Body Ink – Revisiting the Obama Presidency


      I  got a tattoo two years ago in November, 2009.     I think it’s beautiful. It’s an elaborate cursive “T” in the standard bluish-green tattoo ink used by first-time tattoo getters. It originally stood for Teresa, my life partner of the past ten years.

Now, I notice all tattoos with greater interest and find a wealth of visible body art on display. Most of what I see is far more creative and in much brighter colors than my three-inch alphabet letter on the inside of my left wrist. However, other people’s ink creations don’t put a damper on my enthusiasm for my own ink.

The young man who performed the artistry tried to hide his surprise when I walked into his business and announced I wanted a tattoo. I told him I mulled it over for fifty years and thought that was an adequate amount of time to consider anything you truly wanted to do. He was very kind during the painful process, and I was grateful for the xanax I took as a precautionary measure.

Thanks to my friend Robert for mentioning the tattoo tip to Teresa who went with me and congratulated me for my somewhat mellowed bravery. She couldn’t watch and said she had no interest in getting one to match mine. I was fine with that, but I’m glad I have this outward symbolic marking. I don’t intend to make another statement with ink and needles any time soon. Whatever possessed me to get a tattoo after dreaming of getting one for so many years?

The  year 2009 began with no dramatic foreshadowing to indicate the earth was about to rotate on a different axis.  A new President took office in January in these Estados Unidos, and his campaign message of hope revitalized a people whose lives lacked faith in their leaders and themselves.  The air we breathed was filled with a sense of expectancy, lofty idealism, and expanded news coverage on an hourly basis of our First Family’s settling in at the White House.

I, like slightly more than half of the voting population, beamed with pride in the goodwill we received from other countries around the world that shared our optimism for a new direction of peace and prosperity beaming from a fresh colorful face so clearly symbolic of our national melting pot.  Peace, prosperity. As opposed to wars and recession with their inherent problems of joblessness and free-floating anxiety. A new day dawned, and I basked in the warm glow of loosening the shackles of despair that caused me to cringe in horror for the past eight years of the prior regime.  The Bushes were gone—long live the Obamas.

Unfortunately, the financial markets didn’t share my optimism and took a precipitous nose dive, reaching their lowest point since 1997 in March of 2009. In October of that year, unemployment rates surged to their highest levels since 1982, and in the same month, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced its decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”  While many viewed this as premature praise for an unworthy recipient, I smiled and said nothing.  The Bushes were gone—long live the Obamas.

The stock market rebounded, and financial services firms prepared their typical gazillion-dollar bonuses for the end of the year as many Americans coped with everyday problems of finding food, shelter, clothing, and health care for their families. Oops—did I mention health care? Our fearless leaders shouldered the burden of developing comprehensive reform of the healthcare system, which is the priciest in the world and offers so little for so much to so few.  I prescribe spending an afternoon in a hospital emergency waiting area and observing the uninsured first-hand.

Finally, after much ballyhoo in the halls of Congress and an embarrassment of ignorance displayed daily on national news, a reform bill passed and was signed into law by the President.  We needed a real fix, and I’m not talking about illegal drugs, but we acquiesced for a generic version to accommodate the opposition in the halls of Congress…

It is now the summer of 2011 and I still hope for peace and prosperity, although I confess I find little difference in the Obamas. The symbolism of his presidency and potential for delivering on his message of hope appear to be lost in endless press conferences that lack substance. I fear his leadership abilities are suspect. Perhaps, though,  the system is beyond Thunder Dome today and too corrupt for any leaders to make substantive change. Our people continue two wars in places I will never know, and each Sunday I see the names of American soldiers who died on foreign soil during the previous week.

I long for peace and offer this prayer to the Great Spirit who weeps for us. May the Nobel Peace President discover the courage within himself to stand and deliver on our hope for a world without senseless destruction of men and women and children in every corner of the earth.  May all those people in the unemployment lines find work so that they can provide for themselves and their families.  May we become a nation that cares for our own and welcomes all people who sacrifice as they choose to discover our American dream, regardless of the disappointments they encounter.  May we have the courage to let go and move on in our lives when they spin out of control.  May we somehow set the world on a better axis.

My tattoo reminds me of what is important in my life.  Teresa brings fun and passion to the adventure of everyday living. She is the salsa for my meat and potatoes, and I adore her. The “T” now represents more than a name for me—it’s a permanent reminder of Thanksgiving for a full life.  Who knows?  I may even get another one this year.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
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1 Response to Body Ink – Revisiting the Obama Presidency

  1. Reblogged this on I'll Call It Like I See It and commented:

    As the year comes to a close, I’ll spend time saying goodbye to the Obama family and his presidency. This essay was originally published here in August, 2011 and later became a chapter in my book I’ll Call It Like I See It: A Lesbian Speaks Out.


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