Trump-mania and Trump-phobia have dominated discourse in the US for an interminably long time. Words have become fire-fights between his ardent American supporters and equally impassioned detractors. They are like rival street gangs which can never be reconciled. All that sound and fury has made it exceptionally difficult to assess the last eight years and the Obama legacy. It is time.
He made his farewell speech in Chicago. Thousands filled the hall to welcome back the fabled son of the city. He, a true born orator, was, as ever, authoritative and stirring. There were many claps and cheers, tears too, for times gone by and the incoming chaos and discord.
Compared with the unruly, dodgy, bullying and benighted man about to enter the White House, Barack Obama was erudite, refined, strategic, outwardly cold and contained but mostly decent and most of all resilient.
Michelle Obama, also highly educated, was gracious, extroverted, compassionate and daringly feminist. Unlike the guarded Mrs Kennedy or the brash Mrs Clinton, and all those shadowy Republican First Ladies, Michelle shaped the role to fit her personality and priorities.
This black family survived relentless racism and walked tall, set an example to African Americans and other minorities. I remember the wonderful writer Maya Angelou telling me: "Martin [Luther King] dreamed this day would come. He was right. It changes everything." Did it change everything? Anything? Or was that too a dream?
Obamacare, his most hard fought achievement, delivered basic healthcare to 20 million poor Americans. The reforms, though flawed, made a big difference to the forgotten people of the richest nation on earth. In 2010, Obama used his powers to reduce the disparities in sentencing between white and non-white criminals and legalised gay marriage.
He got usually intransigent Iran to agree to end its nuclear programme, broke the fifty year senseless economic embargo against Cuba, sorted the recession and created six million jobs, a fact that all but disappeared during the explosive election campaigns dominated by fake news and high emotion.
In Chicago we saw a man quietly fearful that much of what the Democrats achieved will be trashed and sunk by Trump and his barbaric cohort. Which is why the departing president talked up America – 'the most respected nation on Earth' – and dwelt so long on democracy, civility, race and religious equality. It was vintage Obama.
However, many intellectuals and activists are no longer be moved by the words or the man. They feel only disappointment and rage as the era ends. On NPR, Kwame Rose, who took to the streets in Baltimore in 2015 after an African American Freddie Gray died in a police van, was bitter. Obama had condemned the protestors as "thugs and criminals." Most were only venting their frustration after decades, centuries, of police brutality and lack of equal opportunities.
Interestingly, Black Lives Matter, a growing movement against police and state racism, never refers to Obama. Several of those involved have told me Obama is part of a posh black club and doesn't give a damn about poor, disenfranchised African Americans.
African American Philosopher Dr Cornel West is just as dismissive and contemptuous and refers to Obama as a leader who "is intimidated and scared when it comes to putting the spotlight on white supremacy. He can't fight racism because he has other issues, political calculations."
West is wrong, but also right. The pressure on Obama must, at times, have been intolerable, and he did have to accommodate to harsh realities. Besides, he was president of all Americans, including those who hated him and hated the way 'their' country was becoming more brown and black.
But he did not have to suck up to bandit bankers and talk about the poor whilst leaving them to rot. Unemployment fell to a ten year low, but unemployment among black Americans remained as high as ever. He did not have to let that happen. And he did not have to go for extra-judicial killings in the Muslim world. How can he proclaim rule of law and still boast that the US 'took out tens of thousands of terrorists'? How does he know they were terrorists? (Drone attacks went up 700% in the last eight years).
Murdering Bin Laden instead of trying him was Obama's low point. Watching it as if it was a video game, truly repulsive. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama, insightful as ever, wrote: "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes, project their own views. As such I am bound to disappoint some, if not all of them."
This is much too negative. In the end, the first black US president made history, mostly good history. As Trumpism triumphs, the world will miss his sanity, depth and discernment. I know I will.