"There are some people who are still in shock that Barack Obama is president."
Which sums up the whole year fairly well. We opened with Obama's inaugural, a momentous and historic occasion. We wrestled with the stimulus, cash for clunkers, winding down the war in Iraq, a nuclear Iran, amping up the war in Afghanistan, and, of course, health care. And bailing out GM and Chrysler. And dealing with climate change. I think Obama has handled all of these well. There have been some disappointments: I think he's been too secretive and hasn't loosened the grip of the executive branch on its own power as much as I would like.
My paternal grandparents would have been among the people in shock at Barack Obama as president. They were both smart people, but they would not have been able to understand it, let alone appreciate why my siblings and I were so enthusiastic about his candidacy and presidency.
History - particularly American history - is always partially about the differences between generations. This problem is ever more acute today, because as the pace of technological change continually speeds up, the younger generations are ever more capable of moving and thinking faster than older generations. My paternal grandfather was born in February 1905. That's only 14 months after the Wright brothers flew, and only 40 years after the end of the Civil War. Both of those events were always ancient history to me. Not to him.
For people under 30, the idea of a black president with an unusual name is not even remotely strange or bizarre. For many people over 80, who were in their 40's and 50's when Archie Bunker was on the air, it's too weird to understand. They're still in shock.
But they're also still Americans, and they understand that, as powerful as the president is, the system is far more powerful, and as much as they may disagree with the president, they still have a place in the country. They may call him a Muslim or somehow unAmerican, they may chant slogans about taking their country back.
But they can't. Obama is as American as any teabagger or Glenn Beck fan. Or me or my brother.