On the Special Olympics Comment
Everyone, it seems, wants to know what everyone else thinks. The question may come my way sometime soon, or not, or ever. But just for the record, I think He has a pass coming on this one.
I understand the temptation to make something of it. President Bush didn’t say anything like this; and President Bush wouldn’t have. I think those two men see the world around them differently, I think they see the office of the President differently, and when George W. Bush occupied it I think he saw himself as representing all Americans and not just some Americans. He was also liberated from the burden of staying hip and cool, so the benefits of telling such a joke wouldn’t have impressed him much.
These are meaningful differences. It might seem desirable, even noble, to make something of ’em. But in the end, it is political correctness run amok. And, granted, something else — it’s beneath the office of the President to ridicule an entire class within his constituency, just as it’s beneath the office of the President to notice Jessica Simpson has been putting on a little weight. But these are things about Barack Obama we already knew. This latest slip reveals about as much about Him, as yet-another-word-mangling would have revealed about His predecessor: Not very much.
Besides of which, as a blogger in his underwear sitting on a couch at five in the morning, I want to keep making fun of people. And, while the President of the United States might be held to standards I am not (or at least, was, back in the old days), if I wanted to join in on the calls for virtual tarring-and-feathering, I’d have to stop making fun of people myself. Then I’d have to join up with, and start sympathizing with, the compulsive, routine knuckle-rappers…starting with the ones that want to close down every Hooters restaurant in existence because they “objectify” women.
And I don’t wanna do that. I don’t want to live in a world where the societal taboos are so thick, that you have to pretend, all the time, even in the privacy of your own home, that everyone is exactly the same…to such an extent that the threat of social ostracism persuades even the capable minds to avoid reality like a thief avoiding a constable. I went to public school in the 1970’s — I know where that trail leads.
Instead, let’s notice things about Obama’s true constituency, the way He notices things about some special-olympiads. He doesn’t represent all of us, and obviously He doesn’t think He does. He represents the purple-tie-Manhattan-creampuff crowd, the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live audience, the land of snark. That special place in which every piece of humor — each and every single one — revolves around a caricature. That realm of humor in which someone is always made to look bad, or dopey, or buffoonish, or is diminished in some way.
It’s a lack, not so much of class, as of character. An old man indulging in an ethnic or sexist one-liner might have what they are missing, if, at the next opportunity he has the depth and the worldview to add in some variety. Things he learned about life from his wife before she died; an interesting story behind something he saw in Europe twenty years ago; a self-deprecating story about going into the kitchen the other day and forgetting what he was supposed to be doing in there.
There’s the pity. Obama was trying to be self-deprecating Himself, He was trying to make fun of His own bowling game. But He’s part of that young-hip-urban crowd that just doesn’t know how to get it done. They don’t have variety. Every joke has to have a clearly defined target, and in their universe the group identification has become critically important because there are some things that are supposed to be targets and other things that are not. According to that set of social codes, if Obama can be a target, than so can we all. And that’s just too frightening to them. Sounds a little bit too much like the way we knuckle-dragging conservatives live…with that horrible, awful thing called individuality. An end to that carefully constructed don’t-make-fun-of-X hierarchy. True egalitarianism, which they shunned eons ago.
There’s nothing ugly that can be said against President Obama here, other than that people have negligible value to Him if He can’t see a way they can help Him become more powerful. If they can’t Help Him in this way, with or without their direct knowledge. Anyone who can’t do this, doesn’t really matter to Him. And we knew that already. That, and His ability to speak-off-the-cuff, to create an inclusive society, to appeal to the hearts and minds of strangers in a positive way — these talents of His have been vastly exaggerated. We knew that already too. Let it go.
Cross posted at House of Eratosthenes.