What mostly bugs me about this episode is the conservative bloggers who have actually translated Michelle Obama’s “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country” into “Mme. [sic] Obama hated America till now.” How does it offend me? Let me count the ways:
1. It indicates lousy reading comprehension. “Really,” in this case, doesn’t mean “truly,” it means “very.” And anyway, it’s hyperbole.
2. It indicates a mindset that equates lack of pride with hatred. Are Americans allowed any other feelings about their country?
3. It plays into the whole stereotype of liberals as people who “blame America first.” Which, in the first place (a) ignores the whole Fred Phelps phenomenon [he’s the minister who gets his congregation out demonstrating at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq, on the premise that America, and those who fight for her, deserve opprobrium because America tolerates gays–how’s that for blaming America first?], and (b) also ignores the fact that patriotism, to be at all useful, requires an element of critical awareness. “Rah rah rah” never won any battles. (Unless you count Joshua blowing the trumpet at Jericho, and that was, after all, a miracle.)
But, aside from all that, I’m just really irritated with the “gotcha!” brand of electoral politics, wherein one waits for the “other side” to “goof” and then jumps on them with all four feet. At roughly the same time, Obama is getting trashed by Clinton’s people for using other people’s ideas in his speeches. Presumably this is a way to undermine the efficacy of the speeches in question, which are Obama’s best weapon right now. But who on earth ever said a political speech has to be original? It’s not like a Ph.D. thesis, for pete’s sake!
On one hand, I have always been distressed that politicians can get up in front of my students (yes, gentle reader, I used to be an English teacher,) perhaps only a few hours after my impassioned lectures deploring plagiarism, and enunciate as their own words that we all know were written by someone else! So this time, Obama’s ghost writer has borrowed ideas from somebody else’s ghost writer. Big deal. There are a limited number of important ideas in the political memeosphere at any given moment, and nobody has any business trying to copyright them. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was also a ghost writer for a brief period of my youthful life, for a political candidate who never won anything, but whose campaign set the stage for much of the political life of “the Sixties.”)
Our husband, Mr. Wired (the WiredSisters are all married to the same guy, an arrangement known to cultural anthropologists as sororal polygyny) says no political candidate should be allowed to mention the other candidates in a speech or position paper. Just set out your own position and see how people like it. That would mean no more gotcha. Wouldn’t that be loverly?