Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's the Attitude, Stupid!

Obama attempted a stupid joke on the Tonight Show of which the whole world has now heard. Much has been said of The Joke and that Obama didn't really mean it, that he apologized to the Special Olympics organization even before the program aired for which Obama received kudos, undeservedly.

The fact is, he should not have said The Joke in the first place. He should not have thought it; he should not have had the attitude that such a remark would be acceptable in public or private.

I received a comment from Pro this morning that pointed me to a post on the blog, ButAsForMe written by Reformed Lib who calls upon Obama to apologize.

We have been told he is the president of accountability and responsibility. But merely apologizing to a single organization does not rectify the damage that has been done as the ramifications from this ‘joke’ mount in all the corners of this great nation.

We call on him to apologize to all people, groups and organizations his ‘joke’ hurt and/or offended.
As I have been known to do, I agree somewhat, but am opposed to an apology per se.

It isn't the joke; it's the attitude at the heart of this episode. The attitude that says it's okay to disparage the disabled and challenged, expecting, and too often knowing, the listeners will ascent to the poor humor. Obama's attitude informed him almost instinctively, without thought, the comment would not be received by anything other than good humor, that it's all in good fun.

Apologizing to a single organization isn't going to change anything, it's too little. A public apology really isn't going to do it, either. There is no amount of apologizing he can do.

What can Obama do? Confess. Go on a public forum and tell people that what he said and thought was wrong, just plain wrong. No excuses. No explanations. No promises to bring Special Olympians to the White House to make the boo-boo better. The promise Obama made to do just that is another example of his, and the nation's, paternalistic and disparaging attitude toward those seen as 'less than'. The idea that everything will be okay with an ice cream cone equivalent does not make up for the years of abuse and debasement. And what do we do the next time it happens?

Obama should go further by asking all of us to examine and talk about why such attitudes are still acceptable, question why we watch television programs like "America's Funniest Videos" that are chocked full of people being hurt causing the audience to laugh uproariously at someone else's pain rather than wince with sympathetic pain and ask if the person is alright now. Question why we as a nation have focused on the fact of the joke and not the genesis.

Laughing at the pain of others is what is really happening. It's a natural human response, but we've overcome other natural human responses before. The process is called 'civilization'. It's what allows us to live together without daily wholesale killing, also a natural human response, in every country, in every nation, in every neighborhood.

I do not want Obama to go the Bill Clinton "I feel your pain" route. That was so very false even liars were embarrassed. I want Obama to truly understand the actual pain of having to get up at 5:30AM to get to the job by 8AM even though the job is only 8 miles away. To understand that two hours or more is what is often spent just getting dressed because sometimes the body just won't cooperate with the brain, that buttoning a shirt or tying shoelaces may be the highest hurdle of the day whether the worker is a mailroom clerk or a CEO.

Special Olympians, their parents, disabled and crippled people, the parents of disabled and crippled children have been very forgiving and shown the world a brave face as if to say, "It don't mean nothin'. " I used to show the world the same face and allowed disrespectful and stupid comments to roll off like water from a duck. But, it never changed anything. To have such an idiot remark come from -- and pay attention here, because it will be the only time I use the name of the man and the office together -- the President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama is simply beyond acceptable, beyond excusable, beyond apology.

The Joke did not come from a place of unity, hope, or change. It came from the same dark evil place that all discrimination springs and is kept alive by our attitude that some people, some conditions are acceptable targets for humor, for good fun, for disrespect and derision.

This is not a Republican/Democrat thing; this is not a Conservative/Liberal thing. Nor is it a race thing or abilities thing. It's the attitude. Change the attitude.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


Anonymous said...

Indi, please believe me here when I tell you I am not being flippant. When I was reading this post, I felt your pain. Don

Indigo Red said...

I know you weren't, Don. When you sya it, it means you understand and I appreciate that.

dcat said...

Obama is the joke!

Indigo Red said...

Yeah, he is. I either don't like the punch line or I just don't get it.

Indigo Rose said...

I spoke with a woman yesterday who has a son with cerebral palsy.
She had come into the restaurant where I work; exhausted. Not from the two hour drive she had taken, but from the round-the-clock care she gives her son.
She had needed, and taken, a bit of time off from the 24/7 care she gives him.
She could barely sit at the counter without falling asleep while she waited for her meal to carry back to her motel room.
She needed the rest so she could give her son the best care she can.
I wish there had been more that I could do than listen a bit, and offer her a wish for a restful evening.

Indigo Red said...

And she is one of the thousands of mothers and fathers who never make it to a motel or restatuant for a break.

Mike's America said...

Yes Dcat Obama is the joke. But it's not a funny one!

suek said...

I think I both agree and disagree with you here.

I think his comment was not intended to ridicule the disabled except in the sense that it assumes that all disabled are deficient in all ways.
I don't understand how his statement which was obviously intended to indicate his own incompetence reflects badly on the disabled. You point up remarkable well the fact that those who are disabled more than make up for their physical handicaps by their grit and determination. Would that he had such.

I do agree, though, that he has a real problem with attitude. The problem I see is that he simply has no appreciation for the fact that he is now _President_ of the United States. He seems to ignore the importance of the position - the fact that he's no longer "one of the guys".

Have you ever been in the position of having "one of the guys" promoted to a position of authority over the rest of the guys? When you have the decision making power of life and death over those who were formerly your "buds", things change. In most of our lives, that means that you might have to fire somebody. In the military, you might have to order someone into a position where he gets killed - or risks that. If you're President, you have certain responsibilities, and going on TV to joke about your athletic inabilities is simply not one of them. I've heard that he no longer wants "Hail to the Chief" played in ceremonial situations. He doesn't "like" ceremony, tradition and ritual. Tough. Imo, it comes with the job.

So - I agree that his comment was inappropriate for a man in his position. But I don't agree that it should offend the handicapped. In fact, I don't think he could _handle_ being handicapped. He doesn't have the grit.

Indigo Red said...

Correct, suek. He was not and is not ready to be in authority as President. I fully understand about being one of the guys and all that that entails.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are not handicapped, disabled, challenged, lame, halt, special, gift, or any of the other wonderful words we have to describe people we would rather not have to see in public. I was said by strangers to have been a punishment from God. Now, thanks to Obama, I'm not alone because all children are punishments.

You are a woman. Think back on the crap you may have had to face and just swallow because for the fact of your sex you simply were not good enough, whatever the hell that is. Now mix that with a physical or mental difficulty and multiply that by every hour of every day of every year you have lived and that comes close to the humiliation felt by the majority of the disabled community.

You are right that it's bad to have come from the man claiming to be President and a Black man at that. A black man who claims first hand knowledge of discrimination who preaches that such behavior is unacceptable when directed at others, especially Blacks. Then he turns around and does the very same thing with the target being people who either cannot or will not defend themselves - sheep to the wolf.

Obama and the Liberals set a standard by which they demand we all live. Obama has defiled that standard most foul. While Liberals defend their champion by now saying we've got to get over it, it was a harmless joke, PC has gone too far, "it's not like the retards actually understand anyway" as one commenter at the NYT put it, we of the handicapped community now must suffer the indignity of being told that we aren't really offended or that we should not feel offense. Of course, I could just dismiss your entire comment as the thoughtless hysteria of PMS and an emotional woman devoid of logic and be done with it.

There is no excuse. There is no explanation. And I will not get over it. I am not going to roll over and say, "Please, sir, excuse me for living." No more.

suek said...

>>"it's not like the retards actually understand anyway" >>

Whoa. That's _really_ offensive. At least, I think so.

>>While Liberals defend their champion by now saying we've got to get over it, it was a harmless joke>>

Well, that's always their position. Anything _you_ say is terrible and unexcuseable, anthing _they_ say ... well, it was just a harmless joke. But your point is taken. Libs are hypocrites. They tell everybody what they should do or not do, but then they turn around and to the exact thing they told everybody not to do, and it's ok - it doesn't really count. Well, YES IT DOES.

Don't misunderstand me. I am _not_ saying that you _aren't_ offended, or shouldn't be offended... I'm saying "consider the source". He's a jackass. Yes. The president of the United States is a jackass. That doesn't mean excuse him.

>>I could just dismiss your entire comment as the thoughtless hysteria of PMS and an emotional woman devoid of logic and be done with it.>>

True. And I've reached an age where I could care less. If you choose to ignore advice from someone based on who or what s/he is instead of evaluating that advice, you deserve whatever results you get. And yes, included in that age bracket is the fact that my application to Veterinary medicine was rejected because "we find that women who get Vet degrees get married, have children and stop practicing with a few years".

As for >>I am not going to roll over and say, "Please, sir, excuse me for living.">>...I don't know what to say. I wouldn't expect anything else.

suek said...

>>But I don't agree that it should offend the handicapped.>>

Missed this point.

>>now must suffer the indignity of being told that we aren't really offended or that we should not feel offense.>>

You misunderstood the intent of my statement. I'm not saying that the handicapped shouldn't feel offended by Obama's gaffe because the statement isn't offensive, but rather that the handicapped shouldn't be offended because they should consider the source. Obama is a bully. If I _were_ handicapped (and I've never considered being female as a handicap, though it did shut some doors) I just wouldn't give him the satisfaction of allowing him to offend me.

Of course, if you're using the offense as a form of attack...I guess I'm with you!

Indigo Red said...

No, I didn't miss the point: "But I don't agree that it should offend the handicapped." Obama is an ass, but for millions of people he is the President of the United States of America. That's why I included the comment from the NYT, "it's not like the retards actually understand anyway." Because the President said it, now many more people can say similar crap.

I don't want to stifle free speech, but this is not free speech as the Founders envisioned it to be. It is the original hate speech and it has only one object to render others under an absolute despotism of the bigotted. And it is always an attack; no one says such things out of love. Even Don Rickles refused to stoop that low.

Check around the news and blog sites and you'll find plaenty of people saying the handicapped shouldn't feel offended, just get over it. You certainly weren't the first to intimate that response. I apologize that I sounded extremelt terse, though I absolutely meant to. It was to mak my point that if the situation is personalized, it's not so forgiveable anymore.

How amny people do you think know that the Special Olympics isn't only for the intellectually handicapped? SO includes the seeing and hearing impaired, amputees, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, orthopedic disablities. Returning war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan participate in the Special Olympics.

Some of the Special Olympians are so high functioning that many, including myself question their elegibility for SO games. The SO bowler who has offerred to help Obama improve his game has bowled perfect games several times. Why isn't he on the pro bowling tour making lots of money? One track and field amputee had to sue the International Olympic Committee to get the right to run in the regular games at his own level of achievement. In his case, the normals said the crip had an unfair advantage. Because he had no lower legs he was carrying less weight! And his prosthesis were more 'springy' than natural legs. That didn't stop Phelps who swam with a special suit that made him slipperier in water, thus faster.

The arguements are bogus. In the 21st Century, there is still a large group of people who are not wanted in the public arena and Obama, an ass, legitimized that view. But, it also gives courage to my side to say enough is enough. With devices that even the playing field, I can participate too.

suek said...

>>No, I didn't miss the point:>>

Actually, I meant _I_ had missed this point.

>>this is not free speech as the Founders envisioned it to be>>

Of course it is. As soon as you categorize _any_ speech as not protected by free speech, you endanger _all_ free speech. I do agree that their intention was not to protect people's right to be obnoxious, rather to protect all political speech, but labeling something as "hate" speech specifically then throws it into the political arena.

>>you'll find plaenty of people saying the handicapped shouldn't feel offended, just get over it.>>

The problem is that this is not what I'm saying. The fact is that I'm having a problem figuring out just exactly what it is that I'm trying to say.

There are several different angles to this, and to be honest, I can't say I've given them a lot of thought before, so I'm trying to work through them.
First there's the political. The left has a gimmick where they designate someone as "special" in some way. You're female, you're black, you're gay, you're hispanic, you're handicapped, whatever. Then they split you off by that designation and tell the world that they're not permitted to mention that fact or describe that condition, or you're xxx hating. Then they write legislation that panders to that group. Every new house in New York city has to have handicapped access, e.g. In California, some guy with a handicapped problem of some sort makes a living by suing all sorts of private companies that doesn't have facilities for the handicapped, even though he might be the only one to require them in the history of the company. The laws that have been written establish requirements that will bankrupt the companies, so they make a cash settlement, and he moves on the next. The singled out group loves this - and they vote Democrat so that they can get more bennies. So I disagree - the handicapped _are_ wanted in the public arena ... as least as long as they serve their purpose.

Then you have different categories of handicapped. Some are physical, some are mental. You point this out yourself - how handicapped is the guy who can bowl 300 multiple times? should he be on an equal footing with a guy who has a special rig on his wheelchair so that he can roll the ball?

What qualifies as mentally handicapped? I have a grandson who is autistic. Not as bad as some, apparently, but pretty bad. He'll never be able to live by himself, yet you can ask him what day of the week your birthday will fall on in 8 years, and he can tell you. He understands cause and effect to some extent, but can't really apply it in a practical situation. I wouldn't want him to vote. He can't understand the issues - and I suspect there are many in that condition. In fact, my opinion is that there are many who are _not_ considered mentally disabled who are out there voting, but don't have the capacity to understand the issues or even the candidates. So you could say I don't want the mentally disabled in the public arena - in fact, I'd like to see a qualifying exam given to everyone before they're allowed to vote ... each and every time. If they have no grasp of the issues or candidates for whatever reason, they aren't allowed to vote. That would include the ignorant as well as the disabled.

This is too long. I think what I'm saying is not that you shouldn't find the remark offensive, but nevertheless, you shouldn't allow it to offend you because in doing so, you give the offender too much power. That gets into the psychological realm. In the political realm, you only let it offend you if it serves your purpose - just as they do.

You say >>it also gives courage to my side to say enough is enough>>. Ok...but after you've said it, what then?

>>With devices that even the playing field, I can participate too.>>

I have no doubt of that. It sounds to me as if you intend to use your offendedness to channel your energy towards a particular goal. If that's the result, then I'm all for it.