A leader - especially an elected leader - is a symbol of whatever that person leads. And some people, whether they consider themselves racists or not, just cannot bring themselves to see President Obama as a symbol of "their" country.
Colors, too, are symbolic. The spectrum of illusions in our heads play out in grand dramas far beyond the brain-processed reflection of light upon surfaces. Black becomes Evil; white becomes Good... and the reverse becomes true in lands and cultures where paleness or darkness of complexion denote either health or decay. In many African cultures, for example, white becomes the color of death - not only because of slave-trades and conquerors, but because dark skin, drained of blood, becomes pale. In similar fashion, pale skin grows dark when it rots. And so, our cultures play out strange dramas of the Other based on nothing more than an illusion of light upon skin cells.
And yet, those dramas become pervasive. Pervasive enough to send the wold's most powerful nation into spasms of self-destruction.
There's lots of talk these days about revolution - not mere changes of direction, but of gunfire and fratricide unseen since the Civil War.  A judge in Texas and Republican leaders in Virginia have threatened violent uprisings if the vote does not go their way. Shootings have raddled the nation on both ends of the political divide, and fading rock and country stars prop up the last vestiges of their popularity by inciting die-hard crowds to cheer for the death of the man they feel has usurped "their" country:
The dark-skinned man in the white-painted house.
This situation is so pervasively absurd that the challenger to that Oval Office can refer to Obama's "un-American"-ness and then make bald-faced denials that he was sounding a dog whistle for racist votes.
It would be humorous if it wasn't so tragic.
The idea that the most powerful nation in human history could be ripped apart by the racist heritage that built it is Shakespearian in its gross poetry. The idea that the appeals to the raging white "patriots" would be marshaled by foreign tycoons - one of them a blood relation to the mastermind of 9/11 - should be comical in its irony. It could be argued that we had this coming to us, that the nation forged on the genocide of its native people and the forced labor of dark-skinned imports deserves to have its tombstone carved by racial strife.
But under all our colors, we are simply human beings - fallen angels in the skins of apes, torn between the demons we conjure and dismiss at will. And at the center of all this furor is a man and his family striving to symbolize a better future than that end.
It's been said by critics on both sides of the political divide that President Obama is a disappointment. Of course he is. How could he possibly be anything else? Simply by existing, he carries the symbolic weight of 500 years on his shoulders. He is, in many ways, a sacrifice to the future of America. It can't be easy being in his shoes... much less as easy as he often makes it look. He is, for better and worse, perhaps the finest example of grace under pressure ever to inhabit the Oval Office. It's easy to misjudge that grace for callousness, but the man's history - before and after his election - points out that misjudgment for what it truly is.
All this nonsense - and it IS nonsense - about birth certificates and Manchurian candidates and "taking back my country" and "restoring the promise of America" and Evil Left-Wing Muslim Nazi Socialist Maoist Marxist Antichrist  conspiracies and every other idiotic thing that even ostensibly intelligent people are accepting as gospel reveals the truth: The idea of a dark-skinned man as the symbol of our country scares a lot of people literally out of their senses.
It goes both ways, too. I've seen a lot of liberals/ progressives/ whatevers frothing at the mouth because Obama is somehow "not really black," that he's a traitor to the change and hope he most certainly embodies because he's not liberal in the way they THINK he should be liberal. Some folks think he must be a demon because he's dark-skinned, while others expect him to be a saint.
He is neither. He's a president.
And meanwhile, he stands at the center of the greatest propaganda war in American history - perhaps the largest in world history outside of the grand dramas of World War II. A mass media machine that draws its profits from fear and division has fixated on the man since before he reached the Oval Office. Charges so ridiculous they defy description are blasted and twisted across TV screens and computer monitors at all hours of the day and night. These charges bear no connection to reality at all. Like colors or symbols, they are figments of the human imagination, lacking any form of reality outside a person's head.
To be sure, the man has done some terrible things. Like any national leader, he lives each moment with the awful arithmetic of moral consequence. It's his job to hold the nation together - to do what appears to be the best thing for the largest number of people given the data and materials available to make that choice. No one, of any creed or ethnicity, can be right all the time in such a position. Indeed, history often remembers best the leaders who did the worst things for the best reasons.
And yes - I believe that President Barack Obama will be one of those leaders... and, I hope, for the better reasons, not the worse ones.
His critics see, in his dark yet multicultural complexion, the face of their fears. He cannot really be an American because, by his own admission, he "doesn't look like those other guys on the dollar bills." The future always looks scary when it's happening... and when a potent narrative has been spun around an Apocalypse that never came, that fear seems all the more pervasive.  Given a literal change of face, the nation must be either on its last legs or ready to leap into a new and glorious era.
But maybe he's just a man.
We silly humans spin vast mythologies to make sense of the images in our heads. Some of us (like me) even make our livings sharing those images with other people. Sometimes, though, it's vital to step back from the Passion Play and see what's really going on. Because when you put aside the asinine conspiracy theories and expectations of sainthood, the President of the United States has some very serious shit on his plate: climate change, economic crises, a dizzying network of international diplomacy... oh, yeah, and a war his predecessor started roughly ten years ago. 
We might want to, as Franklin said, hang together before we strangle ourselves with the rope. Because our future will not be determined by one human leader; it may, however, be determined by who we choose to acknowledge in that leader's place.
So let's be real. President Obama neither demon nor angel. He's a human being, a politician no less, and one whose very existence is defined by being a symbol even as he strives to be a good man in an impossible situation. He does bad things, good things, and things that we will never even see because that's what ALL leaders must do if they are to lead, especially in times of distress. President Obama has inherited not only one of the biggest economic and diplomatic shitstorms in U.S. history but also the unflagging 24/7/365 hate campaign from people whose very livelihood depends upon division and strife.
And if he did not have dark-colored skin and a funny name, we wouldn't be having three quarters of the arguments we're having about anything other than real-life problems.
Simply by being the man/ symbol that he is, President Obama embodies a monumental change - and yes, a hope for the future - in the cultural history of the United States.
Some people refuse to accept that the future no longer looks like them.
And that's their loss. Because the future's here whether you like it or not, and it never looks the way you think it should.
1. Personally, I feel there have been four "American revolutions"; the famous one in 1776; the upheavals shortly afterward that replaced the founding ideals of confederation with the unified Federal Constitution; the War Between the States; and the Civil Rights revolution that began shortly after World War II and continues even today.
2. This may be the single stupidest list of self-contradicting accusations in the history of propaganda. Why aren't more people laughing at it?
3. It's also being promoted by lots of people who are still scoring vast financial and social profits off the idea that - from Apocalyptic Christians to Maya-obsessed New Agers - the world is coming to an immanent end.
4. Remember when conservative pundits and politicians declared it treasonous to attack the president during a time of war? Man, that idea sure went out the window fast...