The conventional wisdom might say the current U.S. president should visit places like Chicago and Ferguson, where decades-long racial disparities are at the heart of recent bouts of unrest. Or that he should visit San Bernardino and offer condolences in person (which he did before going on vacation), as he’s done so many times after so many mass shootings. Or maybe Detroit, a city still struggling even after a massive bailout saved the domestic auto industry.
I say, instead, he should first go to places like Conway, South Carolina, where a Democratic president has nothing to gain, a place whose residents daily drive by an electric plant that is now empty in part because of environmental policies that may indeed be necessary to save the planet but hurt real people in real time, nonetheless.
Or maybe he can map out a path along the Appalachian Trail and visit cities and small towns full of people who believe they’ve been left out of the American dream and forced into a nightmare they are convinced they can survive only by clinging to their God and their guns, which is why they balk at the emergence of legalized same-sex marriage and talk of gun control, not because they hate—even if the words they sometimes use sound hateful—but because they still need something to call their own.
Let them see their president. Let them speak directly to their president. Let them shout, cuss, fuss and unload if that’s what they need to do. Because no matter how you slice it, the country they’ve long known is dying, and a new one is taking shape. Obama’s presence in the White House, while heartening to many, is the tip of the spear to those fretful about what’s to come.