President and First Lady (and their dog) will make it the people's house once again. 

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