June 7th, 2010 17:57 EST
When They Can't Say They Don't Like Him Because He's Black They Psychologize
Where`s the passion? President Obama`s Gulf bashers are crying.
This sector of the commentariat would be a hoot if it weren`t so transparently racist. We`ve had entirely too much passion and much too little sense.
Whatever happened to cool, calm and collected? Isn`t that in vogue anymore? If the President were a lantern-jawed, gimlet-eyed, taciturn Texan in a 10-gallon hat instead of a gracious, intellectual black man from Chicago, would we be hearing this complaint?
Why isn`t he leading the troops? his critics cry. Lead them where? Does the military know how to cap this leak? Does Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, whose responses are often compared favorably to the president`s? If the President takes the response out of BP`s hands, in whose hands should he put it?
If he personally takes command, what will his critics say about turning his attention from the growing crisis on the Korean peninsula, from Gaza, from the economy, immigration and a number of other crises "you know, the ones that have turned the financial markets into a roller coaster?
Who criticized Marshal Will Kane in High Noon for neglecting the town`s other problems to face up to Frank Miller and his pals? Yeah, but the marshal was Gary Cooper, not our first black president, and Cooper looked like a hero should look. You get the point. Sure you do, and so do the Obama bashers. They don`t want a president who doesn`t look like Will Kane, not even a black man who shares a few of Kane`s qualities, like keeping his cool when everyone else is losing theirs.
Remember Rudyard Kipling`s poem If ": If you can keep your head when all about you /Are losing theirs and blaming it on you "? We used to teach it to our children. We wanted them to live up to that poem. We wanted our children to keep their heads when everybody else was going cuckoo. But now President Obama`s relentless critics want a six-foot-five white man going cuckoo about BP`s debacle. They want the President to emote. It says more about them than it does about him. The purveyors of the 24-hour news cycle know all about emoting, mugging the camera "it`s what they do instead of reporting.
Yeah, emoting will help. It will help deflect attention from years of cozy back-room deals with the oil industry, from years of non-regulation and playing winky-wink with exploiters. This ought to be the moment the press reopens its inquiries into Dick Cheney`s secret energy strategy. Instead the press grouses about Barack Obama`s cool.
Governor Jindal wants to build a giant berm. At least he has an idea, his admirers say. Yeah, an idea nobody is sure would help. George W. Bush had an idea, too: Invade Iraq. That did a lot of good, didn`t it? Next time you think of our whopping debt, think about that.
Could it be that to the President`s immovable enemies a black man is not supposed to offer measured, levelheaded leadership, not supposed to keep his wits about him, listen to the options? Could it be this black man is acting too much like a Western movie protagonist to suit the people who would like him to make a fool of himself?
I make no case for Barack Obama`s sluggish response to this immense crisis. He has handled it better than President Bush handled the plight of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but that`s not exactly encouraging.
We must be able to criticize our commander-in-chief without being called racists, but we must not become the dupes of racists either.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com