Back-to-school address highlights polarization

When did some people start losing their marbles?

Maybe it was when the so-called “Birther Movement” challenged President Barack Obama’s citizenship, in the face of a legitimate certification of live birth issued by the state of Hawaii, along with other concrete examples of his legality.

Or maybe it was even further back, when people accused Obama (then a presidential hopeful) of being a terrorist, brought here to destroy the United States (his middle name “Hussein,” of course, being a primary piece of evidence).

Ultimately, Obama is one of the most polarizing figures in modern time.

So it should come as no surprise that many conservatives were in another uproar last week.

The saddest part, however, is what this controversy actually surrounded: a plan to give a pep talk to our country’s schoolchildren.

In all respects, this seemed like a perfectly innocuous thing to do; after all, kids are the future, and they could use some advice on staying in school and keeping off the hypodermic needle. And who better to give them this advice than the leader of our country?

To many, the gesture seemed sweet: a display of common values of hard work and wellness that hopefully would translate to the younger generation — something we can all agree on, right?


Apparently, there are parents in the United States who believed that Obama would use the time to press the importance of his politics. The assumption, of course, was that he would use impressionable minds to change the politics of an entire generation; this would make sense, maybe, if the president did not have a drop of common sense.

Did anyone really believe that Obama would have both the insanity and the cojones to, in front of an entire sensible nation, extol the greatness of a socialist agenda? Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer thought so, as he was quoted as being “appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

It seemed highly unlikely that Obama would stand before a nation and commit career suicide by throwing propaganda at kids.

Admittedly, some of the disagreement came from the fact that the US Department of Education proposed a plan to have students, post-speech, draft letters on “how to help the president.” But to be fair, the Department of Education conceded that the original plan was not well-worded and released a revised plan clarifying that the kids should list how to achieve their short- and long-term education goals. So why are people still upset?

The biggest issue here is the pointed division of political views in America today. To those who fundamentally oppose him, everything Obama does is an act of the enemy to be shot down at earliest notice.

There are some things that we as a nation might not agree on (such as the issue of a public health care system and its alternatives), but shouldn’t we all be somewhat eye-to-eye on at least the basics (such as the fact that our health care system could be much better)? How bitter does the bipartisanship have to be that some conservatives genuinely believe Obama is out to brainwash kids?

The statistics highlight this issue: As of Aug. 31, Obama had a 75 percent approval rating among Democrats, but only an 8 percent approval rating among Republicans.

Those who oppose Obama need to stop making assumptions and fighting non-issues. Not agreeing with the president is one thing — after all, we need debate on the important topics to help show the best path towards a healthy, powerful nation.

But needlessly picking fights and overanalyzing small issues is a setback for the whole country. It’s clear that there is a profound lack of maturity in American politics today. It’s often difficult to figure out who the real children are.

Edward Kim is a freshman majoring in print journalism.