Posted tagged ‘Obama’s “shout-out”’

Context – World Series, Fort Hood, Obama’s Remarks

November 5, 2009

The effect of context.   As some ManicDDaily readers may recall, I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to Game 1 of the World Series last week.  As grateful as I was, the combination of Cliff Lee (the Phillie’s amazing pitcher), a wet, cold night, and the materialism and misogyny of a small set of other Yankees’ fans, made the evening a bit of a bummer.

What amazed me this morning was how much better that Game 1 experience felt in light of the Yankees’ overall Series’ triumph.  It was like the Yankees had once more pulled a difficult game out of the hat, only this time it was a game that they had actually lost, and the “pulling” was all done retrospectively.  Now, Game 1 feels simply like one more step on the Yankees’ journey towards victory—a lesson of, and for, New York–a lesson in resilience.

Since thinking all these grandiose thoughts about the Yankees, the horrible events at Fort Hood, Texas have taken place. Sport seems trivial compared to loss of life.  Nearly everything seems trivial when compared to terrible events of this kind, which, unfortunately, are all too common in today’s world.

Obama spoke about the tragedy in the context of a planned speech at a conference concerning Native Americans.   I had not seen Obama’s remarks earlier in the day,  so looked for them this evening online.  What was (sort of) amazing to me is that on youtube, at least, there was already a fair amount of negative commentary about Obama’s sober words, mainly because, since they were given in the midst of a planned speech, they followed introductory thanks to conference organizers and attendees, including a special acknowledgement (“shout-out”) to  one Congressional medal of honor winner.    The negative internet commentary viewed this introductory “shout-out” to the medal of honor winner (who I presume was at one time a soldier) as disrespectful to the current soldiers who were today’s victims.

I admit that the term “shout-out” was not a good choice.  (I’m guessing that part had been planned, like my Yankees’ bit, before the Fort Hood events transpired, and that Obama simply wanted not to forget to acknowledge the medal of honor winner.) However, Obama’s actual remarks, which immediately followed his introductory thanks, were grave and prayerful.  Which again brings up the issue of context.  Viewers expect that Obama is addressing everything he says to the world of TV.  But in this case, the guy is also speaking to a live audience.  People actually sitting in front of him, who have come with a detailed and specific agenda.   The fact that Obama politely acknowledged and thanked these people, before turning to the events at Fort Hood, seems to be a product of a methodical and polite nature, and not reflective of any lack of concern or gravity.  Certainly, this type of polite remark seems trivial in the face of the terrible events of earlier in the day;  just as tomorrow’s parade for the Yankees will seem ridiculous in the context of such horrible events.   It is just this shifting context of the horrible and wonderful, tragic and trivial, extraordinary and commonplace, polite and brutal, that makes up our lives.    Nothing just stops.

I’m guessing that we will hear more about Obama’s speech.   In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible event, and their grieving families.