Posted tagged ‘Obama’s otherness’

A Gnashing of Teeth (State of the Union)

January 26, 2011

Obama must really frustrate the GOP.   For months, some have painted him as an anti-American (as well as non-American) totalitarian mastermind determined on jamming things down America’s throat in order to bring her to her knees.   (Stephen Colbert had a wonderful rif on this after Obama’s speech in Tucson accusing Obama of causing him to be moved by Hitler.)

Obama’s inherent “otherness” has contributed to this caricature:  his mixed race, his articulate and complex intelligence, his Hawaiian birth, his school experiences overseas, even his bony physique are atypical of U.S. politics (and not exactly “Reaganesque”.)   On top of this, his intense decorum, which sometimes translates into a kind of aloofness, have kept him from directly responding to the kind of crazy character-assassination that has dogged him through the last election cycle.

But he has taken the national stage at some very charged moments recently-from pushing through compromises at the lame duck session, to the Tucson Memorial, to last night’s State of the Union–and unmistakeably (and on television) shown himself to be compassionate in ways that are tied to religious as well as moral precept, and to be open, thoughtful, serious, pro-progress, and notably unvengeful, petty, or throat-jamming.

One imagines a great gnashing of teeth (some of them tea-stained.)

PS – Although, at first, I found it a little disconcerting, I was happy for the absence of endless applause lines in the speech.  Also, I was very glad that O. left out the traditional phrase  = “the state of the union is strong.”  Yes, I want it to be strong, but I’ve always found this phrase to be somehow, well, childish, as if the president were playing doctor.

PPS – don’t forget to check out “Going on Somewhere” by Karin Gustafson, Diana Barco, and Jason Martin on Amazon!   (The state of its poetry is strong!)