Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Breathtaking In Its Tone-Deafness

Who did Michelle think she was addressing?


I'm not the first to note how thoroughly solipsistic the First Lady's speech was (Joe Gimenez did a very good job here). This is because it was so painfully obvious. She wasn't singing the praises of the Windy City; it was Windy Michelle talking about what may be her favorite topic: herself. Confusing advocacy with autobiography, it was I, I, I; her father this and her father that; how well she learned to throw and punch; how she played games as a girl; what she learned through sport; how she is a mother and a daughter (which we sort of discerned); ad infinitum. I half expected her at any moment to break into the chant, "Mm, mm, mm, Michelle LaVaughn Obama!"

Now, not only is such self-centeredness a turn-off in general, I believe it's largely responsible for two specific mistakes the First Lady made. The first one was something Gimenez pointed out: her full-court press entitlement appeal. As to this, here is a sample of what she said:

But today, I can dream, and I am dreaming of an Olympic and Paralympic Games in Chicago that will light up lives in neighborhoods all across America and all across the world; that will expose all our neighborhoods to new sports and new role models; that will show every child that regardless of wealth, or gender, or race, or physical ability, there is a sport and a place for them, too.

Now, boiling her appeal down to its bare essence, what's she really saying? Answer: Give us the Olympics to help the poor children of Chicago. What's the problem with this?

Remember, many of the IOC members are from the Third World. Thus, doesn't this throw the poverty pitch into question? After all, if your concern is inspiring the poor children of a city and nation, why would you pick a major metropolis in the richest country in the world? I can just see a South American IOC member thinking, "You want to see poverty? I'll show you kids living in cardboard boxes on garbage dumps" or an African member grumbling to himself, "You think you know hardship? Take a look at the boy soldiers who were forced to shoot their own mothers and fight a guerilla war."

Then, discussing her father's influence in her life, the First Lady said, "And even as we watched my dad struggle to hold himself up on crutches, he never stopped playing with us. And he refused to let us take our abilities for granted. He believed that his little girl should be taught no less than his son. So he taught me how to throw a ball and a mean right hook better than any boy in my neighborhood."

Of course, her father did have a tremendous cross to bear, yet we still have to ask how such a story is received by people hailing from nations in which there's a dearth of potable drinking water. As for touting her feministic upbringing, did it ever occur to her that politically correct appeals may not have legs beyond the rarified air of the Western world?

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