Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Real And Unreal

You can't argue with the message. Michelle Obama, reports upi.com, on April 2 told young girls at a school in North London "If you want to know the reason why I am standing here, it's because of education. I never cut class. I loved getting A's, I liked being smart. ... "

So why are conservative bloggers offended at the First Lady's remarks? It seems she said also

You too can control your own destiny, please remember that. Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.

Although the circumstances of our lives may seem very disengaged, with me standing here as the First Lady of the United States of America and you just getting through school, I want you to know we have very much in common. For nothing in my life ever would have predicted that I would be standing here as the first African-American First Lady.

I was not raised with wealth or resources or any social standing to speak of. I was raised on the South Side of Chicago – that's the real part of Chicago.

It would be petty- though accurate- to point out that you cannot control your own destiny- otherwise, it wouldn't be your destiny, virtually synonymous with fate. (Sports persons, always gravely stating that a team controls its own fate, are the worst offenders. They mean merely that a team currently holds the upper hand, a far different thing than controlling its own destiny.)

No, the right is critical because Mrs. Obama bragged she "was raised on the South Side of Chicago- that's the real part of Chicago." They compare it to Sarah Palin, who infamously asserted

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation," said Palin, who later backpedaled from her remarks, saying she did not mean to give offense.

But of course Governor Palin was suggesting that not only were the parts (i.e., conservative) of the U.S.A. she was campaigning in were the "real America," they were distinct from the unreal parts of the country, those not "pro-America," hence, anti-America. Mrs. Obama, by contrast, was not suggesting that Chicago outside of the South Side was unpatriotic, lazy, worthless, or worse.

Or they're comparing it to the remarks (video below) of then-Senator George Allen (R.-Va.), running for re-election against James Webb, finding at yet another rally of his the young volunteer for the challenger, and stated

Let's give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

Speaking in a positive, upbeat vein, the First Lady, in contrast to Allen, did not use a term in any way similar to "macaca." Nor did she see someone of apparent south Asian descent and assume- incorrectly- that he is not an American.

But if comparing Obama's comment to that of Palin was weak, and comparing it to that of Allen, ludicrous at best, Mrs. Obama was out-of-line.

Michelle Obama must not be held to a higher standard simply because she is black and, it could be argued, should be particularly sensitive to a suggestion that some areas are "real" and others, I suppose "unreal;" or its corollary, that some groups of people are "real" and others "unreal." Everyone should avoid this distinction and Mrs. Obama's inability, or unwillingness, to do so is made no more reprehensible because of the bigotry that she has likely suffered along the way. But there is no "real Chicago" and unreal Chicago; real Cleveland and unreal Cleveland; or real America and unreal America. Not being from Chicago, I am spared the ignominy of not being from "the real Chicago." Still, if nary a word is heard on this from Chicagoans and the left or the mainstream media, something is very, very wrong.

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