Many people are obviously ready for 2016 to end. Their Facebook timelines, tweets, and Instagram posts highlight the year as awful, surreal, and saddening – the year when nothing made sense and the year we cannot wait to see come to an end.
When seeking answers to why it was such a bad year, you’ll hear different offerings from Aleppo to election, Brexit to Harambe’s exit, Prince to Princess Leia – a year of confusion and loss. For me; however, there is one thing that grips me and yells “Don’t let 2016 end!” When 2017 does arrive, there is one thing I will miss most: OBAMAsculinity.
Yes. I will miss President Barrack Obama’s non-stereotypical, cordial, and gallant ways. I’m dreading the hypermasculine, in-your-face, “man box” ugliness that has predominated the headlines for the last several months and will probably continue on for at least four more years. Although I may not have agreed with him on every issue, I was never afraid to let my son experience the walk he walked.
President Obama was not afraid to let others see him shed a tear. One Washington Post article headlined his public crying calling it “a good thing.” He wept when speaking about lives lost including the mourning of VP Joe Biden’s son Beau. He cried when saying goodbye to friends leaving office, while thanking his campaign staff in 2012, when calling for action after the Newtown massacre, when remembering his mother’s legacy, and while listening to Aretha Franklin sing at the Kennedy Center.
I just watched him passionately participate in last week’s Kennedy Center Honors, but this was not the only venue where he venerated the arts or belted out a tune. President Obama deeply treasured, applauded, and embraced music, art, and the beauty of creativity. Together, with the help of his wife Michelle, they established aggressive programs and raised noticeable money for arts initiatives. He danced and sang on the South Lawn and even on late night television where he was often the brunt of the joke but didn’t mind laughing at himself. He freestyled with a “Hamilton” star, two-stepped with Bell Biv DeVoe, and recently belted out “Jingle Bells” alongside Santa Claus and Chance the Rapper.
And who can deny that it was downright awesome seeing the President’s hands-on approach to parenting as well as demonstrating what it’s like to keep romance in relationship. One article that heralded his fatherhood called him “by nature a nurturer” and said that he put “a high premium on both connecting with and providing direction to his girls.”
I personally chuckled at the media’s “bromance” portrayal of his friendships with Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau. He was not afraid to show affection or share hugs with other men and the headlines still show us that many still don’t get it. And I would be amiss to not mention that I loved it when the Dunbar High School football team visited the White House and Mr. Obama complimented one young man’s wardrobe: “I like your shirt and tie,” he said. “It takes a strong man to wear pink.” But, what stands out to me most is that this President showed us how a man can carry himself and lead in strength while at the same time offering us a regular and vivid picture of what it looks like to defend the weak and prove that diplomacy is often the best choice over a fight.
I know some may call his negotiations and diplomacy “cowardly” but when all is said and done, I believe we will realize that many larger mistakes or tragedies were avoided. I will miss the man in the White House that chose to think it through, weigh the circumstances, and try to “keep the peace.” I fear for our young men when they learn and or see a defined manliness that crowns the fighter and frowns on the calculating. I will miss the President who stands for those without, cheers for the powerless, and even defends his hecklers: “Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second,” he told a crowd while campaigning for Hillary Clinton. “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. He’s not doing nothing. You don’t have to worry about him.”
We’ve watched him cry, hug, dance, stumble, and get back up. We’ve heard him defend, laugh, sing, and encourage. He’s offered a hand, shared an umbrella, and coached his girl’s ball team. He’s been a man of style and a hero to many. Even if you’re not a fan, he will truly be missed in my world – a world that welcomes God’s many creative expressions of masculinity. What I will miss most in 2017 is our Gentleman-In-Chief.