Guest Blogger: Joan Ruaiz
During a job interview, a question frequently posed to the job-seeker is, “What are your weaknesses?” That question is not asked in order to reveal weaknesses per se, but rather as a way for the interviewer to assess the strengths of the applicant based on the revelations the answer offers. The right response is never, “I have none,” since we all do.
For the past few months, I have read and heard that our President is weak and doesn’t stand up, and has a habit of caving. This claim, in fact, has been a topic of political conversation for some time. I have reflexively rejected this judgement, but I hadn’t fully analyzed why until now.
I do ask myself how ironic it is that the strongest black man on the world stage today would be described as a weak man by his critics. But rather than denouncing the name-callers simply out of hand, I’m compelled to examine the meaning of this pronouncement and its intent. Are those critics correct in their assessment? What is weakness and what is strength? And who has it, and who doesn’t? What’s the measurement to arrive at such an adjective, one that is either a mean-spirited put-down or is the unfortunate truth? How do we judge?
In a society where George Bush was seen by many as forceful, strong and resolute for refusing to negotiate with his foes, and for treating his domestic opposition without respect or due conscience, I can understand why seeing the opposite behavior from the next President could be interpreted as mild, weak and caving. However, does that really make it true, or have we been conditioned to make such analysis without a full understanding of the seriousness of our indictment? What is true is that Mr. Bush and President Obama, although both have borne the title of President, are each as different from the other as night is to day.
George Bush grew up in privilege, while Barack Obama didn’t. George Bush was the product of a solid, long-lasting marital union; Barack Obama was not. One had a successful father to emulate; the other, a father who was vaguely distant. One grew up deeply rooted, with a feeling that he belonged, while the other continually adapted to situations of constant change. The fortunate son had everything that money could buy, and the less fortunate had to make do with being as resourceful as he could be. One could hail a cab just like that, while the other might just be made to wait. One man woke up each morning fully aware that the world was his oyster; the other went to sleep knowing that the world would not be surprised if he failed at life. These are some of the reasons that make these two men different, but they still don’t answer why one would be described as strong, while the other one would be called weak.